A Brief History Of Q-Tips

Sometimes, a product that was invented for one purpose can become popular and widely used for another. That’s exactly what happened to q-tips. These handy little tools were created by  Leo Gerstenzang, a Polish-born American in 1923.

He got the idea of making a pre-manufactured cotton swab after watching his wife applying a piece of cotton to a toothpick to clean hard-to-reach areas. The invention was marketed by Gerstenzang’s company, the Infant Novelty Company, which sold babies accessories, and was originally called Baby Gays.

Yep, Baby Gays. I don’t know about you, but I’m really glad that this name didn’t last long. It may have been suitable for a product that was sold for cleaning babies’ ears after a bath, but not for a beauty tool. Can you imagine touching up your makeup with a Baby Gay? Me neither. So, in 1926, Baby Gays were renamed Q-tips. The Q means quality, while “tips” describes the piece of cotton at the end of the stick.

Overtime, people found out that q-tips could also be used to clean pretty much anything from electronic devices to jewelry, and to apply and remove makeup. The popularity, and thus the demand, of q-tips grew. In 1987, the Q-Tip Company was bought by Uniliver and since then, they have introduced new products such as antibacterial cotton swabs and, more recently, Q-tips Precision Tips, which have a pointed tip specially designed for makeup touch-ups and cleaning tight spaces.

The brand now produces a staggering 25.5 billion Q-tips a year!

What do you use q-tips for?

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    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Makeup Morsels, oops that was a typo, thanks for pointing it out to me. They were called Baby Gays. I guess they thought that having clean ears made babies happy. :)

      And they’re really handy for so many things, aren’t they?

  1. Janessa says

    Q-tips for removing makeup and cleaning the computer. I never knew this! Love love your history posts <3

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Janessa, I use them to clean my computer too, so useful! And I’m glad you enjoyed this post. :)

  2. says

    Cleaning in and around my ears – I get sebum behind my ears too q-tips are a gentle way to remove rather than doing it with a cloth. I also use them clean my computer keyboard, and remove mascara and other makeup around my eyes.

    I’ve not seen Q-tips sold here in the UK so I always get Johnson & Johnson cotton swabs.
    Annabella Freeman´s last blog post ..Weight Watchers Week 2My Profile

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Annabella, they’re very versatile, aren’t they? I love how they can be used to clean pretty much everything. :)

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