Fels-Naptha is an American brand of bar laundry soap used for pre-treating stains on clothing and as a 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 Co. and was the first soap to include naphtha. The inclusion of naphtha made the soap very effective for cleaning laundry, but it was not generally safe for personal use.
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. Washing the skin directly with the soap helps wash away the toxin.
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.
Fels & Co.
The original Fels-Naptha was developed by the manufacturer Fels & Company of Philadelphia around 1893. A predecessor Fels & Co. was started by Lazarus Fels and his son Abraham in 1866 in Baltimore, but unexpectedly failed after some period of success. The Fels family moved to Philadelphia, where Lazarus' son Joseph Fels started the new firm. Joseph's younger brother Samuel Simeon Fels was the new company's first president and held that position until he died in 1950.
In the early twentieth century, the company prospered based on sales of Fels-Naptha. Both Joseph and Samuel used their new wealth for philanthropy.
- On The History And Use Of Naphtha In Soap - Natalie Ball, Phoenix Press, 2009