Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

The history of habitual handwashing

February 8, 2011
LEXINGTON, KY — Does our culture really need reminders to wash our hands? Apparently, the answer is, "Yes," according to The Kentucky Kernel.
An August 2010 study conducted by the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) showed that handwashing rates are up to 85 percent; however, rates depended on the site where folks were observed, the article stated.
For example, a low of 35 percent was seen for males in public restrooms at Turner Field in Atlanta, compared to 98 percent of the females at the same venue: For all venues that were observed, the ladies cleaned up better at 93 percent, versus the guys at 77 percent, the article noted.
According to the article, in the 1840s, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis advocated for handwashing to help prevent transmitting illness to pregnant women during childbirth; he and other clinicians and researchers were met with disdain and hostility when they advocated for handwashing.
Perhaps handwashing seemed odd at the time: The lack of indoor plumbing made it difficult to get water and, to make the water comfortably warm, it would have to be heated over a fire, the article added.
You would think that after 150 years and the availability of warm, running water, handwashing would have caught on more, the article concluded.
Click here to read the complete article.