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S.O.S® Brand History

In 1917, a Wear-Ever Aluminum cooking utensil salesman by the name of Irwin Cox was looking for a way his customers could keep their new pans shining bright. His invention: a pre-soaped steel wool pad. The idea was born in the basement of Cox’s home by dipping steel wool balls into a hand-grade liquid soap and then allowing the pads to air dry. Cox’s wife called the pads S.O.S, which stood for “Save Our Saucepans.” The S.O.S® pads were so popular that Cox found himself with a hot new product line. A U.S. patent was issued for the concept in 1918 and the following year an investor group was formed in California to manufacture and sell the product. 100 years later, S.O.S® remains the number one problem-solver for America’s greasiest, grimiest, grungiest jobs.  Learn more about S.O.S in the historical timeline below!


San Francisco, CA: Wear-Ever Aluminum cooking utensil salesman Irwin Cox invents a new way to clean this popular cookware, making S.O.S® soap pads in the basement of his home by dipping steel wool pads into a solution of hot soap and oil.


Jan 15: The U.S. Patent Office issues a patent to Irwin W. Cox for his new “Polish and Cleanser”.


Cox moves to Chicago, IL and organizes the new S.O.S Company.


Young engineer George Brooks joins the company to design and develop machinery for mass production. Brooks would stay on and become vice president and general manager of the company for almost 40 years.


S.O.S® introduces the distinctive and convenient oval-shaped pad and broadens its advertising coverage.

"Behold..the work of my magic helper!"
Look! She used her best tea towel
S.O.S Woman can't you cook without scorching ad
New! Sturdier! S.O.S Magic Scouring Pads box


Sales of S.O.S® quadruple as servicemen return from the war to form new households.

S.O.S I wanted a divorce from this sink ad
S.O.S Make your pots and pans last longer ad
S.O.S Mrs. Riley has a life too ad
S.O.S Magic Scouring Pads


S.O.S® is advertised on many popular television shows, including Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows, The Molly Goldberg Show, The Price is Right, Queen For A Day, Tic-Tac-Dough, and Comedy Time.

S.O.S Magic Scouring Pads
S.O.S removes rust ad
Where there's Smoke there's S.O.S ad
S.O.S Ride with the whitest white-walls in town ad


Jan 1: The General Foods Corporation purchases S.O.S® from the original company, introducing many engineering and product improvements over the next decade.

Early 1960s

After extensive consumer research, the color of S.O.S® soap changes from red to blue.


High-speed packaging lines are designed for the popular 10-pad and 18-pad sizes, replacing the traditional semi-automatic hand-packaging done by the original company. The plant becomes one of the first to utilize automatic palletizing of corrugated shippers.


Sept: Miles Laboratories, a prominent television advertiser famous for its major consumer product Alka-Seltzer, purchases S.O.S® from General Foods. Miles places heavy emphasis on production improvements in the soap formulas.

Early 1970s

Buttressed by national television advertising campaigns depicting Big Blue (S.O.S®) dominating Pink Pad (Brillo), the distinctive packaging with fluorescent inks makes the S.O.S® trademark one of the most highly recognized brands in the United States consumer product industry.

Introducing Big Blue S.O.S sales folder (back)
Longest lasting S.O.S Soap pads box


December: S.O.S® juniors steel wool soap pads, about half the size of regular S.O.S® pads, is launched nationally in the U.S.

New! Small Pads! S.O.S Juniors


January: The Clorox Company purchases the assets of the S.O.S® Products business of Miles Inc., of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Acquisition of the strong U.S. brand in the S.O.S® steel wool soap pad business, which includes Tuffy™ plastic scouring pads, Jets soap pads (marketed in Canada) and other S.O.S® cleaning products gives the company a leadership position in a new consumer category.


March: S.O.S® scrubber sponges are introduced nationally in Canada.

June: S.O.S® scrubber sponges are introduced nationally in the U.S.


S.O.S Superwiper in-store display
S.O.S 30 Steel Wool Soap Pads


S.O.S® glass and surface cleaner PowerPack, an innovative two-bottle spray package that incorporates a pre-filled bottle of concentrate and a bottle of water as a dilute, is introduced into the institutional market.


The S.O.S® brand introduces three new scrubber sponges — big job, light-duty and CleanRinse.


S.O.S® updates steel wool soap pad packaging and launches a brand new website at


The newest addition to the S.O.S® family is announced – S.O.S Non-Scratch Scrubbers! These gentle-touch scouring pads are made from synthetic scrubbing fibers rather than steel wool, so they are safe to use on non-stick coatings and other delicate surfaces.

S.O.S Non-Scratch Scrubbers


S.O.S® celebrates its 100 year anniversary! When it comes to cleaning products, a lot has changed since 1917. But those things that truly work, remain. We are proud to be one of America’s most enduring and iconic cleaning brands and we look forward to the next 100 years!

Stay tuned for new innovations from S.O.S® in 2024 and beyond!