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Lysol Logo.svg
Product typeDisinfectant, all-purpose cleaners
OwnerReckitt Benckiser
Introduced1889; 131 years ago (1889)
Previous ownersLehn & Fink (later subsidiary of Sterling Drug)

Lysol (/ˈlsɒl/; d.b.a. Lizol in India[1]) is a brand name of cleaning and disinfecting products distributed by the Reckitt Benckiser company. The line includes liquid solutions for hard and soft surfaces, air treatment, and hand washing. The active ingredient in many Lysol products is benzalkonium chloride, but the active ingredient in the Lysol "Power and Free" line is hydrogen peroxide. Lysol has been used since its invention in the late 19th century as a household and industrial cleaning agent, and previously as a medical disinfectant.


A 1935 advertisement from Canada promoting Lysol as a feminine hygiene product, using the slogan "The poise that knowledge gives"

The first Lysol Brand Antiseptic Disinfectant was introduced in 1889 by Gustav Raupenstrauch to help end a cholera epidemic in Germany. The original formulation of Lysol contained cresols.[2] This formulation may still be available commercially in some parts of the world.[3] Formulations containing chlorophenol are still available in the United Kingdom.[4]

In 1911, poisoning by drinking Lysol was the most common means of suicide in Australia and New York.[5] One of the active ingredients, benzalkonium chloride, is highly toxic to fish (LC50 = 280 μg ai/L), very highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates (LC50 = 5.9 μg ai/L), moderately toxic to birds (LD50 = 136 mg/kg-bw), and slightly toxic ("safe") to mammals (LD50 = 430 mg/kg-bw).[6]

Use during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic[edit]

In 1918, during the Spanish flu pandemic, Lehn & Fink, Inc. advertised Lysol disinfectant as an effective countermeasure to the influenza virus. Newspaper advertisements provided tips for preventing the spread of the disease, including washing sick-rooms with Lysol, as well as everything that came in contact with patients. A small (US50¢) bottle made 5 US gallons (19 l; 4.2 imp gal) of disinfectant solution, and a smaller (US25¢) bottle made 2 US gallons (7.6 l; 1.7 imp gal). The company also advertised the "unrefined" Lysol F. & F. (Farm & Factory) for use in factories and other large buildings – a 5-US-gallon (19 l; 4.2 imp gal) can, when diluted as directed, made 50 US gallons (190 l; 42 imp gal) of disinfecting solution.[7]

Use as a feminine hygiene product[edit]

In the late 1920s Lysol disinfectant began being marketed as a "feminine hygiene" product by maker Lysol, Inc. and distributor Lehn & Fink, Inc. It was claimed vaginal douching with a diluted Lysol solution prevented infections and vaginal odor, and thereby preserved youth and marital bliss.[8] This Lysol solution was also used as a birth control agent, as post-coital douching was a popular method of preventing pregnancy at that time.[9] In his 1938 textbook, American obstetric physician Joseph Bolivar DeLee encouraged the use of Lysol during labor as a disinfectant: "[J]ust before introducing the hand, the vagina is liberally flushed with 1 per cent lysol solution squeezed from pledgets of cotton, the idea being to reduce the amount of infectious matter unavoidably carried into the puerperal wounds and up into the uterus by the manipulations."[10] The use of Lysol was later discouraged by the medical community as it tended to eliminate the bacteria normal to the healthy vagina, thus allowing more robust, health-threatening bacteria to thrive, and may have masked more serious problems that certain odors indicated in the first place.[11]

The Smithsonian Institution in 2013 included the Lysol feminine hygiene ads among others which were "hilarious and shocking" in hindsight.[12]

Use as an abortifacient[edit]

Earlier formulations of Lysol contained cresol, a compound that can induce abortions, and it was widely used by women who could not otherwise obtain legal abortions in the United States, although the medical community was relatively unaware of the phenomenon for the first half of the 20th century.[13][14] By the 1960s, published medical literature had acknowledged the common use of Lysol and other soaps to induce abortions, which could lead to fatal renal failure and sepsis.[15]

Product innovations[edit]

  • 1930: Lysol Brand Disinfectant Liquid was introduced to drug stores and hospitals.
  • 1957/58 Lysol purchased the rights to private label National Laboratories, Inc's Disinfectant spray.
  • 1962: Lysol released the Lysol Disinfectant Spray, which used a new method of aerosol application.
  • 1968: Lysol began creating bathroom cleaners and released the Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner.
  • 1985: Lysol All Purpose Cleaner was released.
  • 1988: Lysol began shipping aerosol disinfectants to humid areas such as Houston, to combat "lung rot".
  • 2000: Lysol introduced Lysol Disinfecting Wipes, pre-moistened cleaning wipes for use on hard, non-porous surfaces.
  • 2009: Lysol began producing hand soaps.

