Sunlight (cleaning product)

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Sunlight Soap packages from Belgium.
Sunlight Soap ad in the trenches of WW I (1915)

Sunlight is a brand of household soap introduced by the British company Lever Brothers in 1884. It was the world's first packaged, branded laundry soap.[1] Designed for washing clothes and general household use, the success of the product led to the name for the company's village for its workers, Port Sunlight. The soap formula was invented by a Bolton chemist named William Hough Watson, who also became an early business partner. Watson's process created a new soap, using glycerin and vegetable oils such as palm oil rather than tallow (animal fats).[2] William Lever and his brother James Darcy Lever invested in Watson's soap invention and its initial success came from offering bars of cut, wrapped, and branded soap in his father's grocery shop. Prior to this, commercially made soap was bought in long bars, an early labour-saving device for the housewife.

Sunlight was eventually supplanted by modern products made from synthetically produced detergents rather than naturally derived soaps.

Sunlight Lemon Liquid[edit]

In 1971, the company rebranded its Sunlight washing-up liquid in the UK. The new packaging for Sunlight Lemon Liquid had a large picture of a lemon, and only featured the words "washing up liquid" in small letters. There were complaints that children might mistake the product for lemon squash and drink it. The matter was discussed in the House of Lords. The company responded by changing its packaging.[3]

Later usage of the brand[edit]

In several markets (e.g., Belgium and the Netherlands) Sunlight soap has survived as a personal wash product rather than a laundry detergent.

Sunlight is still used in some markets as a brand by Unilever (the successor of Lever Brothers). In Sri Lanka, Sunlight laundry soap has a market share of more than 75%,[4] and won the “brand of the year” award in 2004. In South Africa, the brand is used for bath soap, dishwashing liquid, washing powder and fabric conditioner.[5]

The brand was also used in the Philippines during the 1990s as detergents. It was discontinued until it was revived in 2015 as a liquid dish-washing detergent traded alongside the Surf line.[6]

However, production for Ireland and the UK ceased in 2009 due to low demand; it is available only as an import. In Norway it was taken over by Lilleborg in 1930.[7] In 2003 exclusive licensing rights to the Sunlight brand of dish-washing detergents in Canada, Puerto Rico and the USA were sold (along with some other Unilever brands) to Lehman Brothers bankers,[8] who set up Phoenix Brands for the purpose.[9] The Sunlight brand is now used by JohnsonDiversey in Canada and the USA.[10] In Canada, it remains a leading brand of dish soap. In early 2010 Sun Products acquired the U.S. and Canadian Sunlight brand for dishwashing liquid.[11] In Australia, it is a brand of Symex, who manufacture, distribute and export Sunlight bar soap and Sunlight dishwashing liquid.

In Turkey in the summer of 2010, washing-up liquids produced under the brand Cif started to be marketed with the new compound brand Sunlight Cif. As well as the regular liquid, a concentrated washing-up liquid was introduced in three varieties (lime, lemon and orange); when it comes into contact with water, it turns into a gel which remains in the sponge longer than regular washing-up liquid.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Unilever: A company history". BBC. 22 February 2000. Retrieved July 9, 2011. 
  2. ^ Unilever: Providing Enjoyable and Meaningful Life to Customers, The President Post, 22 March 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  3. ^ "Sunlight Lemon" Washing-up Liquid, Hansard, 1 December 1971
  4. ^ Sunlight on Unilever Sri Lanka website
  5. ^ Brand information,
  6. ^ Sunlight Dishwashing Liquid Kalamansi 100 Power
  7. ^ Lilleborgs historie i korte trekk - Lilleborg (in Norwegian)
  8. ^ SEC Info, December 2003
  9. ^ Bloomberg Business
  10. ^ "Johnson Diversey Consumer Branded Professional Products Catalog". Retrieved 2011-11-28. 
  11. ^ Retrieved 2014-04-16.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ Sunlight Cif page at Unilever Turkey's site (in Turkish). Retrieved 7 July 2011.

External links[edit]