Douche-y Advertisements

Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Warning: what we're about to discuss today on Go Retro may make some readers uncomfortable, particularly the male ones. We're going "down there." We're talking about douche advertisements. These feminine hygiene products seem to have a prominent place in advertising history. Flip through any women's magazine from the 1970s and you're bound to come across some douche ads. It seems to have been the Decade of the Douche -- if you'll pardon my language. I could never figure it out, because by the 1970s, the birth control pill was readily available to both single and married women, and therefore douching products were no longer thought of as a means of birth control. (The dirty little secret about douches before the pill was introduced is that they were delicately disguised as spermicides.)

Perhaps it was the sexual revolution that led advertisers to think that women were suddenly paranoid about constant cleanliness and odor in the genital know, smelling good for their sexual partners. However, I sense a double standard's not like a man's crotch couldn't use a little help in this department from time to time (see the end of this post for Stephen Colbert's solution!) 

Douching products eventually fell out of favor because the general consensus among most doctors and health experts today is that douching is simply not necessary, thank goodness. In fact, they can do more harm then good by throwing off the natural PH levels in this part of the body, leading to yeast infections and other problems. The va-ja-jay has often been compared to a "self cleaning oven" as long as you shower/bathe regularly. Summer's Eve launched a new advertising campaign last year (using a hand to simulate a talking vagina) to reintroduce women to its products, but I've yet to meet a woman who admits to actually buying any of them. Besides, I think the vintage ads are more amusing.

So without further ado, here's some douche ads from the past century...most of these came from the Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health (yes, there really is such a site; check it out sometime) except for where otherwise noted.

"Using the wrong disinfectant may lead to very serious consequences." Like getting knocked up! At least, I think that's the subliminal message this 1928 Lysol ad seems to give. Little Junior waving goodbye to his parents seems to be an only child, so it must be working! 

By the way, the Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health reprinted this letter from an 89 year-old woman who had seen the above advertisement on their site. According to her testimonial, douches apparently were effective as a means of birth control: 

"I'm going on 89 years YOUNG . . . LOL . . . and was very amused by the Lysol douche ad. I don't know if I'm "still the girl my husband married" as I have pretty bad osteoarthritis (could it have been the Lysol?), but used Lysol as a douche and contraceptive ever since I married at age 17!! I had two children, both sons who turned out very well, in spite of the Lysol!! LOL

It's rather funny as I used it every day for many, many years because back in the early days, we didn't have the "Pill" and Lysol was used after "the act" to prevent unwanted pregnancies by just about every lady I knew, including my mother and grandmother who had just ONE child each."

I'm rather impressed that an 89 year-old grandmother is hip to what "LOL" means!

"It's foolish to risk your marriage happiness by being careless about feminine hygiene--even once!" The shame tactic was always quite popular when promoting intimate products.

Via FoundinMomsBasement
I love how Zonite was promoted as "safe for delicate tissues"...considering its prime ingredient was sodium hypochlorite...which is more commonly known as bleach or clorox. Not exactly the kind of thing one would want to be squirting into their nether regions. As early as 1914, Zonite was advertised as a multi-purpose household cleaning and personal care solution that did everything from disinfecting baby bottles to functioning as mouthwash (yuck.)

Via FoundInMomsBasement
By the 70s, douche ads were more straightforward--they really were advertised as eliminating odor. But did the contraptions really need to be this complicated?

Via Year of Denim
Not a douche ad; this one is for a feminine spray product, another women's consumer item that hit its stride during the 70s. This Vespre ad ran in Dolly, an Australian women's magazine that helped inspire the launch of Sassy. It's hysterical because I cannot imagine telling another woman that she has "intimate odor." And how would the other woman know unless her face had been right up against the blond's crotch? That must be some stench! 

About a year ago, Stephen Colbert poked fun at the modern Summer's Eve advertising and responded with a product of his own...hysterical! 


  1. It's a beautiful day in Pittsburgh today & HOW did I spend my lunch hour?! :)

    Pam thanks for this interesting look back--I was actually surprised about the 'Lysol Days'! Lord, thank you (again) for making me a man... :)

  2. The thing I have always wondered about when I see these old ads, is that the same Lysol in the brown and red bottle that is used to mop floors?

  3. Congrats, Doug, for being the first guy to comment on this post!

    Desdinova -- that's a good question; I'd say the formula had to be a watered down version, but then again I think Zonite was the same one used to clean everything.

  4. I know they suggest you water it down before using it on the floor. I posted one of these ads on my old blog and I had many people cringe at the idea of using Lysol for that purpose.

  5. I can't believe that all round multi purpose cleaner... brings all kinds of unpleasant images to my mind.

    I also can't believe that hail to the V... I waiting the whole entire segment to see the 'real' advertisement, since they all seemed like spoofs to me...
    I would like to know if that company actually got any sales via that ad.


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