Ownership: Lehn & Fink was acquired by Sterling Drug in 1967 and Reckitt & Colman acquired L&F in 1994 when Bayer acquired Sterling-Winthrop. As of 2015 Lysol products were distributed by Reckitt Benckiser LLC of Parsippany, New Jersey.


Lysol multi-surface cleaner on a store shelf

Different Lysol products contain different active ingredients. Examples of active ingredients used in Lysol products:[citation needed]


  • Disinfectants: Lysol Disinfectant products are used to kill surface and air bacteria. Products include:
    • Lysol Disinfectant Spray*: "Alkyl (50% C14, 40% C12, 10% C16) Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Saccharinate= 0.10% Ethanol= 58.00%, Other Ingredients= 41.90% (total 100%)"[16]
    • Lysol Disinfecting Wipes
    • Lysol Concentrate Disinfectant
  • Cleaners: Lysol distributes several multi-purpose cleaners, kitchen cleaners, and bathroom cleaners. These include:
    • Lysol Power & Free
    • Lysol All-Purpose Cleaner
    • Lysol Multi-Surface Cleaner Pourable
    • Lysol Power Kitchen Cleaner
    • Lysol Bathroom Cleaner
    • Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner
    • Lysol Mold & Mildew Remover
  • Hand Soaps: Lysol recently developed a line of disinfecting hand soaps. Products include:
    • Lysol No Touch Hand Soap System
    • Lysol Touch of Foam Hand Wash


Lysol's major competitors include Clorox, Febreze, Cif, Domestos, Tilex, Oust, Mr. Clean and Pine-Sol.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Media Corner." Lyzol India, 20 September, 2006. Accessed January 13, 2020.
  3. ^ "Disinfectant, Disinfectants, antiseptics and disinfectants". GMP Chem Tech Pvt. Ltd., India. Retrieved 22 April 2008. "Material Safety Data Sheets (L)". ReSource Colorado (a full service flooring contractor). Retrieved 22 April 2008.
  4. ^ "Material Safety Data Sheet, Lysol(R) Brand Concentrate, Original Scent" (PDF). 18 April 1997. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
  5. ^ "LYSOL POISONING". Melbourne (Australia) Argus (newspaper). 10 January 1912. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  6. ^ Frank T. Sanders, ed. (August 2006). Reregistration Eligibility Decision for Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride (ADBAC) (PDF) (Report). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances. p. 114. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 October 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  7. ^ "Fight Spanish Influenza With Daily Disinfection" (advertisement). The New York Times. 30 October 1918, p. 9. (Accessed via ProQuest, New York Times (1857–Current file), Document ID 97039401)
  8. ^ "Lysol Douche Advertisements". 26 August 2005. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  9. ^ Sanger, Margaret H. Family Limitations, Sixth Edition. 1917. Accessed January 13, 2020.
  10. ^ DeLee, Joseph B., A.M., M.D. The Principles and Practice of Obstetrics. 7th ed. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Company, 1938, p. 319.
  11. ^ Finley, Harry. "Lysol douche ad, 1928, U.S.A.". The Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health, 1998. Accessed 22 March 2007.
  12. ^ Eveleth, Rose (30 September 2013). "Lysol's Vintage Ads Subtly Pushed Women to Use Its Disinfectant as Birth Control". Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  13. ^ Flanagan, Caitlin (December 2019). "The Dishonesty of the Abortion Debate." The Atlantic. Accessed January 13, 2020.
  14. ^ Presley, J. A.; Brown, W. E. (September 1956). "Lysol-Induced Criminal Abortion". Obstetrics & Gynecology. 8 (3): 368–370. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  15. ^ Bartlett, Robert H.; Yahia, Clement (2 October 1969). "Management of Septic Chemical Abortion with Renal Failure: Report of Five Consecutive Cases with Five Survivors". The New England Journal of Medicine. 281 (14): 747–53. doi:10.1056/nejm196910022811401. PMID 5807922.
  16. ^ "Memorandum" (PDF). United States Environmental Protection Agency. 29 September 2010. p. 1. Retrieved 7 April 2020.

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