Our Gift to You, From a Hungarian Doctor, Circa 1840

So by now, we’re more than aware that washing our hands with soap is critical to staying healthy. But did you know that back in 1840, the doctor who figured this out and advocated for the practice was shunned and lost his career?

His name was Ignaz Semmelweis. A Hungarian doctor, he was among a new generation of physician scientists who didn’t believe that illnesses were caused by evil spirits or bad air. Good old Iggie started collecting data while working at a maternal clinic at the General Hospital of Vienna where women were dying from puerperal fever, a strep infection also known as childbed fever.

Iggie went through a few hypotheses including one that surmised that women who gave birth on their sides had a better chance of surviving. Another was that women died from the terror inflicted by attendants who rang bells to announce the arrival of a priest. 

In the end, he figured out that the problem wasn’t tied to women and childbirth only. How? He finally understood that getting rid of infectious particles should cut down on the death rate. He ordered his staff to wash their hands and instruments. The rate of childbed fever dropped drastically.  

Sadly, Iggie wasn’t hailed a hero. His ideas were rejected by the medical community, primarily because it lay blame on doctors for patient deaths. The Vienna Hospital abandoned mandatory handwashing and mortality rates rose once again.

It wasn’t until 1867, two years after his death, that the Scottish surgeon, Joseph Lister, pushed once again for sanitizing hands and surgical instruments. Within a few years, doctors were regularly scrubbing up before surgery. The rest is history. 

We wish we could go back in time, back Iggie’s groundbreaking research, and put a halt to preventable deaths. But since we can’t, we’ll do something equally as useful.

Have a look at our Hand Soap Concentrates! These hand soap come in foaming and non-foaming, as well as in scents Lemongrass and Lavender Lime. They pack a lot of cleaning power and keep your hands soft and moisturized. Oh, and did we mention they come in our amazing plastic-free beeswax pods?




Thanks for reading!

Chantal and the whole crew at etee


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  • Thanks for this lil sanitation tidbit. I like learning while I shop 😃

    Marcy on

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