Tide®, the first heavy-duty synthetic detergent, debuted in October 1946 replacing traditional soaps that didn’t clean well in hard water and left a residue of scum.
The description of synthetic detergents as the first big change in soap making in two millennia was hardly an exaggeration. Tide – the first heavy-duty synthetic detergent – was not just a new product, but a new kind of product. It was based on synthetic compounds rather than natural products. Although initially targeted for marketing in areas of hard water, synthetic detergents – with Tide® in the lead – soon displaced traditional soaps throughout the United States.
Tide reached the market in the same year as the introduction of the automatic washing machine. These two innovations saved the consumer much time and effort in doing laundry. Prior to the debut of Tide, laundry was washed with soap flakes which provided limited cleaning, dulled colors, and left whites drab. In hard water, soap left a ring of scum around the tub. Tide cleaned better than soaps, and it was mild, allowing it to be used initially to wash dishes as well as clothes.
Procter & Gamble lead the way in the development of synthetic detergents. But the path to the end product — Tide — was not a straight line. P&G’s research on synthetic detergents was fitful, full of false starts and dead ends. At one point, the company officially shelved research on developing a heavy-duty synthetic detergent. In the end, it was the fortitude of one researcher that kept the project alive and led to the introduction of Tide in 1946.
The American Chemical Society designated the development of Tide as the first heavy-duty synthetic detergent a National Historic Chemical Landmark on October 25, 2006.
Visit National Historic Chemical Landmarks to read more about Tide®.
Excerpted with permission, National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program