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The History of 409 Cleaner

Updated February 21, 2017

Formula 409 is a cleaning staple in homes and businesses around the world. The powerful all-purpose cleaner with the unusual name has a history in the commercial sector.

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Formula 409 was created in 1957 by the Rouff brothers, three scientists from Detroit, Michigan. The brothers worked for Gem Products, an industrial cleaning solution manufacturer. As their intention was to create a heavy-duty degreaser for commercial degreasing, alkaline was a main ingredient in this powerful cleaner.


Gem Products sold Formula 409 to Chemsol in 1960. Chemsol toned down the chemical content of the formula in to a product gentle enough for standard home use. In the mid-1960s, entrepreneurs Harrell, Woodcock and Linkletter bought the product and promoted it on the national level through television commercials. Clorox eventually purchased the Formula 409 brand.


The Formula 409 name has been a source of speculation for decades. Contrary to popular belief, the number 409 has nothing to do with a birth date, telephone area code or Beach Boys' song.

It was not until the 409th try that Gem Products was able to discover the perfect chemical mixture for degreasing needs.


The Clorox Company further developed the brand. In addition to the original all-purpose cleaner, Formula 409 is available in antibacterial, glass and window and carpet spot cleaning varieties.

Fun Fact

A 1960s television commercial for Formula 409 featured animated pin-up girl Betty Boop singing as she cleaned with a hulky bottle of the solution.

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About the Author

Heather Lacey

Heather Lacey is a freelance writer who has been specializing in print and Web articles since 2008. She is a regular contributor to "Go Gilbert!," "Scottsdale Health Magazine" and other local publications. Lacey has a professional background in hospitality management and studied journalism at Phoenix College.

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