Vaseline, Kotex, Kleenex, and Tampax are brand names, not products

by Cheryl E Preston 4 months ago in history

For decades consumers have called the items that they purchase by the title of the company that sponsors them.

Vaseline, Kotex, Kleenex, and Tampax are brand names, not products
Petroleum jelly and tissues

Most everyone has said themselves or heard someone else say they were going to the store to purchase a box of Kotex, Kleenex, Tampax or a jar of Vasoline. In truth these are name brands of companies that sell sanitary napkins, facial tissues, tampons, and petroleum jelly. Years ago there were not as many companies manufacturing these items as there are today and also most people did not like to use “off brands”. Even when consumers do choose to purchase generic versions of these products, years of habit cause them to still refer to them by the names they have utilized all their lives. Following is a breakdown of each of these products.


Kotex is brand of feminine hygiene products, which includes the Kotex maxi, thin and ultra thin pads, the Lightdays pantiliners and Security tampons. Kimberly-Clark sells these products in more than 80 nations. Decades ago when women shopped for necessities for their monthly cycles, the Kotex brand might have been the only one on the store shelves. Today there are numerous companies that offer feminine hygiene items but some older women still say they have run out of Kotex, rather than sanitary pads.

In 1920 Kotex was introduced by Kimberly-Clark in order to make use of the cellucotton (wood pulp fiber) that had been leftover from bandages used in World War I. An employee of the company noticed that the pads had a "cotton-like texture" and this was abbreviated to "cot-tex" and then changed to Kotex. Kimberly-Clark made Kotex a household word by placing advertisements in Good Housekeeping magazine. Some readers were offended by the ads, because of the subject matter but the success of the product led to increased advertisements.


In 1924 Kimberly-Clark introduced Kleenex tissues and they caught on fast. The company marketed them as a way to prevent colds and hayfever, but they were also considered as a disposable form of handkerchief. Although there were other brands of facial tissues on the market, consumers did the same thing they did with the Kotex brand. They began saying they needed a Kleenex, rather than a tissue. I can recall my grandmother writing Kleenex on her grocery list but often coming home with another brand of tissues.


Tampax is the name of a popular brand of tampons which were designed to be flushable and biodegradable. This product was created by Dr. Earle Haas, who filed a patent for the insertable menstrual pad in the 1930s. In 1937, Tampax began working with the McCann Erickson agency and this women’s product appeared in more than 50 magazines in 1949. The company was renamed Tambrand in 1985 and in 1998 was sold to Proctor and Gamble. Just like Kleenex and Kotex, many women say they need a Tampax which is the brand name, instead of asking for a tampon which is the product.


The term “Vasoline” is used in many languages, to describe petroleum jelly. In some Spanish speaking nations, including Brazil the product is called Vasenol. In Portugal the products sold under this brand are referred to as Vaselina. Robert Chesebrough invented Petroleum jelly in 1859 and dubbed his product “Vaseline.” The manufacturer says the name comes from the German term Wasser for water and elation which is Greek for olive oil. Cheesebrough was visiting the oil fields in Titusville, Pennsylvania, and learned about a residue referred to as "rod wax" that had to be removed from oil rig pumps every now and then. He found out that oil workers had been using the substance on burns and cuts and it actually healed them. Chesebrough collected samples of the rod wax and took them back to Brooklyn. He extracted the petroleum jelly, and began manufacturing his product for medicinal purposes and called it Vaseline. In 1987 Unilever purchased the Chesebrough Manufacturing Company.


As with the aforementioned products, people often say they need Vaseline, even when they purchase a generic brand of Petroleum jelly. I’ve had family members to ask me where the Vaseline is, even though I may have a generic brand. I’ve often done the same, as well as say we are out of Kleenex, rather than tissues. Those who are used to addressing these products in this manner will probably continue to do so, because old habits die hard. I don’t anticipate anyone who reads this article going forth saying they want to buy; Vaseline Petroleum jelly, Kotex maxi pads, Kleenex tissues, or Tampax tampons.

Cheryl E Preston
Cheryl E Preston
Read next: Why Denny's Is the Perfect Starter Job for a Cook
Cheryl E Preston

Cheryl is a poet, freelance writer, published author and former newspaper columnist. She is currently pursuing a degree in Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Tips are greatly appreciated.

See all posts by Cheryl E Preston