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The History of Persil

Persil was the world’s first commercially available laundry powder. It was introduced by the German company Henkel in 1907. The name was derived from two of the main ingredients in the formula, perborate and silicate. Before Persil, the traditional laundry cleaning agent was soap, which had several downsides, including not being effective on colored stains and forming a sort of “scum” when used in water with a high mineral content. Persil solved both of these issues with sodium perborate, which functioned as a prototype oxidizing agent, and sodium silicate, which helped prevent the dreaded scum from forming on clothes. In 1922, Persil introduced the image of the “White Lady,” which is now considered an advertising classic. She appeared on numerous placards and signs to help raise awareness and sell Persil. Persil has long since updated its formula and expanded its line to include plenty of modernized specialty laundry products — and many competitors, such as Tide, have taken large shares of the laundry detergent market — but the original Persil remains historically important, as it was in effect the world’s first self-acting laundry detergent.

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