Ivory (soap)

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Ivory logo 2010s
Product type Soap
Owner Procter & Gamble
Country United States
Introduced 1879
Markets Worldwide

"Ivory" is a personal care brand created by the Procter & Gamble Company (P&G), including varieties of a white and mildly scented bar soap, that became famous for its claim of purity and for floating in water. Over the years, the brand has been extended to other varieties and products.


Early days[edit]

In 1840 the J.B. Williams Company in Glastonbury, Connecticut, manufactured soap under the name Ivorine. Williams decided to focus on its shaving soap and sold Ivorine to Procter & Gamble, who later renamed it Ivory.[1]

1874 Procter & Gamble trademarks “Ivory,” the name of its new soap product. The name was created by Harley Procter, the founder’s son, who was inspired by Psalms 45:8 in the Bible: "All they garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces whereby they have made thee glad."[2]

As Ivory is one of P&G's older products (first sold in 1879), P&G is sometimes called "Ivory Towers" and its factory and research center in St. Bernard, Ohio, is named "Ivorydale".[3]

Ivory's first slogan, "It Floats!", was introduced in 1891. The product's other well-known slogan, "99 44100% Pure" (in use by 1895), was based on the results of an analysis by an independent laboratory the other founder's son, Harley Procter, hired to demonstrate that Ivory was purer than the castile soap then available.[4]

Ivory Soap, 1800s

Ivory bar soap is whipped with air in its production and floats in water. According to an apocryphal story, later discounted by the company, a worker accidentally left the mixing machine on too long and the company chose to sell the "ruined" batch, because the added air did not change the basic ingredients of the soap. When appreciative letters about the new, floating soap inundated the company, P&G ordered the extended mix time as a standard procedure. However, company records indicate that the design of Ivory did not come about by accident. In 2004, over 100 years later, the P&G company archivist Ed Rider found documentation that revealed that chemist James N. Gamble, son of the founder, had discovered how to make the soap float and noted the result in his writings.[5]


In October 1992, Procter & Gamble market-tested a new Ivory formula, a "skin care bar" that would address customer complaints about dryness but would not float like the original.[6] In October 2001, P&G tested the sinking bar soap as part of an advertising campaign in the United States, in a six-month plan to release 1,051 soap bars that sink, among other bars that float, to see if people would notice the sinking bars, even if given a cash reward of up to $250,000.[7] The D. L. Blair company, part of Draft Worldwide, a unit of the Interpublic Group of Companies, was assigned to administer the contest.[7]

Ivory Soap circa 1954

21st century[edit]

Ivory is currently a small brand by P&G standards. The Ivory brand includes the classic bar soap, clear liquid soap, hair & body wash, dish liquid, and a mild laundry detergent (not a soap) product called Ivory Snow. Research in 2001 by Lehman Brothers revealed that the U.S. sales of all Ivory products, including the liquid soap and dish detergent, represented less than 1% of P&G's total worldwide sales in the 52 weeks ended September 9, 2001.[7]


The Ivory soap bar (classic) contained: sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate or sodium palm kernelate, water, sodium chloride, sodium silicate, magnesium sulfate, and fragrance. The soap bar had a determined pH value: 9.5.[8]

Ivory Soap circa 2010s

Ivory Dish Liquid soap does not list the ingredients.

New varieties of Ivory soap contain altered ingredients, such as in "Simply Ivory" (or "simplement ivory"): sodium tallowate and/or sodium palmate, water, sodium cocoate or sodium palm kernelate, glycerin, sodium chloride, fragrance, one or more of the following: coconut acid, palm kernel acid, tallow acid or palmitic acid, and tetrasodium EDTA. The additional ingredients primarily are to reduce the harshness of the soap, since additional glycerin and fatty acids are typically used for that. Tetrasodium EDTA is primarily to reduce soap scum formation. Bars of Ivory now come without the words "soap" or "float" on the packaging, and they are made with the latter formula.

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rhinelander, David (October 9, 1998). "J.B. Williams put soap, Glastonbury on The Map". courant.com. Hartford Courant. 
  2. ^ P&G History of Innovation: 1860-1889 Growing Up. http://us.pg.com/who-we-are/heritage/history-of-innovation#
  3. ^ Kenny, Daniel J. (1895). Illustrated Guide to Cincinnati and the World's Columbian Exposition. R. Clarke. p. 228. 
  4. ^ Cox, Jim (2008). Sold on Radio: Advertisers in the Golden Age of Broadcasting. McFarland. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-7864-5176-0. 
  5. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara (May 19, 2011). "Origins of Ivory soap". Snopes.com. Retrieved 2011-11-28. 
  6. ^ "New Ivory gets that sinking feeling". Lakeland Ledger. AP. October 23, 1992. Retrieved 2015-02-06. 
  7. ^ a b c Levere, Jane L. (October 25, 2001). "The Media Business: Advertising; Ivory soap uses a bar that sinks, a $250,000 contest and old-style packaging to increase sales". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-02-06. ...advertising campaign, reports, "1,051 of the bars will sink, instead of float". 
  8. ^ "Determining Your Soap's pH". 2006-11-09. Archived from the original on November 9, 2006. Retrieved 2016-03-26. 
  9. ^ Goupil, Helene; Krist, Josh (2005). San Francisco: The Unknown City. Arsenal Pulp Press. p. 239. ISBN 9781551521886. 
  10. ^ Allyn, David Smith (2001). Make Love, Not War: the sexual revolution, an unfettered history. Taylor & Francis. p. 235. ISBN 9780415929424. 

External links[edit]