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The history of Persil

Discover the Persil history from 1907 until today

Detail of a vintage Persil advertising poster: A woman in a white dress and hat holding a Persil pack against a green background.

Persil, the first self-acting detergent in Germany.

In 1907, Henkel's chemists succeeded in revolutionizing washing. They combined sodium silicate with sodium perborate, which released fine, sparkling oxygen when the laundry was cooked. Unlike the chlorine used until then, this not only produces a bleach that is particularly gentle on textiles and odorless, but also makes the laundry more comfortable to use. It also relieves housewives of the tiring and time-consuming rubbing, swiveling and milling of the laundry. The first self-acting detergent is born: Persil. On June 6, 1907, the first advertisement appears in the Düsseldorfer Zeitung. Persil was then sold in hand-made and filled packages made of straw cardboard with a printed wrapper.

The White Lady

Persil's most famous historical advertising motive is a young lady, dressed all in white and holding a Persil pack in her hand. The motive is from the studio of the Berlin artist Kurt Heiligenstaedt, a well-known caricaturist. In 1922 he was commissioned to design a Persil poster. However, the White Lady is by no means a fantasy figure, but rather the artist's 18-year-old girlfriend. Together with her, Heiligenstaedt bought a white dress in a fashion house on Alexanderplatz and then let her pose as a model wearing a Florentine hat and product package. The result henceforth adorns tin signs, posters, house gables and street clocks. For many decades, the white lady remained the central advertising figure of Persil, with changing types of women and fashion trends.

The war is over, Persil is back.

Everyone seems to have been waiting for it: No sooner is Persil back in the shops after the end of World War II than it is already 75 percent sold out. For many, Persil means a return to normality, to peace. "From Düsseldorf comes Persil again" is announced by a gigantic banner over the Rhine bridge. Illuminated advertising, flags and posters are used to remind people all over Germany of the product name. The detergent formulation was only slightly changed: Optical brighteners were added to give the laundry an even purer white.

Persil 59 - the best Persil ever.

The first synthetic all-purpose detergent in Germany also comes from Henkel. In keeping with the year of its launch, it is called Persil 59. Synthetic anionic surfactants, a foam booster and a fresh fragrance are the new ingredients for the best Persil ever. At least, this is the advertising promise conveyed to consumers in a broad-based print, radio and TV campaign. For the first time, even a professional advertising agency is responsible for the public image. In addition to the formulation, the Persil packaging has also undergone significant changes.

Persil 70 - clearly "our best".

In 1970, the advertising campaign "Our Best" is carried out for the first time with overwhelming success. Since then, it has been impossible to imagine Persil advertising without the red ribbon, which regularly adorns the best Persil of its time. When Persil 70 came into the shops with a modified package design, it was now available not only in Germany, but already almost everywhere in Europe.

Persil. You know what you got.

With the introduction of this new Persil, the product name appears on the package without the addition of a year, as was the rule until now. Instead, a new slogan will be introduced in the advertisements, which will be permanently remembered by consumers: Persil. So you know what you have.

Persil phosphate-free - progress for the environment.

Environmental protection became an increasingly important topic in the 1980s. At Henkel, it already has a long history: As early as the beginning of the 1950s, experiments were being conducted to research the biodegradability of surfactants. In 1966, the "Phosphate Substitution" research project was launched. Both surfactants, which dissolve dirt from laundry, and phosphates, which soften the water, pollute the groundwater. It is possible to develop surfactants that are increasingly ecologically degradable. And the researchers have even found a substitute for phosphate: Zeolite A (Sasil®). A patent application was filed for it in 1973.

Persil liquid - the alternative to powder.

Once again, Henkel is expanding the Persil range. This time with a product that is intended to revolutionize an already existing niche area of the detergent market: Persil Liquid.