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Inventors The History of Soaps and Detergents
By Mary Bellis

While employed by Procter & Gamble, Dennis Weatherby developed and received a patent for the automatic dishwasher detergent known by the tradename Cascade. He received his Masters degree in chemical engineering from the University of Dayton in 1984. Cascade is a registered trademark of the Procter & Gamble Company.

Ivory Soap
A soap maker at the Procter and Gamble company had no idea a new innovation was about to surface when he went to lunch one day in 1879. He forgot to turn off the soap mixer, and more than the usual amount of air was shipped into the batch of pure white soap that the company sold under the name The White Soap. Fearing he would get in trouble, the soap maker kept the mistake a secret and packaged and shipped the air-filled soap to customers around the country. Soon customers were asking for more "soap that floats." When company officials found out what happened, they turned it into one of the company’s most successful products, Ivory Soap.

The English company, Lever Brothers, an created Lifebuoy soap in 1895 and sold it as an antiseptic soap. They later changed its name to Lifebuoy Health Soap. Lever Brothers first coined the term "B.O." for bad odor as part of their marketing company for the soap.

Liquid Soap
William Shepphard first patented liquid soap on August 22, 1865. In 1980, the Minnetonka Corporation introduced the first modern liquid soap called SOFT SOAP brand liquid soap. Minnetonka cornered the liquid soap market by buying up the entire supply of the plastic pumps needed for the liquid soap dispensers. In 1987, the Colgate Company acquired the liquid soap business from Minnetonka.

Palmolive Soap
William Colgate started a candle and soap making company in New York City in 1806. By 1906, the company was making over 3,000 different soaps, perfumes and other products. For example, Colgate Dental Cream was introduced in 1877. In 1864, Caleb Johnson founded a soap company called  B.J. Johnson Soap Co., in Milwaukee. In 1898, this company introduced a soap made of palm and olive oils, called Palmolive. It was so successful that that the B.J. Johnson Soap Co. changed their name to Palmolive in 1917. Another soap making company called the Peet Brothers Co. of Kansas City started in 1872. In 1927, Palmolive merged with them to became Palmolive Peet. In 1928, Palmolive Peet merged with Colgate to form Colgate-Palmolive-Peet. In 1953, the name was shortened to just Colgate-Palmolive. Ajax cleanser was one of their first major brand names introduced in the early 1940s.

Chemist, Harry A. Cole of Jackson, Mississippi invented and sold the pine-scented cleaning product called Pine-Sol in 1929. Pine-Sol is the biggest selling household cleaner in the world. Cole sold Pin-Sol shortly after its invention (now owned by Clorox Company) and went on to create more pine oil cleaners called FYNE PINE and PINE PLUS. Together with his sons, Cole started the H. A. Cole Products Co. to manufacture and sell his products. Pine forests surrounded the area where the Coles lived, providing an ample supply of pine oil.

S.O.S Soap Pads
In 1917, Ed Cox of San Francisco, an aluminum pot salesman, invented a pre-soaped pad with which to clean pots. As a way of introducing himself to potential new customers, Cox made the soap incrusted steel-wool pads as a calling card. His wife named the soap pads S.O.S. or "Save Our Saucepans." Cox soon found out that the S.O.S pads were a hotter product than his pots and pans.

In the 1920s, Americans used soap flakes to clean their laundry. The flakes performed poorly in hard water, leaving a ring in the washing machine, dulling colors, and turning whites gray. Procter & Gamble began an ambitious mission to change the way Americans washed their clothes. Researchers discovered two-part molecules which they called synthetic surfactants. Each part of the "miracle molecules" executed a specific function--one pulled grease and dirt from the clothes, while the other suspended dirt until it could be rinsed away. In 1933, this discovery was introduced in a detergent called "Dreft," but it could only handle lightly soiled jobs. The next goal was to create a detergent that could clean heavily soiled clothes. That detergent was Tide®.

Created in 1943, Tide detergent was the combination of synthetic surfactants and "builders." The builders helped the synthetic surfactants penetrate the clothes more deeply to attack greasy, difficult stains. Tide was introduced to test markets in October 1946 as the world’s first heavy-duty detergent. Consumer response was immediate and intense. Tide detergent outsold every other brand within weeks. It became so popular that store owners were forced to limit the quantity purchased per customer.

Tide detergent was improved 22 times during its first 21 years on the market, and Procter & Gable still strives for perfection. Each year, researchers duplicate the mineral content of water from all parts of the United States and wash 50,000 loads of laundry to test Tide detergent’s consistency and performance.

Formula 409
Formula 409 all-purpose cleaner was invented in 1957. 

How Does Soap Clean?
You may use it every day, but do you know how it works? Learn about emulsions, micelles, and soap scum! Then check out links to sites about bubbles, soapmaking, and the regulation of soap chemistry.

The History of Soap
A soap-like material found in clay cylinders during the excavation of ancient Babylon is evidence that soap making was known as early as 2800 B.C.

The History of Soapmaking
B. J. Johnson Company was making soap entirely of vegetable oils, palm and olive. The soap they produced became so popular, they renamed their company after the soap Palmolive.

Detergent Chemistry: History
Although the start of the synthetic detergent industry is not shrouded in the veils of history as were the beginnings of the soap industry, it is nevertheless not easy to pinpoint exactly when the first were invented.

From Mary Bellis,
Your Guide to Inventors.
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