Who Invented Hand Sanitizer?

Well that should be an easy answer, but it’s not quite. Just like most inventions, who really created it gets a bit muddied in the waters of history. Lewis Latimer doesn’t usually get any of the credit for his role in inventing the light bulb. In the case of hand sanitizer, there are competing visions of who should be credited with an invention of such a caliber.

Hand sanitizer is a relatively new invention and only gained its true popularity in recent years. The massive jump in sales because of Cold-19 caused the 200 million dollar a year industry to really take off.

Who brought us this invention is still debated, but let’s take a look at the three possible answers

 

Lupe Hernandez

A quick search of Lupe Hernandez will turn up with dozens of articles that all have an almost identical line: “The story goes…” (1,2,3,4). So the story goes that in 1966 a nursing student in Bakersfield, California wanted a quick way for doctors and nurses to sanitize their hands when washing them wasn’t an option. Thus, she invented hand sanitizer to fill this void.

One reason for all of these articles to approach Lupe’s story in a similar way is that the legend of Lupe Hernandez is one of fiction. Joyce Bedi does a wonderful job of sorting out the facts from fiction in her article.

To simplify, it comes down to there being no records of a Lupe Hernandez filing for a patent in the 1960s. There are suggestions that maybe Lupe was a male rather than a female. It’s also possible that someone stole the patent. Really there is no evidence to suggest there was ever a Lupe Hernandez in 1966 at a college in Bakersfield.

Peter Kalmár

Mr. Kalmár’s existence is one that can be confirmed. The Hartmann company, who sells Sterillium®, claim that it was Kalmár who revolutionized hand sanitizer in 1965. This story goes that he was the assistant to a surgeon and noticed that hand washing was often ignored because of time constraints. He thus invented Sterillium®, which is touted as, “the world’s first alcohol-based yet skin-friendly hand disinfectant that was simply rubbed into the hands – without prior hand washing, additives or any other measure.”

Goldie and Jerry Lippman

Goldie and Jerry ended up inventing Gojo, “a waterless hand cleaner.” It was during WWII while working in a rubber factory for the war effort that Goldie and her co-workers discovered how hard it was to clean their hands after a long day. She and Jerry ended up finding a solution in Gojo and founding the company that would eventually go on to invent PURELL® in 1988.