Friday Squid Blogging: Squid Soap

It’s SquidSoap:

SquidSoap works by applying a small ink mark on a person’s hand when they press the pump to dispense the soap. The ink is designed to wash off after the hands are washed for about 15-20 seconds, which is the time recommended by most doctors.

Note the security angle:

Dirty hands are a leading cause of the spread of infection and food-borne illness. Whether it’s due to laziness or lack of education – our failure to wash our hands is costing the U.S. economy billions every year and causing thousands of unnecessary illnesses and deaths.

Never mind about terrorism. It’s dirty hands!

Posted on September 8, 2006 at 3:07 PM27 Comments


Zwack September 8, 2006 4:57 PM

Working in the Healthcare industry I know that handwashing is important… I am also aware of the suggested technique, how few bathrooms are set up to use that technique…

But, having experienced the wonderful Norwalk virus which I caught from eating in a restaurant where one of the workers didn’t wash their hands properly (I was away from home, and I didn’t know that this would happen) I truly wish that everyone was not only educated, but FORCED to wash their hands properly.

Sorry to rain on your light hearted posting, but four days of diarrhea and vomiting (I had it bad) followed by three days of recuperating is the sort of educational experience that teaches you to make dang sure that you wash your own hands thoroughly.


Anonymous September 8, 2006 6:33 PM

The list of things that are more important than terrorism definitely should include hand-washing.

Andrew September 8, 2006 6:33 PM

Law of unintended consequences.

Employees figure out that the dye rats out how long they washed their hands — so they don’t use soap at all.

DV Henkel-Wallace September 8, 2006 6:48 PM

I must say when I saw the subject of this posting I immidately thought it would concern a television serial. Such a shame it was not, though dirty hands are (no joke) a much more serious problem than terrorism (as are automobile safety, swimming instruction and the like).

killick September 8, 2006 8:30 PM

Toilets should be in private, but the sinks should be in plain view outside the bathroom. Anyone leaving the toilet and not stopping to wash would be seen by anyone outside the wash area. I think this would work because there is social pressure to be seen washing up. Side note: the boys rooms in my kids’ school have 3 toilets, 3 urinals, and 1 sink.

nor57 September 9, 2006 2:07 AM

I love this blog! I really got to learn a lot of things here. Oh! And that squidsoap, I tried and surprisingly it worked. Thanks!

arctanck September 9, 2006 2:37 AM

This is a thought. Good hygiene does avoid people from spreading infections and getting illness. But is too clean an environment not making people prone to getting sickness like allergies etc, as people’s immune system don’t have to work as hard as before, thus weakening their system? And say good bacteria colonises in my house (look, don’t get freaked out, everywhere is full of bacteria), but if I keep cleaning the tables, the shelf all the time with anti-bacterial agents, is it not likely that bad bacteria will colonise in my house one day? Maybe, if we clean them frequent enough that’s not a problem…just a thought.

Hadmut September 9, 2006 4:55 AM

Nice idea, but it can – as many security measures – have the opposite effect that people start to avoid washing hands with soap if they don’t like the ink.

Somehow reminds me to password restrictions which are set too tight: If forced to change passwords too often, people tend to use weak passwords (e.g. the same password with an iterating number attached) .

Gertrude September 9, 2006 12:49 PM

If people do not wash their hands, why not install security cameras in all toilets or washrooms. Then we could fine those that do not comply with regulation. An added benefit would also be that the surveillance could be used to spot terrorists preparing bombs in toilets, such as biological weapons known as “farts”.

Alternatively, they could install doors that only opened if a person could prove that their hands were free from bacteria by using nuclear power plant-like scanning devices.

That would surely exterminate those nasty little germs. 😉

Harry Alton September 9, 2006 5:06 PM


The toilets (bathroom?) at McDonalds in Leicester Square, London, are like that. The sinks and wash facilities, shared between sexes, are outside of the ‘toilet area’ and are monitored by CCTV which is publically viewable in the eating areas!

Davi Ottenheimer September 9, 2006 11:48 PM

“fun for kids, since they love to get marked”

Love to get marked? Is that true?

I can see some pretty funny practical jokes coming from this thing. Pouring permanent ink onto the top sponge, for one…oh, the laughs when kids can’t get the mark off.

Sammy The Surfer September 10, 2006 8:17 AM

Two things:

a) I don’t see how this particular soap is more fun than any other soap. Just because their marketing department says it is, doesn’t make it fun. Useful, yes, in helping parents teach children to wash properly, but where’s the fun? I think it’d be more fun if the squid on the bottle was robotic and moved its tentacles and tried to grab your hand while you went for the soap. Now that would be amusing.

2) It still doesn’t address a real problem: taps. You touch the tap with your dirty hand to turn it on. You wash. Then you touch the dirty tap with your clean hand, negating the purpose of washing. Touchless taps should be standard by now, but strangely they’re not.

Freiheit September 10, 2006 8:52 PM

I’m getting a giggle out of this, but I do see what the medical types are saying.

How much lost income, productivity, and (most importantly) enjoyable living could be recovered by taking 0.5% of the terrorist money and putting it into hygenie awareness?

