What Exactly Does the “Q” in “Q-tips” Stand For?

Updated: May 27, 2021

Q-tips are everywhere. You can find them in bathrooms, in doctor's office, and in episodes of CSI. But what exactly does the name mean?

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Q-tips, those hygienic products that you can use for everything from “gently applying ointments and creams,” to “clean[ing] and dust [ing] even hard to reach places,” are staples of doctor’s offices and medicine cabinets the whole world over. It’s no mystery that people often ignore the company’s warnings and use them as implements of ear-cleaning, but you know what is a mystery? What in the heck the Q means. It’s probably one of the little things you’ve always wondered about.

The product name certainly rolls off the tongue better than the generic “cotton swab” name, that’s for sure. That’s because it’s a quality name. A quality name that means “Quality tips.”

That’s right, the Q stands for quality. Q-tips were first conceived by Leo Gerstenzang, who observed his wife stick bits of cotton to toothpicks. He decided that his wife had the right idea and decided to found the Leo Gerstenzang Infant Novelty Co. in 1923, which would manufacture ready to use cotton swabs. Here are 25 words that don’t mean what you think they do

But the product wouldn’t pick up its now famous name until 1926. For the first three years, the cotton swabs were called “Baby Gays,” which the company would be modified to become “Q-tips® Baby Gays.” Eventually, they dropped “Baby Gays” altogether and were just left with Q-tips. Want some more Q-tip ideas? Make sure to check out these clever ways to use Q-tips you wish you knew all along.