BUNZL Cleaning & Hygiene Supplies Blog

The History Of Swarfega: Celebrating 70 Years

If you are a plumber, heating engineer or a mechanic, then the hand cleaning gel Swarfega will be extremely familiar to you.

Created in 1947 by the Belper-based chemist Audley Bowdler Williamson, 2017 sees the 70th birthday of the well-known British brand.


Join us as we look at the history of the iconic product, uncover some little-known facts and discover how it has developed over the years.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the History of Swarfega

  1. There’s more to its name than meets the eye

Williamson created the Swarfega name based on ‘swarf’ meaning oil in Derbyshire and ‘ega’ as in ‘eager to clean’.

  1. It was invented for a very different purpose

The first product was called ‘Deb’, and was designed to be a silk ware protector. Intended to prevent laddering, the mild solution was applicable for hand-washing silk stockings. As the first version of the product was introduced around the time of the war, there wasn’t demand. At this time, silk was used primarily in parachute production, and following the introduction of nylon to the British market by the Americans, the silk stocking market was decimated. Things have certainly changed since then!

  1. The product is still proudly manufactured in close proximity to the site of the original factory

Now a global business, and recognised worldwide, Swarfega is still developed and manufactured in Denby, Derbyshire only a few miles away from the site of the original factory.

  1. The packaging is said to ‘ring’ when tapped

Many have reported that the original green gel which is still sold today to have ‘ringing’ qualities when the packaging is tapped. Combine that with its distinctive scent, it’s an incredibly unique product!

  1. The Swarfega range offers much more than skin care

Although originally known for its innovative skin care products, today the Swarfega range has expanded to include products for vehicle cleaning, degreasing and maintenance and surface cleaning.

Why has Swarfega become so important over the years?

Helping shape its success, the formulation has evolved as knowledge of the human skin has changed and the type of contaminants in use in the industry have moved on. We take a look at some of the applications where is has found itself to be hugely important below.


As discussed in our blog post, “How to Prevent Contact Dermatitis at Work”, oil, fuel, grease, abrasives, solvents, cleaning chemicals and refinishing paints are all irritants which can lead to the condition when handled on a daily basis. Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, employers have a number of duties and responsibilities for health and safety in the workplace. These include providing suitable washing facilities for all employees and providing necessary protective measures to manage the control of hazardous materials.

Vehicle Cleaning

Cars and other vehicles should be cleaned on a regular basis to remove road grime and salts which can accumulate on a vehicles’ surface, especially during winter months. Bodywork should be cleaned regularly with a low concentration Traffic Film Remover (TFR) to protect the surface. Of course keeping a vehicle in a good condition also helps with maintaining a company’s image when out and about on the roads.

Degreasing and Maintenance

Degreasing is essential for vehicle components, a machine or a piece of equipment. By doing so, it will help improve its efficiency and effectiveness, reduce ongoing maintenance and repair costs, help vehicles meet ongoing legislation requirements and keep machines, machinery, components, equipment and plant working.

Discussing the success of the product over 70 years, Managing director of Deb Group, Jeff Bell said,

“For any brand or product to stand the test of time for so long is a testament to the quality of the product, the ability of the staff to keep pace with an ever-changing world and the loyalty shown by generations of mechanics, technicians and engineers.

“We’re excited about the future for Swarfega, we’re keeping the existing products in the Swarfega range – as the saying goes: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, and as it’s a special year for Swarfega, there are a number of limited edition products coming out, so watch this space.”


Shop the Swarfega range now


At Bunzl Cleaning and Hygiene Supplies, we’re proud to stock a huge variety of Swarfega products, including the classics such as Swarfega Original Classic Hand Cleaner, the rapid action classic smooth green gel formula hand cleanser and Swarfega Heavy Duty Hand Cleaner which removes deeply ingrained oil, grease, tar, diesel, creosote, carbon.

You can also find dispenser systems which can help reduce overheads in a variety of scents, with Swarfega® Lemon and Swarfega® Orange both available which also offer free delivery. Shop the range now for all of these and other classics such as Swarfega Jizer Degreaser and Swarfega® Duck Oil.

Have you been using Swarfega for many years? Let us know by commenting below or by Tweeting @BunzlCleaning.

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