Powdered cleaners, or scouring powders, were favorites in households during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Today collectors decorate their vintage kitchens with these colorful products of yesterday.
Technically, powdered cleaners are called pumicites, and they were used as scrubbing agents for sinks, stoves, tubs, and floors, as well as for cookware, especially porcelain or enamelware products, which were popular in the dime-store era.
Their cleaning and polishing action is provided by fine particles of minerals, such as calcite, feldspar, quartz, and silica. Soap or surfactants are also included, to remove oil and grease films from dishwashing. Some of these products have bleach added to remove food, mold, and mildew stains. Some powders may have also added rust remover as well.
One of the most recognized polishing soaps or cleansers was Bon Ami, manufactured by the J.T. Robertson Soap Company of Manchester, Connecticut, in around 1886. One of the main ingredients, feldspar, was originally discarded until it was realized that this soft mineral when combined with soap cleaned surfaces without scratching.
Bon Ami’s famous logo, “Hasn’t Scratched Yet,” has become an advertising textbook slogan. How did the chick’s relationship to Bon Ami come about? According to the company’s explanation, “A newly-hatched chick will not scratch the ground for food for two or three days after it comes out of the shell because it is still living off the nutrients of the yolk. As neither chicks nor Bon Ami scratch, the chick is an appropriate symbol with the trademarked ‘Hasn’t Scratched Yet.'” Sales of Bon Ami declined in the 1960s, and the product almost disappeared from shelves, but it returned under new acquisition in 1971. To boost sales, in 1980 the company launched a major advertising campaign with the headline, “Never Underestimate the Cleaning Power of a 94-Year-Old Chick with a French Name.”