BACKGROUND: Occupational exposure to skin irritants, in particular to water, is an important risk factor for hand eczema. OBJECTIVES: To assess occupational skin exposure to water in the general population. METHODS: As part of a public health survey in Stockholm, Sweden, 18,267 gainfully employed individuals aged 18-64 years completed a questionnaire with previously validated questions regarding occupational skin exposure to water. RESULTS: Altogether 16% reported exposure to water for (1/2) h or more a day, and 13% reported exposure to water more than 10 times a day. Furthermore, 7% reported water exposure of more than 2 h and 6% of more than 20 times a day. Women reported more water exposure than men and many female-dominated occupations were seen to comprise water exposure. Women were also more exposed than men within the same jobs. Young adults were more exposed than older. A total of 18% were employed in high-risk occupations for hand eczema. Fifty-nine per cent of individuals employed in high-risk occupations reported water exposure at work, compared with 11% in low-risk occupations. CONCLUSIONS: A total of 20% of the population of working age acknowledged occupational skin exposure to water, which was found to be more common in young adults and women. Using job title as a proxy for water exposure gives an underestimation due to misclassification. In assessing occupational skin exposure to water, both exposure time and frequency should be considered.