One of the easiest ways to stop the spread of disease is to simply wash your hands. Twenty seconds of handwashing with soap and water can reduce illnesses and save lives.
But, many people, especially children, do not have good handwashing habits. One problem is that children do not wash their hands often enough or long enough. Children may think that it is a tiresome thing to do.
To help solve this problem, two entrepreneurs from India created a product to turn handwashing into a fun activity.
Amanat Anand and Shubham Issar created a device called the SoaPen.
"It's such a simple habit to do, and the fact that people aren't doing it, and it's resulting in actual deaths -- which is shocking. So, we decided on coming up with a fun solution."
Issar said the SoaPen is aimed at teaching kids good handwashing habits.
"SoaPen is a soap that kids can draw with. It's a fun way to teach kids how to wash their hands."
As the name suggests, the SoaPen is a pen made out of soap. The children draw on their hands with the soap pen and then wash it off. If they do not spend enough time washing it off, the colors remain on the child’s hands.
Issar said it ensures that children take enough time to wash their hands. This may be especially helpful in a classroom. Often a teacher does not have the time to ensure that each child has washed their hands properly.
"Kids actually wash their hands for the proper amount of time because they're drawing on their hands, and under water they have to rub really hard to remove the drawing, so actually washing their hands instead of just going under water and, you know, one-second wash and off."
From an idea to an actual product
Issar and Anand studied design together in New York City. They created the soap after a visit home to India.
To get their product on the market, the two women applied for a spot at a business development program in Washington, D.C. called Halcyon Incubator.
Mike Malloy is the program manager at Halycon Incubator. He said turning a great idea into a product that can help others is not easy.
"Being an entrepreneur is really, really hard. There is kind of an up and down rollercoaster ride. One day things are going great; the next day things are terrible. And if you're doing that alone, it can be really, really challenging."
Halcyon connects what it calls “social entrepreneurs” with business professionals. These experts help the entrepreneurs sell their products. Anand said that with this business help, they were able to do more than they would have by themselves.
"Without an incubator like Halcyon, I don't think we would be able to make or envision social impact as greatly as we are able to right now."
Halcyon is also helping to launch SoaPen.
Anand and Issar said their goal is to donate one SoaPen to children in poverty for every three they sell at full price.
The product could have a real effect on public health. The United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, reports that 1.5 million children die each year as a result of diarrhea. UNICEF says good handwashing could reduce that number by 40 percent.
Are you washing your hands properly?
Children may not be the only ones who need to improve their handwashing. If you are not soaping up your hands for at least 20 seconds, you are probably not removing all of the germs.
In celebration of World Handwashing Day, which was October 15, experts at the WHO remind us how to wash our hands properly.
- Wet your hands with clean, running water. Turn off the water and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. If you do not have a timer, simply sing the song “Happy Birthday” (to yourself or out-loud) twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry with a clean cloth or allow to air dry.
The CDC also reminds us that if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
However, these alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill some germs. And often they do not remove harmful chemicals from the skin. Also, overusing these products may increase germs’ resistance to them.
So, if available, washing with soap and water is best.
I’m Anna Matteo.
Arash Arabasadi reported this story for VOA News in Washington, D.C. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English and added additional information from the CDC website. Mario Ritter was the editor.
Words in This Story
entrepreneur – n. one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise
habit – n. something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way
proper – adj. behaving in a way that is correct according to social or moral rules : in a complete way
rollercoaster – n. an elevated railway (as in an amusement park) constructed with sharp curves and steep inclines on which cars roll : roller-coaster – adj. something resembling a roller coaster especially : marked by numerous ups and downs : behavior, events, or experiences characterized by sudden and extreme changes
challenging – adj. difficult in a way that is usually interesting or enjoyable
envision – v. to picture to oneself
impact – n. a powerful or major influence or effect
lather – v. a foam or froth formed when a detergent (such as soap) is agitated in water
scrub – v. to clean with hard rubbing
rinse – v. to cleanse (as of soap) by clear water