The warnings around the spread of coronavirus have brought the disturbing reality of the public’s hygiene levels to light.
Wait, people weren’t properly washing their hands with soap and water in public loos?
You really need to teach people how to sneeze into a tissue or cough into their elbow?
One of the most harrowing revelations to emerge is that some men and people with penises don’t wash their hands after they urinate – and they truly believe this is normal, acceptable behaviour and it’s the hand-washing-after-peeing guys who are schmucks.
According to one bit of research, 69% of men don’t wash their hands every time they use a toilet or urinal.
Another study suggests that 6% of men only wash their hands after pooing, but not after doing a number one.
And in a far less scientific poll on my Twitter, only 40.4% of men said they wash their hands after peeing (only 5.6% admitted they don’t, while the remaining people just wanted to see the results).
Men & people with a penis: Do you wash your hands after peeing? An important q.
Sam*, 25, from Wales, tells us he doesn’t always wash up post-pee.
‘Sometimes as a man you just get into a situation where you just don’t want to wash your hands or you don’t think you need to,’ he says. ‘At the end of the day I think many forget that a male’s penis is a part of his body, it isn’t an alien object.
‘We are in control of our hygiene. I would bet that my penis is a lot cleaner than most mobile phones.’
A 26-year-old man, who asked to go by the name Chad Cleanshaft, agrees, telling us: ‘I am sorry but I do not wash my hands after every time I pee.
‘I wash my hands when they are dirty. I wash my hands after I wipe my arse.
‘But I just don’t get the urge to sterilise my hands for simply having a close encounter with my penis.
‘I’m not spraying piss onto my palms. My cock isn’t covered in grime from nesting in my boxers.
‘Remember that people generally don’t rush to wash their hands immediately after they sneeze into them, or when they’re playing with their arse-licking pets, but I’m supposed to be ashamed of not washing my hands every time for the simple act of steadying my most looked-after limb?
‘You only use one hand to pee, anyway. It only needs a few digits to steer the stream away from your feet, and then one to shakes before pack-up.
‘If anything, I’d be more inclined to wash my hands before I touch my penis than after it.’
The logic appears to be similar to that behind Adrienne Bailon’s belief that she doesn’t need to wash her hands after using the toilet in her own home – if your hands aren’t directly touching pee, but are just brushing up against a part of your body, do you really need to wash your hands?
The men we spoke to argued that there’s really no need to wash your hands after urinating, and said the only reason people do so is out of social convention. Many said that they would only wash their hands after going to the toilet if someone else was in the bathroom to play witness to their habit.
Practicality and what’s perceived as time-wasting comes into play, too.
Dave*, 49, describes himself as a ‘post-pee non-hand-washer’ who’s ‘never seen it as a massive issue’. He argues that he often doesn’t have time to pause post-urination and wash his hands.
‘Sometimes I’m in a hurry so just want to get the pee done and leave ASAP,’ he tells us. ‘I don’t really want to spend a minute faffing around and then still come out with soaking wet hands as the dryers are rubbish.
‘Some toilets are grim so the less time I’m in there the better.’
There, David actually raises a valid point – but not to back up his choice to skip hand-washing.
Public toilets are often filthy bacteria hotspots, with germs lurking on everything you touch while you nip in for a quick piss – the cubicle door, the wall you lean on against the urinal, the taps – and getting sprayed up through the air with every flush.
That’s all the more reason to wash your hands after peeing – even if you go down the ‘but my penis isn’t dirty’ excuse, if you’re in a bathroom you’re coming into contact with some gross stuff.
Dr Diana Gall, of leading online medical service Doctor 4 U, said: ‘It’s important for men to wash their hands after urinating regardless of whether their hands came into contact with urine or not due to the bacteria associated with urinals and bathroom toilets in general.
‘Public toilets are breeding grounds for bacteria such as E. coli, Shigella, Streptococcus, hepatitis A and E – of which can lead to fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, strep throat or in more severe cases, organ failure.
‘By simply taking an extra twenty seconds to wash your hands you are helping to stop the spread of any potentially harmful bacteria or virus.’
Hand-washing post-wee is even more important in your work loos.
When I asked the question of hand-washing among people I know, multiple men told me they regularly witness male colleagues waltzing out of the office bathrooms without even a cursory splash of water.
Dominic Ponniah, CEO of London and Manchester-based commercial cleaning firm, Cleanology, said: ‘You often see men and women leaving toilets, at home and in public, without washing their hands.
‘People don’t realise how seriously they are spreading germs by doing this especially in workplaces.
‘Keyboards have been found to have more than 20,000 times more germs on than toilet seats, while mice have been found to harbour almost 46,000 times more bacteria than toilet handles.
‘And that’s because while workplace toilets are usually cleaned daily – keyboards and mice are often not.
‘So by not washing your hands when you leave the toilet you are taking the germs and bacteria you’ve picked outside up with you, and transferring them on to other surfaces.
‘That issue becomes more serious in working situations where people hot desk or share accessories like phones.
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‘When men use the toilet they often use fewer ‘touch-points’ than women – for example if they are just using a urinal – they won’t be needing to flush a toilet or lock a toilet door. So they can end up thinking there aren’t really that many germs for them to be taking outside.
‘But by even touching the toilet door handle on the way out without having washed their hands, they are still spreading any germs they had on their hands to the door handle, meaning the next person is potentially going to pick those up.
‘Even for men who are generally very clean, that unfortunately doesn’t stop them picking up and spreading germs.
‘If people washed their hands after visiting the toilet, they could reduce the spread of germs, have less time off sick and give their colleagues a better chance of staying healthy too.’
The reality is this: the non-hand-washers could be right about peeing not being gross.
A penis is not inherently dirty, and aside from the likelihood of it being a little sweaty thanks to being stashed in underwear for hours, it’s not necessarily true that by simply touching your dick your hands are covered in disgusting stuff.
What they’re wrong about, however, is the idea that this means you don’t have to wash your hands after peeing.
Bathrooms are gross environments, you’re likely to touch other non-penis things that are bacteria-ridden, and the moment you’re in that environment – yes, even the bathroom in your own home – you need to wash your hands to avoid spreading germs further.
And frankly, when we’re in the midst of a pandemic, you should be washing your hands at any chance you can get, regardless of how clean you think your penis may be.
If you’re near a sink, just go ahead and wash your hands with soap. It won’t do you any harm.