Sunday, 4 August 2019

Wash your silk stockings in Swarfega!

I was introduced to Swarfega industrial hand cleaner when, as a schoolboy, I worked in my holidays with steam powered traction engines. I discovered that handling carborundum paste, axle grease and gear oil provides ample opportunity to get one's hands dirty.

This was a real man's world and we teenagers espoused the dirt, the swearing and the drinking with varying degrees of success. The term 'street cred' had not been invented then but I suspect that this was what we were searching for.
'Just stick your hand in that tin of green jelly,' was the instruction and, hey presto, our hands would be cleaned.

I recently gave a talk in Belper, Derbyshire and was interested to discover that Swarfega was invented there. In 1941 a man called Williamson founded a company to manufacture a product for handwashing silk stockings. He called the company 'Deb Silkwear Protection Ltd.', the 'Deb' being an abbreviation of 'debutante'. His timing could have been better. In WW2 most silk production was turned over to manufacturing parachutes and then along came nylon stockings to displace the silk. Not to be discouraged he adapted the silk protection formula to produce an industrial hand cleaner for removing grease, oil and grit for use in the heavy engineering and motor industries. Swarfega was born.

Swarfega is still manufactured by Deb Ltd, in Derbyshire but just up the road in Denby, where the pottery comes from. I suppose that car mechanics can still wash their silk stockings in Swarfega should they so desire.

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