Listerine Was Once Sold as Floor Cleaner

January 15, 2010 at 12:56 am 4 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

If you haven’t noticed, the popularity of hand sanitizer has exploded. It’s in our desks, cars, purses and homes. I have seen dispensers at subway stops, hospitals, airports and restaurants. We are obviously obsessed with killing germs and fighting viruses.

With H1N1, Mad Cow, SARS and others, you can’t blame us for being careful. It seems like hand sanitizer came out of nowhere, but it’s not new, and neither is the principle.

The first time I saw hand sanitizer was in 1995. I worked at a restaurant and we were told to use it hourly. At the time, it seemed like a magical potion. I thought the concept was weird: I wasn’t washing anything off my hands, I was rubbing it in.

The truth is, hand sanitizer is more effective at killing bacteria than soap and water. That said, soap and water is far more effective at removing visible dirt.

For the most part, hand sanitizers use a variety of alcohols as their active ingredient. To be effective at reducing bacteria, they should contain at least 60% alcohol, and most contain 60% to 85%.  A few brands (worth avoiding) contain as little as 40% alcohol and some hospital solutions have as much as 95%.

So, where did this idea start?

It began in 1867 with a British surgeon, Joseph Lister. He published a series of articles in the British Medical Journal stating that surgery patients had less tissue infection if the incisions and surgical instruments were treated with carbolic acid prior to surgery.

At the time, they didn’t wash their hands or anything else before surgery. They thought gangrene wounds were caused by stinky air. Seriously. The same stinky air they blamed for cholera, black death and bubonic plague. They later realized the stinky air was actually the result of rotting wounds, not the cause.

His work lead to the germ theory of disease. It was the equivalent of suggesting the Earth was round, when everyone else thought it was flat. Fortunately, it was very easy to demonstrate the success of his theory and it became widely accepted.

In 1879, Listerine was named after him. It was originally developed as a surgical antiseptic, but that’s a pretty small market. To increase sales, they began marketing it as a floor cleaner and a cure for gonorrhea. That brought company revenues to about $115k, but marketers had another idea in the 1920s.

In this era of patent medicines, there were products to cure every known illness. The Listerine folks weren’t going to let this bandwagon pass by. All they needed was the perfect illness, something that everyone had and Listerine could cure; so, they made up the term, “chronic halitosis” (bad breath).

You see, bad breath hadn’t been invented yet. At that time, bad breath was just known as “breath.” Their best effort was an ad campaign that suggested young people would never find marriage with a condition such as bad breath. Over 7 years, revenues skyrocketed to $8 million.

Listerine is still sold as an antiseptic today, and primarily marketed for oral health. Depending on the flavor, it contains 21.6% to 26.9% alcohol.

Broken Secrets | Facebook | Twitter | Email | Kindle

Sources: WP Hand Sanitizer, WP Lister, WP Listerine

Entry filed under: Around The House, Demystified, Health and Beauty. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

The Sugar in Most Foods is Not Natural Sugar Getting The Most For Your Charitable Donation

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Arlette Xia  |  October 31, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Bad breath can be easily remedied by taking oral antiseptics. –

    Look at all of the most recently released post on our very own webpage

  • 2. Listerine | Time Capsule Log 💊 – THAT MED KID.  |  July 27, 2017 at 2:11 am

    […] Listerine Was Once Sold as Floor Cleaner […]

  • 3. Floor Master  |  July 23, 2018 at 8:18 pm

    Great article!I didn’t know about it that listerine was once sold as floor cleaner. Thanks for sharing these. I enjoy reading your article.

  • 4. Jenell Yarbrough-Brinson  |  June 15, 2019 at 9:18 am

    Listerine is also effective against fleas on your pet, and the best cure for “hot spots” on dogs. While vets will treat hot spots on dogs by shaving the area around them and selling you some expensive stuff, nothing works faster and better than Listerine.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Follow Broken Secrets

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,363 other subscribers

Big Awards

Best Personal Blog/Website (People's Voice)

W3 Award - Copy Writing


Featured by…

• Yahoo
• Business Insider
• Smithsonian Magazine
• USA Today
• AskMen (and many more...)

Contact Info

%d bloggers like this: