Improving handwashing in a rural community.

Kohler Co. and Water Mission partner in Padre Cocha, Peru

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Without access to safe water, children in the rural community of Padre Cocha, Peru, had long suffered from waterborne illness. The situation improved significantly in 2021 when Water Mission installed a system that provides clean, safe water for more than 250 families. Yet, like in much of the world, lack of handwashing facilities remained a major challenge. 

While some people in the community used a bucket of standing water or simple tap, in other areas facilities were completely absent. Kohler Co. and Water Mission sought to change this with Kohler® Cleanse™. 

Designed through the Innovation for Good® program – an in-house startup at Kohler that commercializes business opportunities with a social purpose – Kohler Cleanse can be installed anywhere alongside a bucket of water or a gravity-fed hose. There’s no plumbing or electricity required, which made it a great fit for this community of 2,250 people located about 30 minutes outside the city of Iquitos.  

Padre Cocha is home to primary and secondary schools, a small port, community centers and other gathering spots. Kohler Co. and Water Mission chose to introduce Kohler Cleanse to both residences and public locations. 

For teachers and students at the primary and secondary schools, keeping their hands clean throughout the day has become much easier. Javier Ruíz Marapara, deputy director of the primary school, explains, “It is very useful, especially for children, because the design draws a lot of attention and helps raise awareness of hand washing.” 

Doctors, nurses and other health care employees at the two clinics have been especially excited about the hands-free operation. Activating the water with just their wrists helps keep their hands safe from contamination – a move that protects health care providers and their patients. I find it very comfortable to wash your hands using this faucet because the water falls in the form of a shower,” notes Golver Alvarado, cleaning lead at the clinic. Maritza Garcia Ramirez, a clinic obstetrician adds, “Washing your hands with this new faucet has turned out to be very practical and hygienic. 

Homeowners and people who visit and work at the local community center and community boat dock have been equally enthusiastic about the design, which Domer Mananita, inspector of the municipal agency, called “modern and practical.”  

For Kohler, the initiative provided a great opportunity to help a community while also finetuning its product design. Kohler recently launched the Kohler Cleanse for global sales and hopes to partner with additional NGOs, social enterprises, and governmental agencies to continue helping communities gain access to handwashing facilities – and helping reduce the risk of many common illnesses. 

Meanwhile, entrepreneurs in the Innovation for Good program continue to explore new ideas for products that can help solve pressing global, social, and environmental issues. With associates from across industries, skills, and perspectives working together, Kohler Co. and its partners are excited to see what evolves next in this innovation incubator. 

Learn about other Innovation for Good® products