News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Wayside Furniture

Hospice of the Western Reserve

Knight Foundation


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Health and Medicine




Exploradio: Gojo and the science of clean
Hospital acquired infections affect 1.7 million patients and cost health providers $4 billion a year, and better hand washing is the cure
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
Jim Arbogast washes his hands dozens of times during the day in Gojo's skin care labs. The lab is equipped with a dozen different sinks, from truck stop models to surgical suites.
Courtesy of Jeff St.Clair
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

A company that got its start in the grimy machine shops of post-war Akron is now the world leader in fighting hospital-acquired infections. 

In this week’s Exploradio, WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair looks at how Gojo is changing the way we think about clean.

LISTEN: Gojo and the new clean

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (5:14)


Soap born in Akron's post-war grime
Gojo CEO Joe Kanfer worked at his uncle’s company long before he could drive. His job was to scavenge car parts for soap dispensers, like the one on display at the company’s Akron headquarters. The original Gojo formula was a thick cream that took a special dispensing device invented by his uncle Jerry Lippmann.

At the time, mechanics would often wash greasy hands with harsh solvents. In Akron’s machine shops, raw, red hands were the norm. Gojo co-founders Lippman and his wife Goldie saw an opportunity and experimented with soaps that could gently cut the grease.  Kanfer says the breakthrough came after his uncle met Kent State chemist Clarence Cook.

“It was actually a development during World War II of non-ionic detergent that professor Cook at Kent State had been part of; it was to take flax off wool on Army uniforms.”

Goldie and Jerry – their names combined became Gojo – made the first batches in a basement washing machine and sold their new waterless hand soap door-to-door to Akron mechanics.  Gojo rapidly grew into an iconic brand synonymous with Akron’s industrial grime. 

A category-defining brand
Kanfer was 24 when he took over as CEO in the mid-70s; his daughter Marcella Kanfer Rolnick is vice-chair. She says Gojo’s history is marked by several ‘inflection points.’  She says first came the waterless soap, then innovative soap dispensers, "And then, when we brought Purell in, it rode the wave of us getting more and more into health care and other compliance markets. And now that’s where the next phase of our innovation and growth are coming from.”

Gojo spent a more than decade building the Purell brand, then sold the consumer side of the product, only to buy it back in 2010.  Kanfer won’t say what Purell’s worth to Gojo. 

But, Purell is a game changer. Like Vaseline, Kleenex, or Q-tips, Purell is a category-defining brand.  Before Purell, Kanfer says doctors were told to wash with soap and water between every patient.

“That would have caused a nurse or doctor to wash 60 or 70 times a day, which you can just imagine is impossible.” 

Now medical guidelines say alcohol-based sanitizers like Purell are the preferred method.  Among consumers, health scares like the SARS outbreak, H1N1 and swine flu have made Purell synonymous with disease prevention.

Kanfer says, “If there were not Purell, if there were only soap and water, hand-washing compliance would be today impossible.”


The science of hand hygiene
In Gojo’s research lab, skin scientist Jim Arbogast demonstrates how surgeons wash their hands. He says in a surgical environment, proper hand washing is critical because the microorganisms that are left on your hands are at risk of entering the patient’s body.

Arbogast spends a lot of time washing his hands. He says there are several standard techniques for hand washing that aid his research, which he demonstrates in a number of Gojo's sample sinks.  

But it’s what all this hand washing and sanitizing does to your skin that is Arbogast’s main focus. His lab has instruments that measure skin dryness, cracking, and redness. He says if you see a lot of redness on your skin, usually that’s a sign that it’s irritated, and, "often that’s associated with a bad feeling, tightness and stinging.  We get all these data points, some objective, some subjective, and it helps us optimize our formulations.” 

Arbogast shows me a mock-up of a hospital room complete with a dummy patient – and for about the 20th time, washes his hands. In the hospital suite Arbogast has installed half-a-dozen Purell dispensers, plus Purell wipes, gels and foams. Arbogast and his team are also developing dispensers equipped with monitors to detect how often healthcare workers use the product, and report hand-sanitizing compliance rates. All this cleanliness has me wondering whether we haven’t gone a little overboard in our war against germs.

He replies - “I hope some day we have that concern. Our main problem right now is the vast majority underutilizes hand hygiene.  So our focus is more on trying to affect behaviors to get people to use it enough.”

And with 1.7 million hospital-acquired infections each year costing providers about $4 billion a year, it’s likely Gojo’s Purell will continue to define the new clean.

(Click image for larger view.)

Listener Comments:

"Road" the wave?

Really? I expect more from Public Radio. Even in Ohio.


Posted by: Spellbound (Floriduh) on August 23, 2013 1:08AM
Gojo is a local gem - a highly successful company with a world-famous brand. It's fun to learn more about Gojo's history. Thanks!


Posted by: Fred Pierre on August 15, 2013 11:08AM
Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook



Support for Exploradio
provided by:








Stories with Recent Comments

Will Ohio's marijuana initiative follow casinos' lead?
We just ask to have marijuana legalized and here comes some nimrod trying to rob us of our rights and make us buy it from some legalized new type DRUG DEALER th...

Fancy dinners from humble beginnings at The Blue Door
Grandma of Chris Miller moved to Florida in a retirement community but I sure miss the Falls and the Blue Door, and the fine service and the true friendship of ...

The Black Keys guitar tech's moment in the spotlight
Nice job, Vivian. It's always nice to hear about the unsung heroes getting their due! Thank you, Chuck Johnston (Full disclosure - I'm a friend of the Carney fa...

A guide for gift-shopping for older Ohians
I'll never be to old for peanut brittle.

Akron's Tuba Christmas: A resounding blast of holiday spirit
Nice piece, Vivian! Looking forward to hearing you move from flute to tuba on Saturday. Love hearing your interviews and this seemed extra special since I kno...

Cleveland Hugo Boss workers are fighting for their jobs again
Bro. Ginard; I support your effert to keep your jobs, I understand all about concesions, I was a Union offical from 1965 until 1991 and the company th...

Asian Carp control could benefit from bill passed by House, heading to the Senate
help me fight the battle against invasive carp by method of harvest

Ohio's Portman supports lifting limits on party political money
If Portman was legitimately concerned about outside groups influence on elections he would have supported the DISCLOSE act. Instead he helped block it being bro...

Study shows trade with China has cost more than 3 million U.S. jobs
I disagree with James Dorn! If we don't change the playing field and make it a fair competition the whole US industry will be weaker and weaker. Eventually all ...

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University