Handwashing Research Review

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!

Highlights from the handwashing literature
compiled by Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Improbable Research staff

Wash When Watched
“Effects of an Observer on Conformity to Handwashing Norm,” Darhl M. Pedersen, Sheila Keithly, and Karie Brady, Perceptual and Motor Skills, vol. 62, no. 1, February 1986, pp. 169–70.

Observed women after elimination in a public restroom to determine the effects of the presence or absence of an observer on the likelihood of handwashing. 18 of 20 subjects in the presence of another and 3 of 19 who were not observed washed. The difference in frequency of handwashing between the 2 groups was significant. Results suggest that handwashing after going to the bathroom appears to be a behavior that results primarily from social pressure.

Detail from the Jones handwashing technique analysis patent.

Handwashing Technique Analysis Method Patent
“Handwashing Technique Analysis,” U.S. patent #5,900,067, issued May 4, 1999 to C. Kerry Jones. The patent explains:

A handwashing medium which may be in liquid, cream, powder or spray form is provided with a detection agent such as an invisible fluorescent or phosphorescent additive, which combination is then rubbed onto one’s hands using the individual’s handwashing technique. The individual’s hands are rinsed with water as in the normal handwashing  fashion and the hands are then exposed to an activating agent such as an ultraviolet (UV) light source where the invisible detection agent is fluorescent. Areas missed during handwashing retain the fluorescent additive and are clearly visible due to fluorescence.

Further detail from the Jones handwashing technique analysis patent.

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This article is republished with permission from the May-June 2010 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift! Visit their website for more research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK.


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