Sunlight (cleaning product)

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Product typeDishwashing detergent
OwnerUnilever (except United States and Canada)
Henkel North American Consumer Goods (United States and Canada)
CountryUnited Kingdom
Introduced1884; 136 years ago (1884)
Sunlight Soap packages from Belgium.
Sunlight Soap ad in the trenches of WW I (1915)

Sunlight is a brand of dishwashing detergent manufactured and marketed around the world by Unilever, except in the United States and Canada, where it has been owned by Sun Products (now Henkel Corporation) since 2010.[1][2]


Sunlight household soap was introduced by the British company Lever Brothers in 1884. It was the world's first packaged, branded laundry soap.[3] 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).[4] 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. This was an early labour-saving device for the housewife as prior to this, commercially made soap was bought in long bars. Sunlight soap was eventually supplanted by modern products made from synthetically produced detergents rather than naturally derived soaps.

In 1971, the company rebranded Sunlight as a 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.[5]

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%,[6] 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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9]

In 2003, exclusive licensing rights to the Sunlight brand for dishwashing detergents in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico were sold along with several Unilever brands to Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking Group,[10] which established Phoenix Brands LLC for the purpose.[11] In 2008, the North American trademark rights to Unilever laundry brands including Sunlight were acquired by Sun Products Corporation.[12] In early 2010, Sun Products acquired the American and Canadian business rights to the Sunlight brand.[13] Sun Products was itself acquired by Henkel North American Consumer Goods in 2016.[14]

The Sunlight brand was used by JohnsonDiversey Professional Products in Canada and the USA in 2011.[15]

In Australia, it is a brand of Symex, who manufacture, distribute and export Sunlight bar soap and Sunlight dishwashing liquid.[citation needed]

In Turkey in the summer of 2010, washing-up liquids produced under the brand Cif began marketing 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.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Vestar Capital Partners completes acquisition of Unilever laundry business and merger of Unilever unit to Huish Detergents". Business Wire. 9 September 2008. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  2. ^ "Our Brands, Our History". Sun Products Corporation. Archived from the original on 6 February 2015.
  3. ^ "Unilever: A company history". BBC News. 22 February 2000. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
  4. ^ Sumayku, Jeannifer Filly (22 March 2010). "Unilever: Providing Enjoyable and Meaningful Life to Customers". The President Post.
  5. ^ ""Sunlight Lemon" Washing-up Liquid". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). 326. House of Lords. 1 December 1971. col. 262–266.
  6. ^ "Sunlight". Unilever Sri Lanka. Archived from the original on 22 February 2012.
  7. ^ "Our Brands: Sunlight". Unilever South Africa. Archived from the original on 22 January 2010.
  8. ^ "Sunlight Dishwashing Liquid Kalamansi 100 Power". Food and Drug Administration. Philippines. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015.
  9. ^ "Lilleborgs historie i korte trekk". Lilleborg (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 12 September 2007.
  10. ^ "Unilever Agrees to Sell Four Home Care Brands to Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking". Business Wire. 8 December 2003.
  11. ^ "Company Overview of Phoenix Brands LLC". Bloomberg Business. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016.
  12. ^ "Vestar Capital Partners completes acquisition of Unilever laundry business and merger of Unilever unit to Huish Detergents". Business Wire. 9 September 2008. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Our Brands, Our History". Sun Products Corporation. Archived from the original on 6 February 2015.
  14. ^ "Henkel buys laundry care firm Sun Products in $3.6 billion deal". Reuters. 24 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Sunlight". Johnson Diversey Consumer Branded Professional Products Catalog. Archived from the original on 17 December 2005. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  16. ^ "Sunlight Cif". Unilever Turkey (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 30 November 2010.

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