African American Pioneers in Cleaning

“If I see further, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.” – Sir Isaac Newton

Many of the cleaning supplies we have in our homes and use every day, and the ongoing sustainability innovations in this space, would not be possible without the contributions of people of color. For Black History Month, we are celebrating these pioneers.

Here are some noteworthy inventors of cleaning products, processes and equipment. Click on the links to learn more about their lives and cleaning inventions.

Thomas Jennings – Likely the first African American to hold a patent. He created a process of “dry scouring” clothes, patented in 1821. This eventually led to today’s dry-cleaning process.

Sarah Boone – An African American dressmaker who invented, and patented in 1892, the modern-day ironing board. The padding and curves of the board enabled garments to be moved and ironed while minimizing creasing.

Thomas Stewart – An African American inventor from Michigan who patented a new type of wringing mop. The mop had a removable head and used a lever for wringing to keep the user’s hands from getting wet and dirty.

Dennis W. Weatherby – A chemist who led the team at Procter & Gamble that created the automatic dishwasher detergent composition known as Cascade. He received the patent in 1987 at age 27.



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