Spic and Span
Spic and Span is a major U.S. brand of all-purpose household cleaner. In America, the cleaning product is called Spic 'n' Span. The product is owned by Prestige Brands, which markets it for consumer use. Former owner Procter & Gamble markets Spic and Span for commercial use.
The phrase "span-new" meant as new as a freshly cut wood chip, such as those once used to make spoons. In a metaphor dating from at least 1300, something span-new was neat and unstained.
Spick was added in the 16th century, as a spick (a spike or nail) was another metaphor for something neat and trim. The British phrase may have evolved from the Dutch spiksplinter nieuw, "spike-splinter new". In 1665, Samuel Pepys used spicke and span in his famous diary. The "clean" sense appears to have arisen only recently.
The word spic can be a derogatory term for a person of Latino descent, and "spic and span" has been used to ridicule mixed-race couples of African American and Puerto Rican origin. In 1999, the Mexican-American organization LatinosUSA organized a boycott of Spic 'n' Span.
On June 15, 1926 - Whistle Bottling Company (Johnsonburg, PA) registered "Spic and Span" trademark No. 214,076 (washing and cleaning compound in crystal form with incidental water-softening properties).
The modern cleaner was invented by housewives Elizabeth "Bet" MacDonald and Naomi Stenglein in Saginaw, Michigan in 1933. Their formula included equal parts of ground-up glue, sodium carbonate, and trisodium phosphate. Stenglein observed that testing in her house made it spotless, or "spick and span." They took the k off Spick and started selling the product in brown envelopes to local markets. From 1933 to 1944, both families helped run their "Spic and Span Products Company." On January 29, 1945, Procter & Gamble, a major international manufacturer of household and personal products based in Cincinnati, Ohio, bought Spic and Span for $1.9 million. On August 30, 1949, Procter & Gamble registered the "Spic and Span" trademark (soluble cleaner, cleanser, and detergent).
In January 2001, Shansby Group, a San Francisco investment firm, purchased the brand from P&G, along with the Cinch line of multi-surface cleaning products. GTCR Golder Rauner acquired the brand in 2004, after a reformulation of the Spic and Span product line.
The current owner, Prestige Brands, continues to market the product for consumer use. Procter & Gamble still markets Spic and Span for commercial use. However, the product is no longer advertised on television.
The powdered form must be mixed in water to use. A liquid version is also available. Although considered all-purpose, it is "not recommended for carpets, upholstery, aluminum, glass, laundry or mixing with bleach or ammonia".
- Online Etymology Dictionary. Accessed 2007-01-16.
- Take Our Word for It June 21, 1999, Issue 45 of etymology webzine. Accessed 2007-01-16.
- Jonathon Green, "Spic and span", The Cassell Dictionary of Slang (1998) p. 390.
- Michigan History, November/December, 2007. Pgs. 13-15.
- "Spic and Span All Purpose Cleaner". Procter & Gamble. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
- As written on product label.