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For more information on Q-TipsŪ, check out the book When Did Wild Poodles Roam the Earth? by David Feldman (1992, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.).

A one paragraph summary on he invention of this revolutionary product can be found on page 111 of The 8th Uncle John's Ultimate Bathroom Reader (1996, The Bathroom Readers' Institute, Berkeley, California).

What's the deal with that name?


You know this product. I bet that you wish that you had invented this little gizmo (I certainly do). 

So simple in its design, yet able to accomplish so many tasks. 

You can clean your ears with them. Dab them in some Elmer's glue to join two objects together. Use them to clean delicate pieces of equipment. Get the dust out of small places. The list of possible uses goes on and on and on... 

They warn you on the box not to insert these things in your ear canal, but it sure beats what the inventor's wife used prior to his creation. 

Q-TipsŪ were invented in the 1920's by a Polish-born American named Leo Gerstenzang. 

It seems that Leo's lovely and beautiful wife had rigged up a different device to clean their baby's ears at bathtime - a toothpick stuck into a piece of cotton. 

Clearly, one wrong slip-up on Mom's part meant a nice little wound to little baby Gerstenzang. 

Leo decided to design a ready made cotton swab that would do the same with less risk. 

At this point, he named his company the Leo Gerstenzang Infant Novelty Company to market his new creation. 

While Q-TipsŪ appear to be a simple concept, Leo spent several years perfecting the design. 

Clearly, safety was on his mind. In particular, he was concerned that the wood sticks could possibly splinter (today they are a white cardboard-like material). 

Another problem was the cotton itself. He needed to get an equal amount on both ends of the swab and to design a way to keep it from falling off (don't want it stuck in your ear). 

Once he perfected his product, he needed to find a catchy name. 

Lots of names must have gone through his head. 

I can hear it now: Leo Gerstenzang's Ear Sticks. How about Baby Leo's? Or Ear Wipes? 

A better name was clearly needed. 

I bet that you think Q-TipsŪ was his choice. 

You'd be wrong. 

Instead, he chose the name Baby Gays


Yes, you read that right - Baby Gays. Certainly not a good name for the late 20th century. 

In 1926, he changed the name to Q-TipsŪ Baby Gays

So what did the Q stand for? 

Q for Quality. 

Eventually, the Baby Gays part of the name was dropped and the rest is cotton swab history. 

Useless?  Useful?  I’ll leave that for you to decide.

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Q-TipsŪ is a registered trademark of Chesebrough-Ponds, Inc.