The American Cleaning Institute (ACI)

Survey: Americans Still Give a Thumbs Up to Handwashing

  • Handwashing Habit Will Be the Habit They’ll Keep Up with in the Months Ahead, American Cleaning Institute Survey Finds
  • Ahead of Cold and Flu Season, ACI Reminds Americans to Remain Vigilant and Maintain Healthy Habits with Proper Hand Hygiene
  • Global Handwashing Day Oct. 15

Handwashing outranks other pandemic-related countermeasures – such as wearing masks and social distancing – that Americans indicate they’ll continue in the next months, an American Cleaning Institute (ACI) survey finds.

93% of respondents are more likely to continue their pandemic hand-hygiene habits than the other referenced health measures.

The research, which was conducted by Ipsos for ACI in March 2020 and again in September 2021, tracked changes in consumer cleaning behaviors amid the ongoing pandemic in the U.S.

The results coincide with the annual commemoration of Global Handwashing Day (October 15), which is dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

Additional findings from the ACI survey show a 19-percentage point decline in frequent handwashing since the start of the pandemic. Fewer people now also say they are more mindful about washing their hands for 20 seconds, compared to March 2020.

Although respondents are likely to continue pandemic hand-hygiene practices, the survey indicates they are not washing as frequently or for as long when they do wash. As Americans prepare for a potentially severe cold and flu season, due to an underexposed population last year combined with less COVID-19 restrictions this year, this decline in handwashing can put people at risk.

“Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is one of the most simple and effective measures to take in the fight against COVID-19 and other easily transmittable diseases,” said Melissa Hockstad, ACI President & CEO. “As we gear up for the coming cold and flu season, we hope to equip everyone with the knowledge and tools they need to practice proper handwashing.”

Important handwashing tips include:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Take note of the following key times to wash your hands:
    • Before, during and after preparing food
    • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
    • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
    • After handling garbage
    • After directly handling dirty laundry
  • If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer as an alternative. For use against COVID-19, look for an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

For more information about Global Handwashing Day and ways to integrate proper handwashing as a long-lasting habit, visit

Additional Research Findings:

  • Most Americans are still washing their hands and using hand sanitizer more frequently now than they did prior to COVID-19. Almost three out of five of Americans reported that they are washing their hands (59%) or using hand sanitizer (56%) more frequently.
  • Nine in 10 Americans still report some type of change in their handwashing habits since the pandemic started.
  • 83% of Americans plan to continue using hand sanitizer.

These are the findings from an Ipsos poll conducted September 7-8, 2021, on behalf of the American Cleaning Institute. For the survey, a sample of 1,004 adults ages 18 and over from the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii was interviewed online in English.

The American Cleaning Institute® (ACI – is the Home of the U.S. Cleaning Products Industry® and represents the $60 billion U.S. cleaning product supply chain. ACI members include the manufacturers and formulators of soaps, detergents, and general cleaning products used in household, commercial, industrial and institutional settings; companies that supply ingredients and finished packaging for these products; and chemical distributors. ACI serves the growth and innovation of the U.S. cleaning products industry by advancing the health and quality of life of people and protecting our planet. ACI achieves this through a continuous commitment to sound science and being a credible voice for the cleaning products industry.

Contact the ACI Communications Team