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Here’s what the 'Q' in q-tip means

Have you ever been soaking in the bathtub or brushing your teeth and finding yourself letting your mind wander and landing on, what does the Q in Q-tip stand for? It’s an intriguing question, but one that seemingly evaporates like steam on a bathroom mirror, forgotten by the time we’ve emerged from the bath and can look up the answer.

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If you have never gotten around to Googling the question, allow us: The Q stands for quality. The company’s website explains that Q-tips were created by Leo Gerstenzang, who was inspired by his ingenious wife who he spotted carefully wrapping bits of cotton around toothpicks. He liked what he saw and decided to manufacture a similar product. He founded the Leo Gerstenzang Infant Novelty Co. in 1923, making what is widely-believed to be the world’s first ready-to-use cotton swabs. They weren’t called cotton swabs, though. Instead, Gerstenzang called them “Baby Gays,” as they were intended to be used for baby care which the company specialized in. In 1926, the company added “Q-tip” to the name, creating the rather lengthy moniker “Q-tips® Baby Gays,” where the Q stood for quality and the tip for the cotton wrapped around what at the time was a wooden stick.

Eventually, they dropped the “Baby Gays” altogether, undoubtedly realizing that calling a product “Baby Gays” unnecessarily limited the item to baby care, when the cotton swabs had much broader applications like applying eye make-up, cleaning electronics, and never, ever putting in your ear canal.

The Q-tip name stuck and soon became synonymous with the handy little swabs. The company grew, upgrading their manufacturing facility, and eventually switching out the wooden sticks for the paper and plastic and now biodegradable swabs that modern users know. The one thing that has always stayed the same is the design and, of course, the quality. It’s in the name after all.

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