Even at nearly 91 years old, inventor Solomon Rosenblatt is still figuring out new ways to wipe away bacteria, fungi, and viruses. His latest product is especially relevant during COVID-19.

IoWipe is a reusable, iodine-based sponge that can be used to wipe hands. Rosenblatt is selling them online with help from his daughter and son-in-law, Elise and Max Rivers. Rosenblatt and his wife, Vicky, live with Elise and Max in Chestnut Hill.

While the IoWipe is relatively new to consumers, Rosenblatt, whose birthday is July 17, came up with IoWipe’s iodine-powered technology almost three decades ago. Now called IoPlex, that creation is an antimicrobial dressing for infected wounds.

“I have been involved in antimicrobial products for some time,” said Rosenblatt, who has 10 patents. (Antimicrobial is the general term for any product or ingredient that kills or inhibits bacteria, viruses, or molds.)

“My introduction to the need for better antimicrobials came from my experience as a life-support chemist for the Apollo program,” he said. “I was very concerned about lateral transfer of bacteria in the [space] capsule and as a young engineer.”

IoPlex led to the IoWipe, a consumer application of Rosenblatt’s FDA-approved wound-care product. Both use the same base material and main ingredient.

TIM TAI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Solomon Rosenblatt stands for a portrait in Philadelphia's Chestnut Hill section on Friday, June 26, 2020. Rosenblatt, a biomedical chemist, invented the IoWipe, an iodine-based, reusable sanitizing wipe.

Inventing a product is challenging enough, Rosenblatt said. Making consumers aware of it can be even more difficult.

“Most of the problems in inventing are getting distribution, getting finances, and getting people to help you do this,” he said. “And that is very frustrating and very time-consuming and painful because I believe so much in the product.”

Unlike regular wipes that are disposed of after one use, IoWipes are reusable and guaranteed to last at least 30 days. The cost: $25.

Each wipe is fully saturated with about 6% of its weight as iodine, so it takes a long time to use up; only small doses are needed for effective cleaning. The wipe is self-sanitizing for continued use until its jet-black color fades.

This product has become a family affair. Elise and Max own a wellness center, Community Acupuncture of Mount Airy. Due to the pandemic, their center was closed for three months but has since reopened.

While it was closed, Max put up a website (iowipe.com) and paid for Facebook ads. Word of mouth helped spread the news about IoWipes.

Max and Elise, who are packaging the products at their home, say they are barely keeping up with demand.

“Our expectation is that at some point we will have to outsource,” Max said.

Added Elise: “All we need is one really huge order that’s beyond us. So we’re in the works on that, and scaling up won’t be difficult.”

As a sign of progress, their company, IoDoRios LLC, has started hiring local people to help with production.

What has been most gratifying to Rosenblatt is working with family to market the products.

“My daughter has grown up with me and [my inventions],” he said. “She remembers me working in my lab in the basement of her childhood home. So, really, from the ground up, she was intimately connected with my laboratory work in my basement.”

TIM TAI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Solomon Rosenblatt (clockwise from bottom right), 91; his wife, Vicky; their daughter, Elise Rivers; and her husband, Max, pose for a portrait outside their home in Philadelphia's Chestnut Hill section on Friday, June 26, 2020. Solomon Rosenblatt, a biomedical chemist, invented the IoWipe, an iodine-based, reusable sanitizing wipe, which the Rivers are helping to market and sell.

Chestnut Hill inventor Solomon Rosenblatt, 90, has created “IoWipe,” a black sponge cloth that comes in a 7” x 7” wipe for use on hands, when in your car, grocery shopping and in the kitchen, the office and restaurants. (Photo by Max Rivers)

By Stacia Friedman

Solomon Rosenblatt’s resume reads like a sci-fi novel. A chemist, inventor and entrepreneur, he has more than 10 patents to his name and, at 90, is still inventing. “My dad’s been an inventor as long as I can remember,” said his daughter, Elise C. Rivers, founder and owner of Community Acupuncture in Mt. Airy. “He just submitted his latest invention to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this past January.”

Rosenblatt, who moved to Chestnut Hill seven years ago with his wife, Vicky, to be near their daughter and son-in-law, grew up in Brooklyn and had a chemistry lab in his basement before earning a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at City College of New York. 

One of his first jobs was as a paint chemist for the Ford Motor Company, where he invented a water-based enamel. After marrying Vicky in 1954, Sol moved to Sacramento, CA, to build a lab for AeroJet General in preparation for the Polaris nuclear submarine. (In the movie version of his life, Harrison Ford would no doubt play the lead.)

Moving back to the East Coast, Rosenblatt worked on the space capsule for the Apollo program. He went on to invent a porous Teflon filter which was used for poison gas detection by the U.S. Navy. Later, he adapted his Teflon invention for the bio-medical industry, including angiogram catheters.

In the 1960s, Rosenblatt co-founded Merocel, a company that manufactured his innovative lint-free surgical sponges. Vicky, who speaks both French and Italian, served as manager of international sales. Today, 30 years later, Merocel is still used in many medical applications.

Retirement from Merocel in 1995 did not stop Rosenblatt’s inventive streak. Aware that the overuse of antibiotics in animals and humans has led to resistance in their effectiveness, Rosenblatt developed an antimicrobial bandage called IoPlex for chronic wounds that would not heal due to resistant microbes.

He took a commonly available ingredient, iodine, and did something with it that had never been done before. “Though known to be an extremely effective antimicrobial, until now iodine was not able to be used in open wounds because scientists had not figured out how to dose it sufficiently so as not to damage healthy tissue.

