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Global Innovation Day: Hand Hygiene Inventions That Have Changed The World

February 16, 2021 Ofir Broides Vavker

Throughout human history, innovation has been helping propel mankind forward. From the invention of the wheel to trains and cars, and even cellphones – the few individuals who had bright new ideas were the ones who aided in advancing and bettering human lives everywhere.

Innovation comes from the Latin word “Novus”, meaning “new”. Indeed, innovation is original, new, a unique solution to an existing problem. Global innovation day has been created to celebrate this exact notion.

Here at Soapy, we want to bring a spotlight to innovations that revolutionized the way we view hygiene at critical times in human history. The consistent growth in life expectancy over the years is inseparably tied to modern advancements that have allowed better sustenance, medical care, and living conditions for humans. However, hygiene plays a huge role in this as well. Without proper hand hygiene diseases and harmful germs spread quickly, harming the quality of life as well as causing deaths. Good hand hygiene decreases the chances of illness and plays a major part in the ever-increasing life expectancy graphs. 

The invention of liquid soap

Soap, in the form of bar soap, has been around longer than you’d think. In fact, the first evidence of soap production dates back to 2800 B.C in ancient Babylon. An ancient soap recipe, based on alkaline salts, was found in a Babylonian clay tablet in 2200 B.C. In ancient times, the wealthy and affluent bathed more often than the poor – the usage of soap in everyday life belonged to only a chosen few. However, the usage of soap became more frequent when liquid soap was introduced.

As mentioned in our previous article, the problem with bar soap is that it can transfer harmful bacteria from one user to another if not cleaned properly between uses. Dead skin cells remain on the bar’s exterior, feeding bacteria growing in the gooey water the bar soap often sits in. Liquid soap is considered more hygienic than bar soap, and easier to be kept and used.

The first liquid soap was patented in 1865 by William Shepphard, but his invention did not stir the hearts of the public. The true revolution took place in 1898. That was the year the B. J. Johnson Soap Company introduced “Palmolive”, a soap based on palm and olive oils. “Palmolive” was a huge success, and the company went on to change its name to showcase their number one best-selling item.

In fact, Palmolive grew so popular that it created a sort of “soap boom” in the industry, with competitors and other hygiene related fields making their debut to capitalize on this newly awoken market. In the early 1900s other companies followed Palmolive’s lead, suggesting that soap could be used not only to clean the skin, but to clean floors, bathrooms, and clothing. The famous company “Tide” opened around this time, and created waves in the hygiene world as well by providing safer, cleaner environments for people to live in. The notion that soap could be used to create a safer environment was revolutionary at the time, as it was only used to bathe before. Innovative, right?

Hand hygiene guidelines make it into the American health system

We can’t talk about hand hygiene without mentioning Semmelweis. Although we wrote in greater detail about his work in a previous article, we have to give this brilliant scientist the recognition he deserves. As the saying goes, give credit where credit is due. Semmelweis recognized that mortality rates in the maternity clinic he was in charge of were higher than the maternity clinic next door. Before long, he realized that the physicians in his clinic were operating on cadavers and treating the expectant mothers without disinfecting their hands first. Semmelweis created a chlorinated lime solution for doctors at the Vienna hospital to disinfect their hands before treating patients, and mortality rates dropped to an all-time low.

Though scrubbing hands before surgery was only widely accepted in modern medicine after Semmelweis’ death (1870s) – everyday handwashing was still not widely practiced. Only a century later, in the 1980s, the first national hand hygiene guidelines made it into the American health system with a recommendation by the CDC. These guidelines were published as part of the CDC’s Hospital infections program (HIP), and were meant to be guidelines for prevention and control of nosocomial infections.

Handwashing with soap and warm water is the best way to ensure hands are clean, but in busy hospital settings, free sinks are not always available. This is why most hospitals utilize hand sanitizers when handwashing is not available. As the CDC states, “If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.”

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, in march 2020 hand sanitizer sales had an unbelievable increase of 470% compared to the previous year, according to CNBC. In fact, the hand-sanitizer industry rakes up over 200$ million in annual sales in the US alone!

The history of hand sanitizer is a bit unclear. Some sources believe it was first created by an Ohio based couple in 1945, Goldie and Jerry Lippman, which contained 5% alcohol. The couple’s “waterless hand cleaner” was sold to plant workers that wanted to remove graphite and carbon black from their hands at the ends of their shifts. In fact, they were the ones who created “Gojo”, the famous hand hygiene product brand. Others believe hand hygiene was invented by Lupe Hernandes, a Californian nursing student, however no patent under his name during those years was found. Hartmann, a German company, claims that they invented the first alcohol-based disinfectant back in 1965, containing 75% alcohol.

The invention of “hot and cold” water faucet

Water faucets have a pretty long and interesting history. In fact, plumbing and faucets for private homes date back to 1700 B.C. and were widely used by the Romans with a variety of beautiful bathhouses and fountains. It may be hard to imagine in this day and age, but originally each sink had two faucets – one for hot water and the other for cold water.

In 1880, a Canadian man, Thomas Campbell, patented a solution – “Campbell’s Double Basin Cock” that combined both water sources. However, his invention did not become widely used and the practice of having two faucets remained the most prominent. Around 1945, a man named Al Moen created the first functional single-handled faucet, and this time, his invention was a success.

Having a comfortable water temperature is vital in the effort to encourage hand hygiene. Especially in countries that suffer from cold temperatures, one of the biggest deterring factors from practicing hand hygiene has to do with the uncomfortable cold. Moen’s invention was critical in allowing people to wash their hands more often with ease. In fact, the FDA recommends a warm 100° F (38° C) for optimal handwashing since 2009.

The invention of the “Smart Sink” – personal hand hygiene stations

Soapy offers the best handwashing experience in the world: The CleanMachine. The CleanMachine dispenses the exact amount of soap and warm water needed for a perfect wash cycle. Motion sensors located inside the machine scan the hands during the wash and each user gets a real-time report of their hand hygiene achievements. The automatic handwashing machine comes with an interactive screen that demonstrates what hand movements to practice while washing to lather and wash all areas of the skin.

The smart handwashing station also takes every user’s temperature to make sure they haven’t developed feverish symptoms throughout the day. If a user has an abnormally high temperature, the CleanMachine automatically sends a message through SMS or email (per each client’s preference) to the facility’s infection prevention expert.

The Soapy Wisdom platform gathers the hand hygiene data into neatly organized graphs, to help managers understand hygiene trends inside their facilities. This helps create actionable items for a better infection prevention program.

The CleanMachine is a way to know who washed their hands, and how well, without any guesswork. The CleanMachine has a facial recognition feature (GDPR compliant) which can help raise hygiene practices from a personal responsibility level to a corporate level. Companies owe it to their clients to ensure all products are handled in a safe, clean environment, and the CleanMachine ensures this better than ever before.

Soapy was created with planet earth first, and strives to be as efficient in resources as possible, while maintaining the best washing quality and experience. The CleanMachine saves up to 95% of water and 60% of reagents wasted in a “regular” wash cycle.

The CleanMachine is a great innovative solution for busy places that have to make sure a lot of people wash their hands quickly and thoroughly. Our client base is wide and includes schools, nursing homes, hospitals, the food and beverage industry, office spaces, and more. The CleanMachine has had up to 400% improvement in hand hygiene frequency and compliance rates in less than 3 weeks!

If you’re interested in learning more about the CleanMachine, you can contact us here.

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