Roy September 11, 2006 12:06 AM


Regarding “bad bacteria”, that’s why soap with antibiotics is a bad thing. They favor resistant bacteria, but hand-washing removes bacteria by abrasion (or, that’s what I learned in Microbiology class), and won’t result in the nasty bacteria preferentially colonising your hands.

As far as under-training our immune systems, you may be right.

J Dalessandro September 11, 2006 12:35 AM

I have been working on a Pandemic Preparedness Plan, and hand washing is at the top of the list for prevention of conventional flu. It will help in the prevention of avian flu (H5N1) as well. I have found medical practitioners recommending 30 seconds for effective germ killing and dirt dislodging.

Concerning the taps et al, it is recommended that you turn the taps off with a paper towel or other buffer between your clean hand and the dirty tap. The same is true for the doorknob (handle) to exit, us a towel.

There are a number of sites with interesting germ fighting suggestions. Check out the Hand Hygiene page from the Minnesota DoH:

Clive Robinson September 11, 2006 5:58 AM

@arctanck, Roy

“But is too clean an environment not making people prone to getting sickness like allergies etc, as people’s immune system don’t have to work as hard as before, thus weakening their system?”

The answer is yes, and yes there is some evidence for it from deploying European troops to various hot/dirty spots as peacekeepers.

Without going into the specific details what has been noticed is the following,

A North West European country famed for many things is also known as being the “cleanest EU Country”. It had to send troops to a hot spot, unfortunatly due to the level of debilitating infection (think intestinal tract problems) in their troops they had to pull out after just a few weeks.

Another European country, which unfortunatly has at one time or another claimed the notoriety of having dirty cities / beaches etc sent troops to the same regeion in similar (actually worse) conditions. The incidence of similar debilitating illness was very low (below that normaly found in the home population).

Franklin September 11, 2006 9:35 AM

Jean Camp had a great talk on this at Financial Crypto a few years back, urging a comparison between information security and more common ideas like hygiene: opening an attachment in Windows is like not washing your hands, etc.

“Mental Models of Computer Security” — It’s behind the springer paywall now ( but maybe someone has a copy somewhere?

paul September 11, 2006 11:01 AM

Let’s see: I can use the ink and soap, and trust that the manufacturer hasn’t screwed up in a way that will require endless scrubbing or perhaps a replacement for my shirt. Or I can forego soap entirely and reduce my personal risk of inconvenience while adding a tiny increment to the danger of others. I know how many employees (especially in low-end jobs) would come out on that calculation.

Ian Cognito September 12, 2006 12:14 AM

In Afghanistan, we used special operations forces, and left the tribal power structure in place, more or less. We also left many of them much richer, because we are not as vigorous as the Taliban in enforcing our desire for them to not grow opium. In Iraq, we used conventional forces to decapitate the power structure, and things are a mess. It’s almost like the Eastern Front in WWII, where Stalin had purged all the military leaders, and the Red Army performed about like the new government in Iraq is performing.

Our strategy in Afghanistan was like judo, using an opponent’s moves against him, or a coup-de-e’tat. Our strategy in Iraq is like a very linear heavyweight boxing match, or a conventional head-to-head military confrontation. One of them is making news all the time, and one isn’t. I wonder why.

One thing to remember about the Arab countries is that they seem to be in a similar place in their civilization as the West was in the Middle Ages, or that Japan was just before we introduced them to cannons. All used religion (well, bushido and Zen buddhism in Japan) as a way to channel (some might say control) the forces of chaos, who were variously called knights, martyrs, or samurai. The rulers were often at war with each other, and religion was a thin veneer over lust of power and money.

I used to work at a place that had Fox News on all the time, and I was very disappointed that whenever a purported Al Qaeda statement came out, they failed to play it for us, and as a consequence the public doesn’t really seem to know much about our opponent’s goals and beliefs. Anyone who expresses an interest in it is suspicious. How can we hope to defeat an enemy who we don’t want to understand, due to jingoism? We won’t win by repeating slogans such as “they hate freedom”. You can’t stop a virtually leaderless movement that glorifies martyrdom with bombs and guns, except perhaps through total genocide. It didn’t help the Romans to kill the leader of Christianity, did it?

From what I can tell, the colonial powers of the Middle East made sure to gerrymander the national boundaries enough that they are in constant conflict, and on top of that they supported whatever regimes offered stability and favorable oil production figures, no matter what their domestic policies were. Furthermore, the various parties involved have much to gain, mostly personally, by starting trouble. Israel insists on fomenting trouble in neighboring states, as a means of keeping their enemies (i.e. everyone but the US) fighting internal struggles. And the rapaciously greedy dictatorships around them are definitely no better, funding “martyr missions” covertly. Every enemy of the US is probably trying to figure out a way to give the US a black eye in Iraq, and we created the opportunity for them to do so. George senior had a prescient quote about why he didn’t invade Iraq, and it is worth reading. The real reasons behind invading Afghanistan and Iraq are locked away in the minutes of the Energy Task Force. The leaders of nations and religions may cast their actions in moral terms, and occasionally they are morally justified, but for the most part it’s political theater. No, it’s a charade, and you’d have to be very naive to believe the simple-minded explanations (slogans) they say publicly. Idealism is an evolutionary disadvantage compared to realism.

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