Ivory (soap)

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1898 advertising poster
Ivory soap ad shows World War I soldiers bathing on deck of a troopship

"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.


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".[1]

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.[2]

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 founder's son, Harley Procter, hired to demonstrate that Ivory was purer than the castile soap then available.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5] The D. L. Blair company, part of Draft Worldwide, a unit of the Interpublic Group of Companies, was assigned to administer the contest.[5]


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.[6]

The classic formulation was more caustic in comparison to some milder bars, such as Dove, a non-soap synthetic detergent bar.[citation needed] A postulate for this effectiveness is the ability of the soap to lyse bacteria efficiently, and to rinse cleanly. The drawback to the soap was its drying effect on the skin, as it had easily dissolved natural oils. One reason for this was the lack of glycerin in the formula, which was believed to be too expensive and would raise the cost of Ivory bars, one of the least expensive soaps available for people of modest means.

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.

21st century[edit]

Ivory is a small brand by P&G standards. The Ivory brand includes the classic bar soap, liquid hand soap, body wash, 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.[5]

In 2014, it was reported that P&G might sell its Ivory business.[7]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Milliken, a New York City neighborhood, became known as Port Ivory, Staten Island, because of the P&G factory that was a landmark there from 1907–1991.
  • As early as the 1920s, Ivory Flakes soap powder was used to create home-made "snow" for Christmas decorations.[8]
  • "99 and 44/100% pure" are the words spoken by Willy Wonka on opening the factory door in the 1971 film, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
  • Before becoming a pornographic actress, Marilyn Chambers was a model for Ivory Snow. The producers of the 1972 hardcore film Behind the Green Door used Ivory Snow's "99 and 44/100 percent pure" slogan to advertise the actress' appearance in the film. The controversy helped to boost tickets sales for the film.[9][10]
  • Parodying Ivory's slogan, John Frankenheimer titled his 1974 film 99 and 44/100% Dead.
  • Country singer Ronnie Milsap referenced the Ivory soap slogan in his 1974 hit song "Pure Love" written by Eddie Rabbitt.
  • Ice-T refers to Ivory Soap in his 1988 track "I'm Your Pusher", boasting that he does not sanitize the content of his records: "I don't clean 'em up with no Ivory soap – I leave 'em hard and pure, hope that you can cope". Ice-T also refers to using Ivory Soap to remove crackle from a scratched record to make it better to sample from in the song "Fried Chicken" on his fourth studio album O.G. Original Gangster.
  • A 1995 episode of Tales from the Crypt was titled "99 & 44/100% Pure Horror" and centered around the rich owner of a soap company and his wife.
  • In Neal Shusterman's 2007 science-fiction novel Unwind, the law states that 99.44% of the organic material of "unwinds" who are harvested for organs must be saved for transplant.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kenny, Daniel J. (1895). Illustrated Guide to Cincinnati and the World's Columbian Exposition. R. Clarke. p. 228. 
  2. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara (May 19, 2011). "Origins of Ivory soap". Snopes.com. Retrieved 2011-11-28. 
  3. ^ Cox, Jim (2008). Sold on Radio: Advertisers in the Golden Age of Broadcasting. McFarland. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-7864-5176-0. 
  4. ^ "New Ivory gets that sinking feeling". Lakeland Ledger. AP. October 23, 1992. Retrieved 2015-02-06. 
  5. ^ 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". 
  6. ^ Determining Your Soap's pH
  7. ^ Arrindell, Dean (August 18, 2004). "Will Proctor & Gamble sink Ivory soap?". Hot Stock Minute. Retrieved 2014-11-14 – via Yahoo! Finance. 
  8. ^ Burkhalter, Bettye B. (2010). The Generation that Saved America. AuthorHouse. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-4772-8721-7. 
  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. 

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