Can an association that represents soap companies be trusted to tell the public who’s washing their hands? (Related article: “Survey finds Americans fail to wash up during the day”).
Stripes wanted to go deeper, into the nitty-gritty and the darkest confines of public restrooms across European Command, to figure out just who is washing.
Reporters pretended to fix their hair, clean stains off their shirt and pick their teeth in bathrooms across Europe while getting to the bottom of who’s keeping clean.
At the Base Exchange on RAF Lakenheath in England on Friday, 15 men used the bathroom during the lunch hour as a Stripes mole fretted over his hair.
Of those 15, eight washed their hands after using the bathroom. Of those eight, two did just the obligatory rinse without soap. None of those observed did the 20-second wash recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One elderly gentleman topped the list by washing his hands for a full 10 seconds. Perhaps most disturbingly of all, a man who seemed to have fallen asleep in one of the stalls finished up, left the stall and didn’t even give his mitts a rinse.
During a survey done at the Navy support site base in Gricignano, Italy, near Naples, most women washed their hands after doing their business. However, two women who changed their babies’ diapers did not wash.
Experts say a good way to tell if you’re washing long enough is to hum the alphabet song. When you get to Z, you’ve washed long enough.
Of the 18 visitors observed at the Navy base, three did not wash at all, and none of the washers made it to Z, although one came close by finishing their wash as the covert reporter sang X.
One ray of hope fell in that grim Navy base bathroom. A T.G. I. Friday’s employee washed her hands thoroughly after visiting the stall, used soap, rinsed until X, dried her hands, adjusted her hair, and then washed again.
Last week at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Ivan Nakoneczny strode from a bathroom with clean hands.
“I wash my hands, no joke, after every period,” said Nakoneczny, a senior at Patch American High School.
This clean lad added that he only uses three fingers on each hand to eat — his thumbs, index and middle fingers. “I hate walking around with dirty fingers,” he said.
Geoff Ziezulewicz, Charlie Coon and Sandra Jontz contributed to this report.