Recently, a cable news host claimed he hadn’t washed his hands in 10 years. He can’t see the germs, he said, “therefore they’re not real.” He continued that he believes the practice bolsters his immune system and prevents him from getting diseases. I had a sixth-grade teacher who went around licking doorknobs and told us the same thing, yet this TV moment is now burned deeper into my brain.
The host later recanted on the topic, saying it was a joke — but he still added a comment admonishing people who “sanitize their hands 19,000 times a day.” Despite the detriment to public health, the science behind vaccinations is increasingly under attack by people who claim we simply need to toughen up against illness. Clearly, such comments don’t help.
In fact, the Center for Disease Control has determined that because so many people are not washing their hands, intervention is in order. The organization created the Clean Hands Count Campaign and #HandWashingHeroes — two PR campaigns to encourage more handwashing with soap and water.
An exhaustive 2013 study by Michigan State University observed the hand-washing practices of 3,749 people and found a clear divide between men and women.
“The gender difference was confirmed with women using soap and engaging in proper handwashing behavior more (77.9 percent) than men (50.3 percent). About 7 percent of women and 14.6 percent of the men did not wash their hands at all, while 15.1 percent of the women and 35.1 percent of the men simply wet their hands with water.”
These germ-spreaders’ negligence is a risk for the rest of us. According to the CDC:
“[Germs from animal feces like Salmonella and E. coli] can get onto hands after people use the toilet or change a diaper, but also in less obvious ways, like after handling raw meats that have invisible amounts of animal poop on them. A single gram of human feces — which is about the weight of a paper clip — can contain 1 trillion germs. Germs can also get onto hands if people touch any object that has germs on it because someone coughed or sneezed on it or was touched by some other contaminated object. When these germs get onto hands and are not washed off, they can be passed from person to person and make people sick.”
This is eye-opening data. Basically, it’s not just the penis germs you’re scrubbing off when you wash your hands: You’re also eradicating germs picked up from your commute, your credit card, the doorknob, your keyboard and phone, and all the other parts of your disgusting body you’ve poked and prodded that morning.
Still, you can only lead the horse to the sink. Eager to get to the bottom of our society’s hand-hygiene issue, I talked to a few guys who forgo washing after they use the toilet. Some believe it improves their immune systems. Some are just flat-out too lazy. And others, well…
‘I Don’t Worry About It After Wiping Either’
Chris, 33: For me, the reason I don’t wash my hands mostly boils down to “I don’t feel like it.” If I’m just sitting at home for a weekend without cooking or doing dirty projects, I won’t wash them at all outside of the shower. I have a bidet, so even when it comes to dropping the kids off at the pool, so to speak, it’s pretty much clean before I even wipe so I don’t worry about it there either.
To be honest, I probably stopped [washing my hands] out of laziness. I haven’t been in the habit of washing them at home after peeing for at least my entire adult life. Never found a reason to start doing it again. My hands are already less clean than my junk since they’re touching everything all the time, and while I don’t make a habit of peeing on my hands, urine is just about the cleanest thing that comes out of someone anyway.
I used to work in food service, and also as an EMT, so at those jobs I would definitely be washing all the time. But now I wash most of the other times people normally do. I don’t make a deliberate decision to avoid washing, it just doesn’t even occur to me unless something specific makes it relevant, like before cooking and after handling raw meat; when they get dirty or greasy from working on a car or some other project; or after using the gym — just any time they get legit dirty.
For me, peeing doesn’t make that list. Washing doesn’t even enter my mind one way or the other unless I’m in a public restroom with other people. [I’ll wash my hands] not so much out of peer pressure, nor out of any concern of having touched my junk, but just because of any other common surfaces other people have also touched. I don’t care about my cooties, but I don’t want theirs. That’s probably hypocritical, but, like, whatever.
That said, I’ll usually at least rinse them if I’m at a friend’s house. I guess that one might be a bit of peer pressure — just so nobody says anything.
‘in Public Restrooms, I Just Walk Right out’
Antonio, 30: I don’t actually touch my private parts [when I pee], and if I did, I’d have no issue with washing my hands. I just basically feel like I didn’t touch anything that would require me to wash my hands. I wear gym shorts most of the time and I free-ball, so when I pee I lift the pant leg up and just pee out of the side, then drop the pant leg when I’m done, which makes it no different than touching my pants in any other scenario, like going into my pocket or wiping off some sweat.
