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Calgon is a brand registered trademark of different corporations. The original product consisted of powdered sodium hexametaphosphate (amorphous sodium polyphospate), which in water would complex with ambient calcium ion and certain other cations, preventing formation of unwanted salts and interference by those cations with the actions of soap or other detergents. Its name was a portmanteau derived from the phrase "calcium gone". Originally promoted for general use in bathing and cleaning, it gave rise to derivative products which have diverged from the original composition. Today, Calgon water softener contains the active ingredients zeolite and polycarboxylate, which are less problematic in wastewater treatment than phosphates.
The brands have their origin in Calgon, Inc. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which first put Calgon water softener on the market in 1933. It was acquired by Merck in 1968 and later broken up and sold off. Calgon was broken into:
- Calgon water softener, sold to Reckitt Benckiser. Calgonit is the brand name of Reckitt Benckiser's dishwasher detergent sold in Continental Europe.
- Calgon bath and beauty products, sold to Coty, Inc., and then acquired by Ascendia Brands on 9 February 2007. Ilex Capital of Annapolis, Maryland purchased the product line and the rights to the name for $4.2 million in 2008. The brand's operations are run by Ilex Consumer Products Group LLC, the parent company's Baltimore-based arm headquartered in the Warehouse at Camden Yards.
- Calgon Carbon Corporation, acquired by its management in a leveraged buyout in 1985 and taken public in 1987
- Calgon Water Management, sold to English China Clays in June 1993 for $307.5 million
- Calgon Vestal Laboratories, sold to Bristol-Myers Squibb in November 1994 for $261.5 million and then to the Steris Corporation in 1996
In North American popular culture, Calgon's advertisements have generated several popular catchphrases and/or definitions, which have been referenced in numerous subsequent songs, television shows, and motion pictures.
"Calgon, take me away!" 
This commercial was for Calgon bath and beauty products.
In this advertisement, a woman wearing a fluffy pink robe is seen in a chaotic home scenario. As tension rises, she utters the slogan "Calgon, take me away!" The next scene shows her relaxing in a bath in a quiet room.
"Ancient Chinese secret, huh?" 
A commercial from the early 70s that ran for years was for Calgon Water Softener.
A Caucasian woman with an American accent asks "Mr. Lee" (played by Calvin Jung), a laundry shop owner, how he gets her shirts so clean. He replies, with what appears to be a Chinese accent, "Ancient Chinese secret."
The scene changes to Mrs. Lee, who is in an adjoining room. Mrs. Lee (Japanese-American actress Anne Miyamoto) appears ethnically Chinese, but she speaks English with a thoroughly American accent, and explains to the audience that her husband's "ancient Chinese secret" is that he uses Calgon water softener.
Mrs. Lee ultimately gives the secret away by sticking her head into the front room where Mr. Lee and the customer are standing, and shouts "We need more Calgon!" To which the customer replies "Ancient Chinese secret, huh?" while Mr. Lee accepts the exposure with good humor.
Calgon water softener adverts in the United Kingdom, Ireland and in the rest of Europe promote the product solely on the basis of saving washing machines from breakdown rather than any benefits to the clothing in the wash, although the products on sale are identical to those in the United States. In Portugal, the Calgon advertisement jingle is the same popular one, for almost 30 years. In Italy, until Spring 2008, Calgon was called Calfort.
Calgon water softener adverts across Europe feature the same phrase and jingle translated into the local language.  They are as follows:
- Bulgarian: "Пералнята живее по-дълго със Калгон."
- Croatian: "Perilica dulje živi uz Calgon."
- Czech: "Dlouhý život pro Vaši pračku, Váš Calgon"
- Danish: "Vaskemaskiner lever længere med Calgon"
- Dutch: "Wasmachines leven langer met Calgon"
- English: "Washing machines live longer with Calgon"
- Estonian: "Pesumasin teenib kaua, Calgon"
- French: "Les lave-linge durent plus longtemps avec Calgon"
- German: "Waschmaschinen leben länger mit Calgon"
- Greek: "Το πλυντήριό σας ζεί περισσότερο, με Calgon"
- Hebrew: "מכונות כביסה מאריכות שנים עם קלגון"
- Hungarian: "Calgonnal a mosógép is tovább él"
- Italian: "La lavatrice vive di più con Calgon" (from 1991 to 2008: "La lavatrice vive di più con Calfort")
- Latvian: "Veļas mašīna kalpo ilgāk, ar Calgon"
- Polish: "Dłuższe życie każdej pralki to Calgon"
- Portuguese: "Prolongue a vida da sua máquina, com Calgon"
- Romanian: "Masina de spalat traieste mai mult cu Calgon"
- Russian: "Пусть машина служит долго, Calgon"
- Serbian: "Веш машина живи дуже уз Калгон"
- Slovenian: "Da pralni stroj bo dlje živel, dodaj Calgon."
- Spanish: "Prolongue la vida de su lavadora, con Calgon"
- Turkish: "Makinanız uzun yaşar Calgonla"
- Ukrainian: "Ваша машина служитиме довго, Калгон"
In May 2011 a study by Which? magazine demonstrated that there was no evidence to suggest that washing machines do last longer when treated with Calgon under "normal" washing conditions. Calgon disputes this. In October 2011, Dutch TROS TV program Radar also concluded Calgon water softener is not necessary under "normal" washing conditions for Dutch customers. 
In popular culture 
The slogan "Calgon, take me away!" has been referenced in a number of forms of entertainment.
- "Shake It Off," a 2005 single by recording artist Mariah Carey. The chorus includes the lyric "Just like the Calgon commercial/I really gotta get up outta here/And go somewhere . . ."
- A 1996 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 featuring the film Space Mutiny. Mike and the Bots parody the name of the character Elijah Kalgan (pronounced "Calgon") numerous times; for example, saying "Kalgan, blow me away!" after he shoots another character.
On rock band Incubus album S.C.I.E.N.C.E., the final track is entitled "Calgone." The song tells about the central character's worst day ever, which includes a flat tyre and being abducted by aliens. At one point in the lyric, Brandon Boyd sings, "Thank goodness for bathtubs and suds."
Indie band Clem Snide has a song titled "Ancient Chinese Secret Blues." The final lyrics of the song are "Calgon, take me away".
- Walker, Andrea K. "Calgon, take me away...again," The Baltimore Sun, Tuesday, June 22, 2010.
- Trademark registration of "Calgon", U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- COMPANY NEWS; BRISTOL-MYERS TO BUY CALGON VESTAL FOR $261.5 MILLION - New York Times
- "Reckitt Benckiser ribattezza Calfort con il brand mondiale Calgon" gdoweek.it, October 28, 2008.
- International Calgon water softener website
- The Guardian: 'Washing machines live just as long without Calgon' – Which?
- TROS Radar: Leven wasmachines langer met Calgon?
- Ilex Capital home page
- Reckitt Benckiser's Calgon water softener home page
- Nu-Calgon Wholesaler, Inc.