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That Time Listerine Claimed It Was Good For Cleaning the Vagina

Illustration for article titled That Time Listerine Claimed It Was Good For Cleaning the Vagina

Before Listerine found its true commercial calling as a mouthwash, it was a general purpose antiseptic meant to be used on cuts, sore throats, dandruff, and, most horrifying of all, down there. "It possesses great penetrating power," touts the ad!

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I came across this ad in a Duke University archive while researching my article on how advertisements has shaped our daily hygiene habits. Listerine, especially, ran a hugely successful campaign educating Americans about "halitosis," a hitherto unfamiliar ailment. In 1932, when this feminine hygiene ad was published according to archive, Listerine was already well on its way to becoming a popular mouthwash. Apparently, they still had designs on other slices of the hygiene market, too.

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The ad in its full, terrifying glory is below. I don't want to imagine what women of the 1930s were using if Listerine could plausibly be a "gentle, safe" alternative.

Illustration for article titled That Time Listerine Claimed It Was Good For Cleaning the Vagina

Image credit: John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History / Duke

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DISCUSSION

Unlike now, people back in the 30's were actually expected to read the copy, not just 5 words of it. Diluted 1:1 - 5 t0 1 as the ad suggests, I imagine its fine.

Making it sound like they recomend it at full strength is like saying Summers Eve is just the same as using pure vinegar and lemon juice because of its ingredients list.

Purified Water, Sodium Chloride, Vinegar, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate.

This also makes more sense when you know that the original tampons for sale in the u.s. starting in 1896 were Lister's Towels. Made by the same company.

That they eventually got people to start sloshing it about in their mouth is the actual amazing thing. That would be pretty much the equivalent of Tinactin or Preparation H mouthwash coming out in 2030.