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?