An advertisement for a trip to Yellowstone National Park

The next time you’re in a public restroom, look around — someone may be watching, and not just for foot tapping in the stalls.

A recent study reports something we instinctively know: women are more likely than men to wash their hands before leaving the bathroom.

I became very conscious of that a few years back when I overheard two women discussing the subject, and one said “Trust me, men never wash their hands.” I privately determined to prove her wrong.

The toilet spies reported that most men do wash their hands, at least when using public bathrooms, but less faithfully than the cleaner sex. On average, a third of men left the public bathrooms studied without washing their hands, while only 12 percent of women did so.

You’ll want to avoid handshaking at Turner Field in Atlanta, where the greatest disparity was observed. Only 57 percent of the men washed up in the Braves’ bathrooms, compared to 95 percent of female fans.

The troubling thing about the study — which was reported to a group of infectious disease scientists — is that cleanliness (like godliness?) is declining, at least among men. Ten years ago, a similar report from the hand-washing police observed just 25% of men leaving the toilet with unwashed hands.

We are often reminded that frequent hand washing is the single best thing we can do to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, so there are important reasons beyond the “gross factor” for hitting the soap dispenser and hot water before leaving the restroom.

To be really careful, you have to hold on to the paper towel and use it to open the door on the way out, lest you pick up germs from previous visitors who may not have been so fastidious.

At Campbell University, most bathrooms I’ve visited are plastered with insurance company posters advising bathroom patrons to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice while washing their hands with soap and water.

Perhaps we should add a second poster to the men’s rooms, one that features a proverb that was already old when Job quoted it: “The righteous man holds to his way, and the one with clean hands grows stronger” (Job 17:9).

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