Old School Med School

Dr. Ignaz Semelweiss.Not exactly a household name these days.

Once upon a time, medical students started their morning rotations in the morgue. Gross Anatomy, the study of the inner-workings of the human body, was (and still is) considered to be a critical component in training healthcare professionals. This is more easily accomplished on humans who no longer need the bodies that are being examined; hence, the students’ daily visit to the morgue.

In most hospitals of the 19th century, the second stop of the day was usually the Labor & Delivery department. What better way to begin applying new knowledge than in the place where new life is coming into the world? One minor challenge to that: Hygiene standards in the 1800’s weren’t exactly the same as today. No one bothered to wash up after their study time in the basement. Mortality rates for moms and babies alike were over 50% across Europe. That’s when Ignaz Semelweiss got an idea to do things a bit differently.

When Dr. Iggy began requiring his students to wash their hands after leaving the morgue, mortality rates at his hospital dropped to near zero. (Who knew?) It was a radical, mind-blowing shift in policy. And it saved lives. As a reward for this brilliant discovery, Semelweiss was shunned by the medical community in Vienna. He was further discredited among his peers in Europe and ultimately driven into the dark corners of historical obscurity. It wasn't until 50 years later, when Dr. Louis Pasteur postulated his germ theory, that anyone took serious notice of Dr. Ignaz Semelweiss.

As much as your friends at this weekend's cookout will be dazzled by our little story here, it does have another point: Those who champion good cleaning habits are usually ignored. In the 19th century, medical doctors considered themselves gentlemen -- and how could a gentleman have dirty hands? The idea of washing was offensive. Ridiculous. A complete waste of time.

Fast-forward a couple hundred years, and reactions aren’t that different. A food industry manager or business owner may champion good cleaning practices only to hear employees ask, "You want me to wash it more?"


Proper cleaning involves four steps. Four.





The end goal of cleaning is to sanitize – to fully decontaminate the surface. Or at least that’s the goal of the Health Department inspector that periodically stops in to say “hi.” Achieving this goal requires all four of the steps above.

The scraping takes care of the big pieces that you can see. The washing loosens and lifts the grease and oils that you can't see. Rinsing removes the detergent. Sanitizing kills the germs. Each step depends on the one that precedes it in the cycle.

  • Sanitizer can be deactivated by detergent. The cleaning surface needs to be rinsed well to ensure proper sanitizing
  • The rinsing will be more effective if a good detergent is used to help break the bonds between the cleaning surface and its soils. Sanitizer can also be ineffective if the surface isn't completely clean.
  • Your pot and pan detergent will be more effective if your pre-scraping gets the big chunks out of the way (and your wash water will stay in better shape for a longer time.) This can save time, detergent and money.

Following all four steps helps ensure that the nasty stuff you can't see is gone before you prepare food for your customers.

Building a Culture of Clean keeps people safe and healthy. If you get any push-back, just tell 'em about Dr. Iggy. Not only will they immediately want to go wash their hands, but they will also be more mindful about the full cleaning process.

Happy Cleaning!

Read more about the products discussed here:

Sundrops 67 Foaming Antibacterial Soap Sundrops 75 Instant Hand Sanitizer Shamrock Pot & Pan Detergent Sentry