“My dad’s invention bypassed that limitation, so iodine could be safely used in wound care without toxic side effects” said his daughter. “IoPlex has helped thousands of patients recover from chronic wounds which could not heal due to infectious microbes that would not respond to current antibiotics,” said Rosenblatt.

How do you top that? If you are Sol Rosenblatt, you invent IoWipe, which is an eco-friendly, self-sanitizing wipe with the same antimicrobial properties as IoPlex. Though the invention was created years ago, an intensive need for it didn’t seem to exist until the COVID-19 global pandemic. The product came into existence in late 2019, just before the need materialized.

IoWipe is a black sponge cloth that comes in a 7” x 7” wipe for use [as a hand wipe]… 

“It has such broad application, is so convenient and cost-effective to use. It can help people keep [them] sanitized,” said Rosenblatt, who in 2015 at age 86 was honored by the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia.

“There is a definite need now for IoWipe in light of the global pandemic and future pandemics, which are likely to occur more frequently. It is a personal, convenient, reusable, cost-effective wipe that releases iodine in safe amounts. I believe it is a superior option, as compared to alcohol gels and disposable wipes.”

The fact that they can be reused is key to their uniqueness. We need to move away from one-time throw away products. (At this time, IoWipe is only sold on the internet at Iowipe.com.) Next on Rosenblatt’s agenda is a second generation of IoPlex, an insert for any face mask that makes the mask longer lasting and antimicrobial.

Behind every great man is an even greater woman. At 87, “Vicky has done and continues to do correspondence, internet and telephone communications and helps in the writing of patents. I do all the technical and chemistry work, and she does all the rest. We’re a team,” he said.

The Rosenblatts are currently in Key West, staying safe, and looking forward to returning to Chestnut Hill later this Spring.

Stacia Friedman, a Mt. Airy resident, is an author and freelance contributor to websites and local publications.

Stories abound these days about people using their imposed time off due to COVID-19 to get to long-tabled projects. Longtime Weavers Way members Elise and Max Rivers have done more than clean out their basement or pick up a new hobby; they’ve created a startup to produce, market and distribute reusable IoWipes — iodine-infused sponge cloths that can be used to sanitize and wipe [hands and faces].

The IoWipe was invented by Elise’s father, Solomon Rosenblatt, late last year. It’s an offshoot of IoPlex, an antimicrobial bandage that Rosenblatt, a chemist and entrepreneur who worked for the Ford Motor Company and Aerojet General, among others, invented in 1995 to treat wounds that were slow to heal. At the time, he was already retired from Mercocel, a company he founded in the 1960s after inventing lint-free surgical sponges.

“He knew iodine would do a good job on the bacteria in those wounds, but we didn’t have a good technology to dose it without damaging the healthy tissue,” Elise said.

The IoPlex released a low dose of iodine slowly, allowing stubborn wounds to heal while maintaining the health of the surrounding tissue.

“He knew after he did the wound care piece that it would be an amazing consumer product, because if it can kill bacteria in wounds, it can kill bacteria on hands,” Elise continued. “And it turns out that iodine is not only a bactericide, but it is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial, which means it kills fungi and parasites and viruses and bacteria, not just bacteria.”

Rosenblatt, 90, has been wanting Elise and Max to investigate the consumer uses of IoWipes for years. But with Elise busy as the owner of Community Acupuncture of Mt. Airy and Max running his own mediation business (Two Rivers Mediation), neither had any time for an additional project. Having to temporarily close the acupuncture studio due to the pandemic changed that.

“Plus, COVID is sort of the perfect environment for this,” Max said.

The couple started advertising the products locally, including giving and selling the cloths from the acupuncture studio as they were preparing to shut down. Elise and all her practitioners have been using IoWipes at the studio for at least five years to clean their hands between patients.

“I discovered the pleasure of not having to go to the sink every time to wash my hands, and I also love that I don’t go through paper towels and I don’t go through tons of wipes,” Elise said. “…It’s reusability is what makes it so distinctive, because it’s self-sanitizing; if it gets some bacteria on it, it eats that, and then the next time, it’s ready for re-use.”

The standard IoWipe measures 7” x 7” and sells for $25 on the Rivers’ website (iowipe.com). It lasts about two months.

The couple wants to move from making the products by hand to hopefully contracting with a manufacturer to produce them. 

“One of the things we’re enjoying about creating this company right here and now is that it’s a way for us to continue to give back to the neighborhood,” Max said. “…The next person we’re probably going to get is someone who will package the wipes and label them and do shipping. We’re hoping to have a little cottage industry where people can work in their homes.”

Down the line, Max and Elise are hoping to capture the commercial market — gyms, restaurants, grocery stores, cleaning companies, to name a few. A key part of that expansion is to have the product tested for its effectiveness in killing bacteria and viruses; they’re in the process of hiring someone who can navigate that portion.

“This wipe has been tested for four difficult-to-kill food borne bacteria, including e. coli,” Elise said. “With three swipes of the wipe, it completely wiped out everything on the laboratory plate.”

In the current climate, the sky appears to be the limit for the IoWipe’s growth — not bad for a product whose patent was submitted in January, and a company that’s been in business for less than three months.

“We expect it to explode, honestly,” Elise said. “There are just not enough re-useable products out there. There’s too much throwaway.”

Top: Solomon Rosenblatt; Bottom: Elise and Max Rivers (photo by Karen Plourde)