Brillo Pads

Brillo pads are steel wool pads impregnated with a special soap containing jeweler’s rouge. They were introduced by the Brillo Company of Brooklyn, NewYork, in 1930.

The company was the result of what would now be called a “market-led” approach. A Mr. Brady, a New York door- to-door salesman, was selling aluminum pots and pans and noted that his customers complained about how difficult they could be to keep clean. Brady consulted his brother-in-law, Mr. Ludwig, a costume jeweler. It was Ludwig who struck upon the idea of combining soap with jeweler’s rouge to produce the required shine. Brady then found that his soap was beginning to out-sell the pans. Brady and Ludwig approached a lawyer, Milton B. Loeb, for advice on establishing a company to begin commercial production. Loeb must have seen the potential as he joined them, as well as providing the brand name, Brillo, after the Latin beryllus (shine). Loeb went on to become treasurer and president of the company. The Brillo soap was patented and registered as a trademark in 1913.

Brillo’s main product was the soap that was sold with pads of steel wool. Initially sold by door-to-door salesmen, they were soon taken up by grocery and hardware stores and chains such as Woolworth’s. The steel-wool pads, impregnated with the soap, were introduced in 1930. Brillo remains one of the world’s best selling pan cleaners, along with its main rival SOS. They have survived the arrival of motorized scouring pads in the 1960s. The Kent Kordless of 1962 was one such product, but was deemed not worth its cost by Consumer Reports.

Thanks to AndyWarhol’s oversize replicas, the Brillo pad’s bright and simple packaging, along with the Campbell’s Soup can, became an icon of 1960s pop art. The company is now a part of Church & Dwight Co. Inc