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Updated: 05 November 2012 19:30 | By Hugh Wilson, contributor, MSN Him

Are men cleaner than women?

You probably think women are the more fragrant, freshly scrubbed gender, but new research suggests otherwise.


Woman washing her hair in shower (© Getty Images)

It’s commonly perceived that men are the grubbier gender. We’re an uncouth and unkempt bunch, who would rather turn our underpants inside out and wear them again than go to the bother of finding a clean pair.

That’s a rather dated stereotype, of course, and it’s probably fair to say that men have been catching up in the cleanliness stakes for a while. And as it turns out, we may be moving into the lead.

Two new pieces of research are turning the personal hygiene debate on its head. We dig the dirt to find out if men are now cleaner than women.

Men becoming obsessive about hygiene

Women are supposed to be the squeaky-clean gender, but a new survey suggests men are at least equally obsessive when it comes to personal hygiene.

The survey, for Cuticura Hand Wash, found that there’s no difference between the genders in the amount we wash our hands, clean our teeth and - perhaps most surprisingly - change our bedding.

Both sexes washed their hands on average 10 times a day and both changed their bed sheets every three weeks or so.

In some areas men were even forging ahead. According to the survey, on average men wash their hair 24 times a month, compared to 22 times for women.

“There is often a common perception that men are less competent when it comes to keeping themselves at a good standard of hygiene but these results show that isn’t the case,” said a spokesman.

“In recent years we’ve become a lot more conscious of bacteria and the importance of cleanliness in our domestic lives, especially during cold and flu season, and it’s clear to see that men are just as aware of this as women.”

Clean master bathroom (© Getty Images)

Cleanliness is more than just about regular showers, and in some areas men fare badly

Hygiene students

Still, if men in general are becoming cleaner, surely student men remain a grubby bunch, in possession of the keenest minds and filthiest socks in the country?

Not so, according to another report. The survey questioned 1,000 UK students and found that 80% of male students changed their bed sheets at least once a month, with more than 20% washing them once a week. Their filthy female counterparts, on the other hand, only cleaned their sheets on average every two months.

And there was more. Male students had higher expectations for the cleanliness of their facilities than women. Nearly 90% of men said cleanliness would influence their choice of university, while less than 40% of women said the same.

“I was certainly surprised to see that men are cleaner than women, with higher expectations for clean university campuses and accommodation,” said Andy Vaughan of Resource Group UK, who commissioned the survey. “It may not fit the stereotypical perception of male students but the link between cleanliness of facilities to better academic qualification is not be laughed at.”

Men still have bad habits

But before we get too carried away, it’s also true that men still have a long way to go in a couple of areas.

The Cuticura Hand Wash study also found, for example, that the old stereotype might not be so old after all. It found that men were far more likely to wear the same pair of underpants more than once without washing them, with 42% admitting to doing it often. The equivalent figure for women was just 23%.

We’re also grubbier out of the home, if research is to be believed. Scientists from San Diego State University took swabs from offices around the US, and found that there were 10 to 20% more bacteria in offices dominated by men than in largely female offices.

Man washing his hands in the sink (© Getty Images)

The study suggests men don't wash their hands as often as they should

Is any of this important?

All this might sound like a minor diversion in the gender wars but it does have some real-world importance.

For instance, the news that both men and women wash their hands on average 10 times a day is to be welcomed with the cold and flu season nearly upon us. Simple, thorough hand washing is one of the most effective ways of stopping the spread of germs and bacteria.

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And commenting on another study which found that 58% of men regularly skip a daily shower, Professor John Oxford, chairman of the Hygiene Council, said: “Naturally we all want to have a lie-in but skipping a morning wash is both antisocial for the people who have to sit next to us and unhealthy. A morning shower not only wakes you up, but washing regularly can help to limit the transmission of germs and pathogens.”

Are men the cleaner sex?

So are men the cleaner sex? Apart from bragging rights in the pub - or with your partner -  it probably doesn’t matter much. What does matter is that we all stay hygienically clean. That doesn’t mean being obsessive, but it does mean being scrupulous about hand washing above all.

And the good news is that we all seem to be getting a bit better at that.

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