You would be hard pressed to find a more iconic smell than the instantly recognisable aroma of Dettol. The scent immediately conjures childhood memories of Mum cleaning you up after flying off your bike and taking some skin off your hands and knees. When the pantry opened and you saw that bottle with the green label, filled with the light yellow liquid, you knew you were going to be alright. 

The logo on the bottle, a sword, representing the killing of harmful germs and the shield, intended to represent the protection of communities, captures what is at the heart of Dettol’s origins. Dettol was first formulated in 1929. Up until around this time it was widely believed that disease was caused by imbalances in the body. Two scientists, Albert Leopold Rickett and Dr. William Colebrook Reynolds, working out of the UK, were instrumental in challenging this way of thinking and set about creating products which could help to combat the spread of disease through prioritising hygiene. During this process they discovered the foundational elements of Dettol and were affectionately coined the ‘fathers of Dettol’. The antiseptic liquid, antiseptic meaning that it prevents the growth of disease causing micro-organisms, became a sensation because it worked as a disinfectant but could be applied to the skin without irritation, if diluted. Dettol was so successful in its early clinical trials that when used it was found to minimise sepsis by 50% for women giving birth, saving an incredible number of lives and offering a safe alternative to the previously used disinfectants, which were highly toxic and could even be corrosive. It wasn’t long before Dettol was being sold in pharmacies and then general sales, making its way to Australia in 1935. 

Dettol has found itself at the centre of many significant moments in history. During World War II it was considered so important to the war effort that the British government actually moved the factory to a ‘less vulnerable location’ to ensure that its production was not interrupted. Leaping forward to the recent COVID-19 epidemic, with hygiene and cleanliness on the front line in the battle against disease, Dettol has never been more relevant. With the aim of a virus being to replicate itself, the disinfectant properties of Dettol become invaluable in fighting the spread of disease. Bacteria and viruses can survive on surfaces for significant lengths of time. These viral particles can then leap from these surfaces onto our hands and then it’s a pretty short trip from our hands to our faces, providing an entry point for the virus to make itself at home in our bodies. Dettol is able to kill the surface dwelling bacteria by damaging the proteins within the outer layers of the bacterias, resulting in the whole cell splitting open and being destroyed. Products like Dettol’s surface cleaner spray are a great tool for targeting high risk areas, like the kitchen and the bathroom. Dettol hand wash can also ensure that you’re removing any unwanted guests from your hands that you may have come in contact with, stopping them from reaching your face. 

Uses for Dettol

We’ve established the fact that the brand is a trusted icon of cleanliness but its uses are far ranging:

A super antiseptic

This is likely to be the way many of us have experienced Dettol, using it to protect against infection on minor skin cuts, scratches and insect bites. If you’re reading this then you’re no longer the kid flying off your bike but you’re probably the one who will be called upon to clean up your little ones when they take a dive so make sure it's always in the first aid kit. 

Household disinfectant

If it’s good enough for hospitals then you know you can trust Dettol to keep your house disinfected. Areas of food preparation and toilets are real breeding grounds for bacteria and are a key location to target with your Dettol. Prevention is better than cure so stop the bacteria from getting to you. 

Add it to your bath

Just like washing your hands, adding around 30mls of Dettol to your bathwater helps to clear your skin of all sorts of nasty bacteria, helping you to feel refreshed and deeply cleansed.

For this same reason, Dettol is fantastic for helping to clear up acne, which is brought on by bacterial infections. 

Add it to your washing

If you’re needing to give your washing a deep cleanse or maybe you just want to freshen your linen, adding 30mls to your rinse cycle will do wonders for your washing. If you’re washing particularly bacteria contaminated items, like nappies, then Dettol should definitely be a feature in your washing routine. 

One of the most impressive things about Dettol has been its ability to continue to innovate, not only with its products but also with its branding. Dettol comes in a dizzying array of forms, from its more traditional disinfectant through to antibacterial wipes, sanitisers and surface specific cleaners. They also continue to reinforce their relevance through collaborative marketing campaigns with brands like Uber and Cricket Australia, consistently communicating their message of protecting those we love. When the COVID pandemic was at its peak, Dettol ran a campaign titled ‘Dettol Salutes’, which saw the brand replace its iconic logo with images of specific frontline workers on its popular hand wash bottles. Normally a brand wouldn’t dream of messing with their logos out of a fear of losing brand recognition but Dettol’s decision to communicate a show of solidarity with those seen as heroes in the fight against COVID only helped to strengthen their brand as it remained in step with what their purpose has always been. For this reason, it is unsurprising that Dettol was voted the most trusted household cleaning brand by Readers Digest’s Australian and New Zealand readers in 2020. Regardless of the specific form of the product, Dettol has established itself as a key part of a safe and cleanly household by consistently sticking to their mission statement of protecting people through the fighting of germs. Something that is no less relevant then when they began nearly a century ago. 


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