How to Promote Handwashing in Schools and Homes

How to Promote Handwashing in Schools and Homes

by Chronis Lalas

The simple task of washing your hands regularly is enough to help you prevent diseases, infections, and unpleasant odors. By looking at the statistics, though, we can clearly see that people – especially kids – don’t always wash their hands.

This is a serious problem that schools face, because we all know that kids with a simple illness can easily spread it around the school when they do not take precautions.

Recently, a picture went viral on social media in which a US teacher used a visual example to show kids the negative consequences of not washing your hands.

This picture, shown below, could also be called a Visual Nudge:


Based on behavioral economics and psychology research, handwashing is a habitual behavior. From this comes the suggested nudge: visual footsteps & arrows on the ground to guide or change the direction of the students’ movement in the school.

Visual Nudges#1

This type of nudge is used in order to promote the habit of visiting the bathroom after students finishing their classes or their meals. They could also lead to the sinks, soap, or hand sanitizer, in case they are not next to the toilets.

These are some visual examples:


Research has also shown that in order to change behavior, you need to apply solutions, which consist of combinations of knowledge, awareness, action control, and facilitation of behavior. That is the reason why a combination of nudges is most effective.

Visual Nudges#2

For a second nudge, we would suggest using persuasive text and images on posters and stickers in the bathroom area, as a call-to-action for the students to wash their hands properly.

Here are some examples:

How healthy and clean do you feel today-1How healthy and clean do you feel today-2

These nudges can be applied in schools, homes, and public community centers to better help kids (and adults!) develop healthy handwashing habits.

Behavioral Factors/Biases:

  1. Defaults, Visual Cues, Framing/Loss Aversion (cognitive)
  2. Availability Bias, Present Bias & Myopia (time)