Category Archives: History of Listerine


This bottle was found in the 1960s when the expressway came through the Portland neighborhood of Louisville, KY. The site was a city dump many years before. When building began they dug down about 20 feet and unearthed many bottles that were thrown away years ago. This picture is taken from my private bottle collection.

History of Listerine

Most people when they hear the name Listerine they associate it with one of the most popular mouthwashes we have today. But it wasn’t always used as a mouthwash and at one time it was only available with a prescription.

Dr. Joseph Lister, an English physician, in 1865 performed the first ever surgery using antiseptic. The antiseptic he used was what is now known as Listerine. Most of the patients didn’t die due to the surgery in the 1800’s but of the infections that set up later when they were recovering. Dr. Lister used Listerine to sterilize instruments before he operated on a patient. To everyone’s surprise the patient lived and made a full recovery. This was a major breakthrough in how to prevent infection after surgery.

In 1879 two other doctors- Dr. Joseph Lawrence and Jordan Wheat Lambert formulated the familiar amber color of the solution that we know today. At this time it was still being used as a disinfectant for surgery.

In 1881 Listerine was licensed by Jordan Wheat Lambert under the trademark of Lambert and Co.

In 1895 Listerine was marketed as a mouthwash because of it’s ability to kill germs especially those in the mouth. In 1914 it became so popular it became one of the first prescription products to be available over the counter and lead the way for many other mouthwash products.

In the picture above you can see this is a small bottle. It is estimated this bottle was made around the early 1900s and it was probably used for antiseptic instead of mouthwash at that time.

  • Over one billion people have tried LISTERINE.
  • LISTERINE pioneered the word ‘halitosis’ meaning bad breath. It is now part of the English dictionary.
  • LISTERINE was invented in 1879 by Dr Joseph Lawrence & Jordan Wheat Lambert as an antiseptic for surgery. It was named after Sir Joseph Lister who was the first person to perform antiseptic surgery in 1865.
  • Before LISTERINE was invented, carbolic acid which can burn human tissue was used to kill germs during surgery.
  • From 1921 through to 1929, LISTERINE was used for dandruff and dry scalp. It was also used as a beauty treatment for skin, antiseptic for cuts, deodorant and after-shave lotion.
  • During World War 1, LISTERINE was even used as a wound irrigate. Registered & Protected