Handwashing survey uncovers disturbing lack of knowledge about safe washing of hands

By Judith Juntilla

Half of Filipinos are not washing their hands correctly and don’t even realize it. This was among the findings of a recent survey of Metro Manila residents comprising a broad socio-economic sector.

The 2020 Philippines Handwashing Habits Survey, conducted by Brandworks Market Intelligence and Consulting, revealed that most respondents’ go-to handwashing practice was “washing quickly with soap and water.” Such practices were also observed by the respondents among other people, reflecting a “pwede na” mentality that puts people at risk of catching deadly viruses.


The 2020 Philippines Handwashing Habits Survey found a gap between the awareness of the importance of handwashing and the knowledge of how to do it correctly. The respondents said they were aware of the importance of handwashing, and thatthey have observed an increase in handwashing among their family members. They, however, still exhibited poor knowledge of safe wash habits—that is, washing with soap and running water and thoroughly rubbing all parts of the hands for at least 20 seconds. In fact, even despite their poor knowledge of safe wash habits, they still saw themselves as being “excellent” hand washers when asked to rate their own habits.

Even more disturbing is the finding that most respondents did not know all the instances in which it is important to wash their hands.

While most of the respondents said they need to wash their hands the most before eating and when coming home from the outside, an alarmingly low percentage said they saw it important to wash their hands after using the toilet (16 percent), after eating (7 percent), and after shaking someone’s hands (1 percent). Only 3 percent of the respondents said that it was important to wash their hands at all the above named occasions.


In August, the Department of Health (DOH) released guidelines to help Filipinos slow the spread of viruses. The easy-to-remember pointers, called BIDA Solusyon Guidelines, instructed people on how to properly wear masks, sanitize their hands, observe social distancing, and discern where to get correct information about the pandemic.

Specifically, the DOH highlighted the importance of safe handwashing habits using the following steps: First, wet hands with clean, running water and apply soap. Lather the hands and rub them together with soap by cleaning thoroughly from the back of the hands, the palm, between the fingers, under the nails. Scrub the hands for not less than 20 seconds. Then rinse the hands under clean and running water and finally dry the hands using a clean towel.

Safe handwashing, along with the wearing of mask and practice of social distancing, is the first line of defense against germs and viruses. Today, the duty for a SAFE Philippines lies in the hands of every Filipino to teach and learn the value of a safe wash, and not fall into the trap of a “pwede na” mentality. 

The 2020 Philippines Handwashing Habits Survey respondents comprised 240 Filipino men and women, aged 18 to 50, based in Metro Manila from SEC ABCD. It was conducted using a series of face-to-face interviews from Sept. 4 to 7, 2020.