The History of Kleenex Tissue

Kleenex brand products - SPACESAVER Design
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In 1924, the Kleenex brand of facial tissue was first introduced. Kleenex tissue was invented as a means to remove cold cream. Early advertisements linked Kleenex to Hollywood makeup departments and sometimes included endorsements from movie stars (Helen Hayes and Jean Harlow) who used Kleenex to remove their theatrical makeup with cold cream.

Kleenex and Noses

By 1926, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the manufacturer of Kleenex, became intrigued by the number of letters from customers stating that they used their product as a disposable handkerchief.

A test was conducted in the Peoria, Illinois, newspaper. Ads were run depicting the two main uses of Kleenex, either as a means to remove cold cream or as a disposable handkerchief for blowing noses. The readers were asked to respond. Results showed that 60% used Kleenex tissue for blowing their noses. By 1930, Kimberly-Clark had changed the way they advertised Kleenex and sales doubled, proving that the customer is always right.

Highlights of Kleenex History

In 1928, the familiar pop-up tissue cartons with a perforated opening were introduced. In 1929, colored Kleenex tissue was introduced and a year later printed tissues. In 1932, pocket packs of Kleenex were introduced. That same year, the Kleenex company came up with the phrase, "The handkerchief you can throw away!" to use in their advertisements.

During World War II, rations were placed on the production of paper products and the manufacturing of Kleenex tissues was limited. However, the technology used in the tissues was applied to the field bandages and dressings used during the war effort, giving the company a big boost in publicity. Supplies of paper products returned to normal in 1945 after the war ended.

In 1941, Kleenex Mansize tissues were launched, as indicated by the name, this product was aimed at the male consumer. In 1949, a tissue for eyeglasses was released.

During the '50s, the spread of the popularity of the tissues continued to grow. In 1954, the tissue was the official sponsor on the popular television show, "The Perry Como Hour."

During the '60s, the company began successfully advertising the tissue during daytime programming rather than just nighttime television. SPACESAVER tissue packs were introduced, as well as purse packs and juniors. In 1967, the new square upright tissue box (BOUTIQUE) was introduced.

In 1981, the first scented tissue was introduced to the market (SOFTIQUE). In 1986, Kleenex started the "Bless You" advertising campaign. In 1998, the company first used a six-color printing process, allowing for complex prints on their tissues.

By the 2000s, Kleenex sold tissues in over 150 different countries. Kleenex with lotion, Ultra-Soft, and Anti-Viral products were all introduced. 

Where Did the Word Come From?

In 1924, when Kleenex tissues were first introduced to the public, they were intended to be used with cold cream to remove makeup and "clean" the face. The Kleen in Kleenex represented that "clean." The ex at the end of the word was tied to the company's other popular and successful product at the time, Kotex brand feminine napkins.

Generic Use of the Word Kleenex

The word Kleenex is now commonly used to describe any soft facial tissue. However, Kleenex is the trademarked name of the soft facial tissue manufactured and sold by the Kimberly-Clark Corporation.

How Kleenex Is Made

According to the Kimberly-Clark company, Kleenex tissue is made in the following way:

At the tissue manufacturing mills, bales of wood pulp are put into a machine called the hydrapulper, which resembles a giant electric mixer. The pulp and water is mixed to form a slurry of individual fibers in water called the stock.
As the stock moves to the machine, more water is added to make a thinner mixture which is more than 99 percent water. The cellulose fibers are then thoroughly separated in refiners before being formed into a sheet, on the forming section of the creped wadding machine. When the sheet comes off the machine a few seconds later, it is 95 percent fiber and only 5 percent water. Much of the water used in the process is recycled after being treated to remove contaminants prior to discharge.
A felt belt carries the sheet from the forming section to the drying section. In the drying section, the sheet is pressed onto the steam-heated drying cylinder and then scraped off the cylinder after it has been dried. The sheet is then wound into large rolls.
The large rolls are transferred to a rewinder, where two sheets of wadding (three sheets for Kleenex Ultra Soft and Lotion Facial Tissue products) are plied together before being further processed by calender rollers for additional softness and smoothness. After being cut and rewound, the finished rolls are tested and transferred to storage, ready for converting into Kleenex facial tissue.
In the converting department, numerous rolls are put on the multifolder, where in one continuous process, the tissue is interfolded, cut and put into Kleenex brand tissue cartons which are inserted into shipping containers. The interfolding causes a fresh tissue to pop out of the box as each tissue is removed.
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Your Citation
Bellis, Mary. "The History of Kleenex Tissue." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Bellis, Mary. (2021, February 16). The History of Kleenex Tissue. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "The History of Kleenex Tissue." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).