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Leo Gerstenzang began to design cotton swab after he saw his wife gluing cotton onto the ends of toothpicks to clean their baby's ears.

He used cardboard material for the stem of the swabs to avoid any splinters harming the baby, found a way to attach equal amounts of cotton to each end of the swab, and ensured that the swab stayed put during cleaning.

He created the Leo Gerstenzang Infant Novelty Company to supply is swabs and in 1923, launched his refined product under the name “Baby Gays”.

In 1926  Gerstenzang changed your name to Q-Tips Baby Gays, with the “Q” standing for quality,  but eventually the product became known simply as the Q-Tips that we know today.

“[C]otton-bud-related injuries

are a common reason for

attendances at … clinics.”

As well as supplying the baby accessory market, Q-Tips expanded into the cosmetic market in the 1950s. Hollywood makeup artists began using them as tools of their trade and a booklet, Lessons in Loveliness with Q-Tips was produced.

In the early 1970s fears arose that damage could be caused to the ears by cleaning them with cotton buds, particularly perforation of the drum impaction of the earwax.

This led to the manufacturers advising that cotton buds should no longer be used to clean ears. Q-Tips are still widely available and remain essentially unchanged from Leo’s original design,  although they are now very different in purpose.


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