A Woman Invented the Hand Sanitizer – Your Weapon Against COVID-19

Lupe Hernandez was a nursing student in California’s Bakersfield in 1966, when idea of hand sanitizer struck her.

3 min read
Hindi Female

Hand sanitizers are now indispensable to people all around the world.

Since the beginning of March 2020, the masses have been raiding shops and stocking up on the anti-bacterial product, in a bid to protect themselves from the coronavirus pandemic. But did you know that the hand sanitizer that comes to your rescue today, was invented by a woman in 1966?

Meet Lupe Hernandez.


Nursing Student Who Invented the Hand Sanitizer

Latina by origin, Hernandez was a nursing student in California’s Bakersfield in 1966, when the idea of hand sanitizer struck her.

Lupe Hernandez believed that such a product could come in handy when a person has no access to soap or warm water.

An article in The Guardian, published eight years ago, traced that Hernandez realised alcohol ‘delivered’ through a gel can be used to clean hands. She reportedly believed that such a product could come in handy when a person has no access to soap or warm water.

During the same year, her experiment proved successful. Recognising the commercial potential of the idea, she telephoned an 'inventions hotline' that she came across while watching television – and registered a patent. The rest, as they say, is history.


From Hospitals to Handbags

Fifty-four years ago, Hernandez would not have predicted how her invention would one day become an essential commodity. Not so long ago, the hand sanitizer was only used in hospitals, surgical centres, and laboratories.

During the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, the demand for hand sanitizers hit an all-time high.

The first commercial hand sanitizer to hit the markets was Purell in the United States in 1988. A series of public health crises like SARS, avian flu and swine flu followed, expanding the market for such products.

However, it was during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009 that hand sanitizer became a ‘mainstream’ product.

Before you knew it, hand sanitizers crept their way into the pharmacies, 'hip' restaurants, neighbourhood grocery stores, and, finally, into your handbags.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Delhi-NCR alone witnessed a 400 percent surge in demand for the product. In a press release on 21 March, the government of India called it an “essential” and capped the price of a 200 ml sanitizer bottle at Rs 100.


Hernandez is Why We Celebrate #WomenHistoryMonth

The Latina woman is also an example of why we celebrate #WomenHistoryMonth. Every March, women across the world unite and dedicate the entire month to reflect upon and recognise the much-overlooked contributions of women to history. Like that of Hernandez.

The Guardian article from 2012 and a one-line acknowledgment of her contribution in 2019 book about leadership in professional nursing called 'The Growth and Development of Nurse Leaders' is all the information we have to know about Hernandez.

There is no information about where she is living currently, whether she is reaping the benefits of her invention or what she went on to do after completing her nursing course. We do not even know if she is still alive or even a photo to put a face to the name.


How Tweeple Recognised Her

Soon after the old article on Hernandez went viral again, #LupeHernandez started trending on Twitter, with people taking to the platform to recognise her. While many stated that we have a lot to thank her for, a user also pointed out that The New Yorker did a deep dive into hand sanitizer – but failed to mention her name.

Of course, there were calls for her biography as well.

(With inputs from The Guardian)

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