|Product type||Laundry detergent|
|Markets||United States, Canada|
|Previous owners||Fels & Company (1893-1964), Purex Industries, Inc. (1964-1985)|
Fels-Naptha is an American brand of laundry soap used for pre-treating stains on clothing and formerly as an effective home remedy for exposure to poison ivy and other skin irritants. Fels-Naptha is manufactured by and is a trademark of the Dial Corporation, a subsidiary of Henkel. The soap was originally created around 1893 by Fels and Company and was the first soap to include naphtha. The inclusion of naphtha made the soap very effective for cleaning laundry and dissolving the contagious oil of poison ivy, but was removed as a cancer risk. Naphtha is no longer an ingredient and therefore use of the product is no longer a cancer risk. The newly formulated product is still used as a preventative for poison ivy and poison oak.
The original Fels-Naptha was developed by Fels & Company of Philadelphia around 1893. Its predecessor Fels & Company, was established by Lazarus Fels and son Abraham in 1866 in Baltimore, Maryland, but unexpectedly failed after some period of success. The Fels family moved to Philadelphia, where another Lazarus son, Joseph Fels, started the new firm and incorporated in 1914. Joseph's younger brother Samuel Simeon Fels was the new company's first president and held that position until he died in 1950.
In 1964, the company was sold to Purex Corporation for $ 5 million.
The Greyhound Corporation acquired the consumer products business of Purex (which included Fels-Naptha) in 1985 and was combined with Greyhound's Armour-Dial division, forming The Dial Corporation. In December 2003, Dial was sold to Henkel for $2.9 billion.
The soap comes packaged in paper similar to bar body soap and is most often found in the laundry section of a supermarket or grocery store. It is intended for the pre-treatment of stains by rubbing the dampened product on a soiled area prior to laundering. The manufacturer claims it to be most effective in removing chocolate, baby formula, perspiration, and make-up.
It was often used as a home remedy in the treatment of contact dermatitis caused by exposure to poison ivy, poison oak, and other oil-based organic skin-irritants where they have touched the skin but not yet inflamed the area. When the soap contained its namesake naptha washing the skin directly with the soap helped dissolve the toxin. The new formulation appears to work as well as a preventative for poison oak and poison ivy if the exposed areas are washed with cool water within a few hours.
According to the manufacturer, about 1/2 of a bar of Fels-Naptha grated and added to a wash cycle helps eliminate residual stains.
Fels-Naptha is also a common ingredient in DIY laundry detergent recipes.
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- On The History And Use Of Naphtha In Soap – Natalie Ball, Phoenix Press, 2009