A server blows on your Buffalo Wings before setting the plate in front of you. A barista blows on your Pistachio Crème Steamer. A buffet attendant whistles while he works. We are appalled, at least. More likely, grossed out. And that was even before COVID-19. Yet, we stand around singing and applauding as someone blows all over a birthday cake, and then we happily eat a slice once all of the candles are out. We have been doing this for more than 2,000 years. The custom apparently began in Ancient Greece, when the smoke rising from the extinguished candles carried the celebrated person’s wishes to the gods. It is a custom that deposits bacteria and other microorganisms from the respiratory tract of the “birthday boy” onto the cake’s frosting that will be consumed by the party guests—1400% more bacteria than before blowing out the candles.
Friends Mark Apelt and Mark Lareau attended a toddler’s birthday party with their children. The poor little tyke was not well. He had a runny nose and red, watery eyes, yet there he was blowing out the candles. The two friends envisioned the thousands of germs settling into the frosting. There had to be a better way. They knew that some people were using a hair dryer to put out the candles; others were fanning the candles out. But the fun is in blowing the candles out. Besides, you have to blow out the candles to get your wish!
So Mark and Mark set out to invent an alternative way to blow out candles. Their timing could not have been better. Not only did the corona pandemic create an increased focus on germs, but the quarantine gave them more time to work on their invention. Mark Lareau, Chief Procurement Officer for Liberty Mutual, did not have to travel back and forth to the office five days a week, and Mark Apelt, stay-at-home dad, was not chauffeuring the children to school to sports activities to chess club to play dates.
After many trials and errors, the men came up with the idea for the Blowzee. But then what? Neither man, both graduates of the University of Virginia, both imaginative and resourceful, had a clue about what is needed to launch a product. So, they asked and asked and asked—countless Zoom meetings with people around the world, as one contact led them to another. The result was a global effort with CADD drawings being done in Germany, engineering in Canada, manufacturing in China.
What Is the Blowzee?
The Blowzee is a sanitary way of extinguishing the candles on a birthday cake. The handheld tubular device is 10 inches long and made from ABS plastic that has been approved by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. It weighs only four ounces so that it can be held by very young children. There is an opening on one end and a small two-bladed propeller on the other. The propeller is powered by a lithium-ion battery.
The user blows into the opening, and the air activates an electronic sensor that activates the battery that powers the propeller blades that blow out the candles. Meanwhile, your breath and those germs it carries are directed back toward you, never coming close to the cake.
Blowzee Dos and Don’ts
Do not use the Blowzee as a toy. Kids really love the Blowzee, so they use it to blow air into the faces of their parents, friends, pets. It’s very annoying, but more important, repeatedly blowing into the Blowzee causes a build up of moisture inside that damages the electronic sensors. When stored away in between birthdays, the Blowzee lasts for a very long time.
Do not put the Blowzee in the dishwasher and do not ever submerge it in water. Both will damage the electronics.
Do clean the open end after each use with an alcohol wipe or a cloth dampened with soap and water.