If there’s a situation [in which] I actually touch my penis or am even in that general area, I’ll wash my hands. That just doesn’t happen to be the majority of the times when I go pee.
So I wash my hands when they’re visibly dirty, like if I touch the ground, or if I just touch something I know is gross or feels gross — especially if sticky. To be honest, I don’t deliberately wash my hands before I eat either, it just kinda happens. I like to wash my pans and dishes while I wait for my food to cool off so I don’t have to deal with them later, and thus my hands kinda get washed by default while I do that.
Even in public restrooms, I’ll just walk right out. I usually have my headphones on. I don’t really care what anyone thinks on that. Not likely to ever see them again anyways. I will wash my hands at work, though, just because it’s the professional thing to do… and required by law. That’d be a dumb thing to get fired over, not washing your hands in the bathroom.
‘This Phobia About Germs Makes the Problem Worse’
Josh, 20: My parents always taught me to wash my hands growing up, but yeah, I just stopped on my own accord.
I don’t wash my hands mainly because of two reasons. First, as a whole, we’ve been taught, if not brainwashed, into thinking we have to wash our hands after every single thing we do. Touched a dog? “Wash your hands.” Went to the shops? “Ewww, who knows what germs are on handles — wash your hands.”
But in reality, all this phobia about germs makes the problem worse. I strongly believe in the idea that not washing our hands builds our immune systems up. Secondly, looking at a case study of myself, I haven’t been sick in years due to unknown circumstances. I haven’t been sick because of not washing my hands, bringing me to the conclusion that I don’t need to.
I probably haven’t washed my hands after peeing for five years, but I do wash my hands after doing No. 2’s. Beyond that, I’ll wash my hands sort of just whenever my hands are visibly dirty. If I’ve done no “dirty” work for the day, then my hands will be washed when I have my daily shower.
The only time I will wash my hands after peeing is if someone is in a public restroom with me and sees me pee. I do this because I know that some people do see it as disgusting. So to keep those people happy, I [wash].
But if I’m at home, then I won’t. For example, I go to gym five days a week and always wash my hands after peeing because I can understand if someone noticed that I didn’t wash my hands, they would be horrified — since we’re all using machines and hand weights. But in a different example, I play Australian football, and in this situation, no one ever washes their hands after peeing and there is no stigma whatsoever. Maybe that shows it’s a culture thing [or] a more gender-specific thing, being that women are more conscious and triggered over people not washing hands/germs in general.
‘I Just Don’t Care’
Chris, 25: I just don’t care. I’m unconcerned with germs for the most part, and I don’t get sick very often — knock on wood — so I don’t worry about it. I don’t wash out of a mixture of convenience and the idea that if you don’t encounter germs and give your body a chance to learn to fight them, you will get sick eventually.
I’ve always been this way. The world is filled with crazy germs and anything from my junk is no more dangerous than what you may touch on your cellphone or a door handle. Though I do tend to wash my hands after dropping a turtle. You basically touch your butthole, so I’d say that merits hand washing.
Sometimes I’ll wash out of peer pressure, especially if I know the guy next to me is a total germ freak. A few times it’s happened where someone is like, “Dude, wash your hands at least,” so I’ll do it after that.
‘My Hands Get Dry from Washing Them so Much’
Michael, 23: The main reason I usually do not wash my hands after peeing is that my hands get dry from washing them so much. They would crack and look bad, so I started washing less. I’ve been flushing with my foot and saving my dry hands for about five years now, and my hands are definitely less dry because of it.
I do wash my hands when using public restrooms because if I’m using a public restroom, I probably haven’t washed my hands in some time. Unless they were recently washed and I haven’t touched anything in the restroom, then I’ll grab door handles with a paper towel. Nobody has told me to wash my hands or anything similar, apart from my mother when I was a child.
Otherwise I wash my hands after playing with my dog, going No. 2 (ALWAYS), and whenever I feel like my hands are dirty or have stuff on them. It’s a matter of feeling, like after touching your dog’s toy, it’s sticky and I feel like I need to wash them after that. But they don’t have to be noticeably dirty. Either way, I don’t regard my immune system whatsoever in this matter.