Monday, April 20, 2020

Q is for Qtips

Last night, I was lamenting to my new (and very organized) bloggy friend Nancy (she does THE MOST amazing crafts with paper that are truly more like art, and you don't even have to be crafty to love her projects - go by Heart to Heart Soul Creations and see for yourself!) that I had not come up with a topic for today's A to Z Challenge post. She, of course, had hers planned ages ago. She threw out a couple of words. Quiet. Quickly. I jokingly countered with Q-tip.

It's 8:00. I have had no "Q" epiphany today, so Q-tip it is.

In 1923, according to the official Q-tips website, a fellow by the name of Leo Gerstenzang saw his wife sticking wads of cotton to the ends of toothpicks and got the idea to manufacture cotton swabs. He founded the Leo Gerstenzang Infant Novelty Company to market baby care accessories.

Let's stop right there. The company he formed to produce the cotton swabs was for the manufacturing of baby care accessories. When he saw his wife wrapping wads of cotton onto the toothpicks, was she using them on a BABY?! I think we can all be glad ol' Leo stepped in and put a stop to that.

The product was originally called Baby Gays, because they made cranky babies happy. My guess is this is a first-hand observation by Leo, due to the fact that his baby's mother was no longer jabbing the baby in the ear with a toothpick. The website "TriviaHappy:)" writes that the swabs were made by hand, then dipped in boric acid to sanitize them, and they were advertised as being great for babies' ears and nostrils.

Is sticking boric acid in a baby's ear safer than sticking a toothpick in there? I'm not sure there's a good answer to that.

In 1926, the label was changed to Q-tips Baby Gays. The company eventually dropped the "baby gays" part of the name and became known just as Q-tips. Incidentally, the "Q" stands for quality and "tips," obviously, stands for the cotton tip of the stick.

Hollywood make-up artists began using Q-tips for make up application in the 1950s. Aren't you glad that (a) you can use a Q-tip to clean mascara smudges out from under your eyes and not have to use a makeshift toothpick wrapped in cotton to do that and (b) they don't use boric acid any longer to sanitize the swab?

At some point, doctors agreed that sticking Q-tips inside ears was not a good thing and would cause more harm than good (still better than a toothpick), so every box now has a warning not to use them inside your ear, but seriously, is there ANYTHING that feels better than using a Q-tip to clean out your ear? 

One more thing that Q-tips are good for: art.

I may not be as crafty as my friend Nancy, and I found this on Pinterest and didn't make it up myself (although what I found was a painting for sale on Etsy, and I turned it into a preschool craft project), but here's a fun project:

I drew a couple of stems with a marker on blue construction paper. I took a second sheet of paper and cut holes in the paper over the top of each stem, then we made dots within each circle with a Q-tip dipped in white paint. When you lift away the sheet, you have a dandelion picture! I think the pre-k version is just as nice as the Etsy version!

Etsy on the left, preschool art on the right.

In conclusion, next time you reach for a Q-tip, say a little thank you to baby Gerstenzang for taking one for the team and being the reason you're not stabbing yourself in the ear with a toothpick wrapped in cotton.


  1. NICE!!!! thanks for the shout out too!!! I saw your headline and I busted out laughing...

    I have also used Q-Tips for art projects to do small dots like you illustrated. LOVE it!!!!

    I enjoyed reading the history of how they came about in your post! Glad I could oblige my insight! LOL - -

    G'night, I'm turning in early today.


    1. You were my inspiration! I will call them baby gays from now on.

  2. Great preschool art project and nice to have a use for Q-tips again since you can't actually stick then in your ears anymore. It's fun to hear how products we use came into being and evolved.Weekends In Maine

    1. Like Chandler said to Joey, "You have to stop when there's resistance!