How Long Should a Person Wash His or Her Hands?

A person should wash his or her hands for approximately 20 seconds, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In order to roughly estimate the recommended amount of time, the CDC advises humming the “Happy Birthday” song two times while scrubbing the hands and fingernails before rinsing. Only approximately 5% of people wash their hands for the recommended time, according to a 2013 Michigan State University study of hand washing habits in public restrooms. The average length of time people spend washing their hands falls short of the CDC’s recommended 20 seconds, at approximately six seconds.

More about hand washing:

  • 10% of people don’t wash their hands at all after using public restrooms.
  • Diarrheal disease is one of the top causes of death in children under five, accounting for over 2 million deaths each year. However, this number could be reduced by around 31% if everyone washed their hands properly, according to the CDC.
  • Men are two and a half times more likely to skip washing their hands than women, as reported by Bradley Corp’s 2013 Healthy Handwashing Survey.

Discussion Comments


Even though I've known many people who don't wash their hands when they're done in the bathroom, I find it a bit shocking that there are only 5% of people who do it the right way.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have a tendency to do that too sometimes. I'm not referring to not washing my hands, I'm referring to not washing them properly, or way too fast.

While it's true that people might be in a hurry, it's still something that we really need to be cautious about, as the bacteria on our hands can and will spread to people, and other kinds of material.

Based on my experience, washing your hands is especially important when working in the food service.

In fact, believe it or not, it's also one of the first things you learn about as well, probably because even though the concept is so simple, a lot of us, don't have the common sense to do it and do it properly.

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