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New soap increases hand-washing accessibility

Swatches | August 31, 2023 | By:

A prospective user evaluates a tab soap prototype. Edward Brial/Cardiff University

Proper hand-washing is essential to reduce the transmission of infectious diseases, but water and soap can be difficult to find in low-income areas outside of Western countries.

Researchers at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom are trying to change that with tab soap, a new product that makes hand-washing more accessible to those without on-site water connections. 

Tab soap was developed as part of a national sanitation and hygiene behavior change campaign led by the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to create an easy-to-use hand-washing system for low-income households lacking running water.

The tabs are durable pieces of decomposable substrate embedded with soap and packaged as either a dispenser roll or as tear-off sheets for easy portability.

A prototype tab soap dispenser in the home of a prospective user.

The soap was tested in rural Tanzania where a recent study found that in a typical small town, only 13% of households had a hand-washing facility available.

The results are promising. At the end of the study, households were washing their hands using tab soap daily. The study also found that people were more willing to use tab soap than traditional bar and liquid soaps, which are believed to have a higher potential for cross-contamination between users.

Tab soap is single-use, eliminating the possibility of cross-contamination.

This study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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