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New study from Tork, an Essity brand, shows only 2 out of 10 people wash their hands to protect others

October 14, 2020

Originally posted on the Essity website.

A majority of people wash their hands more often today than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. But it is not out of care for others. A new study from Tork, an Essity brand, shows that close to eight out of 10 respondents wash their hands to protect themselves (1).  As we celebrate Global Handwashing Day on October 15th, this year’s theme ‘Hand Hygiene for All’ could not be more appropriate.

In connection to the Global Handwashing Day 2020, Essity is releasing new facts on hand hygiene from their global hygiene and health survey performed in July 2020. And it is clear that COVID-19 has had major impact on people’s behavior, not the least on hand hygiene. Two out of three have changed the way they wash their hands, with 75 percent saying that they wash their hands more often. But is it enough?

Who do You wash your hands for?

Hand hygiene is essential in combatting diseases, and we now have global results from more than 10,000 people confirming a positive change in hand hygiene behavior. However, 77 percent say they wash their hands only to protect themselves. A majority also only wash their hands after they have done something, e.g. 78 percent say they wash their hands after visiting a public place, meanwhile only 38 percent say they wash their hands before going to a public place. A sign that people may be more concerned with their own hands being contaminated than considering they are potentially contaminating others.

Despite a great solidarity with frontline workers during this pandemic, the survey results indicate that we could do more when it comes to washing our hands for others. Hand hygiene is a crucial tool in our efforts to maintain healthy communities. I hope we maintain our increased frequency of hand hygiene throughout the pandemic and afterwards”, says Carolyn Berland, PhD, Global Brand Innovation Manager, Essity Professional Hygiene.

Hand hygiene impacts business reputation in the new normal

When re-opening or attracting customers, hand hygiene practices have now become essential to making customers feel safe and secure. During COVID-19 the expectation on hygiene standards has increased. With six in 10 survey respondents having increased their hygiene expectations of restaurants and cafes, and the same percentage feeling more secure knowing details about hand hygiene practices in public spaces.

Overall 81 percent of respondents agree or strongly agree with: “I expect public washrooms to provide a safe hygiene environment to a higher extent now than before COVID-19” (2).

For businesses looking to attract people back, hand hygiene routines, access to hand hygiene stations and communications regarding the work that is being done to prevent contamination, is crucial. Those who succeed with this will come out stronger”, Says Renee Remijnse, Communications Director for  Essity Professional Hygiene.

We would like to inspire everyone- from business owners to employees and from students to parents – to wash their hands not only to protect themselves, but also to help others feel secure and stay healthy.

On the Power of Hands Podcast, you can listen to Carolyn Berland, PhD, discuss more about the importance of good hand hygiene routines as well as using soap rather than sanitizers. Listen here.

Find out more about how Tork products secure the new hygiene standard here.

  1. Read the Essity 2020 Hygiene and Health Survey here.
  2. 2020 Survey conducted by United Minds in cooperation with CINT in April 2020.  The survey covered seven markets: UK, US, China, Germany, France, Spain and Sweden. In total, 7067 answered the survey.

About the Hygiene and Health Survey

In this global web survey, conducted bi-yearly, we gather insights from general public from about 15.000 respondents in 15 countries aged 16-85 years. The field research was carried out December 2019 to January 2020 and was complemented in July 2020 with a deep dive in 10 countries around hygiene and health questions around the coronavirus pandemic.

About Global Handwashing Partnership 

Improving hand hygiene standards on a global level is a long-term commitment for Essity’s Tork brand. As a Strategic Partner of the Global Handwashing Partnership, Essity is working together with other agencies and institutions such as the World Bank, USAID, UNICEF to provide resources as well as coordinate and promote campaigns to raise awareness about handwashing with soap.

About Tork
The Tork brand offers professional hygiene products and services to customers worldwide ranging from restaurants and healthcare facilities to offices, schools and industries. Our products include dispensers, paper towels, toilet tissue, soap, napkins, wipers, but also software solutions for data-driven cleaning. Through expertise in hygiene, functional design and sustainability, Tork has become a market leader that supports customers to think ahead so they’re always ready for business. Tork is a global brand of Essity, and a committed partner to customers in over 110 countries. To keep up with the latest Tork news and innovations, please visit

About Essity
Essity is a leading global hygiene and health company. We are dedicated to improving well-being through our products and services. Sales are conducted in approximately 150 countries under the leading global brands TENA and Tork, and other strong brands, such as JOBST, Leukoplast, Libero, Libresse, Lotus, Nosotras, Saba, Tempo, Vinda and Zewa. Essity has about 46,000 employees. Net sales in 2019 amounted to approximately SEK 129bn (EUR 12.2bn). The company’s headquarters is located in Stockholm, Sweden, and Essity is listed on Nasdaq Stockholm. Essity breaks barriers to well-being and contributes to a healthy, sustainable and circular society. More information at

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