Calgon is a brand registered trademark of different corporations. The original product consisted of powdered sodium hexametaphosphate (amorphous sodium polyphospate), which in water would complex with ambient calcium ion and certain other cations, preventing formation of unwanted salts and interference by those cations with the actions of soap or other detergents. Its name suggests "calcium gone". Originally promoted for general use in bathing and cleaning, it gave rise to derivative products which have diverged from the original composition.


The brands have their origin in Calgon, Inc. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which first put Calgon water softener on the market in 1933. It was acquired by Merck in 1968 and later broken up and sold off. Calgon was broken into:

Iconic advertisements

In North American pop culture, Calgon's advertisements have generated several popular catch phrases and/or definitions.

"Calgon, take me away!"

This commercial was for Calgon bath and beauty products.

In this advertisement, a woman is seen in a chaotic home scenario. As tension rises, she utters her famous line "Calgon, take me away!". The next scene shows her relaxing in a luxurious bath in a quiet room.

"Ancient Chinese secret, huh?"

A famous commercial from the early 70s, a classic that ran for years, was for Calgon Water Softener.

A Caucasian woman with an American accent asks "Mr. Lee" (played by Calvin Jung), a laundry shop owner, how he gets her shirts so clean. He replies, with what appears to be a Chinese accent, "Ancient Chinese secret."

The scene changes to Mrs. Lee, who is in an adjoining room. Mrs. Lee appears ethnically Chinese, but she speaks English with a thoroughly American accent (the voice was overdubbed in the commercial), and explains to the audience that her husband's "ancient Chinese secret" is that he uses Calgon water softener.

Mrs. Lee ultimately gives the secret away by sticking her head into the front room where Mr. Lee and the customer are standing, and shouts "We need more Calgon!" To which the customer replies "Ancient Chinese secret, huh?" while Mr. Lee accepts the exposure with good humor.

The actress playing Mrs. Lee, Anne Miyamoto, was actually Japanese-American.

Calgon water softener adverts in the United Kingdom, Ireland and in the rest of Europe promote the product solely on the basis of saving washing machines from breakdown rather than any benefits to the clothing in the wash, although the products on sale are identical to those in the United States. In Portugal, the Calgon advertisement jingle is the same popular one, for almost 30 years. In Italy, until May 2008, Calgon was called Calfort.

This line was again popularized in a Cascade commercial, when a woman inquisited her friend about her clean dishes to which she replied "Ancient Chinese Secret, huh?"


Calgon adverts across Europe feature the same phrase and jingle translated into the local language. They are as follows:

  • Bulgarian: "Пералнята живее по-дълго със Калгон."
  • Croatian: "Perilica dulje živi uz Calgon."
  • Dutch: "Wasmachines leven langer met Calgon."
  • English: "Washing machines live longer with Calgon."
  • French: "Les lave-linge durent plus longtemps avec Calgon."
  • German: "Waschmaschinen leben länger mit Calgon."
  • Hungarian: "Calgonnal a mosógép is tovább él."
  • Turkish: "Makinanız uzun yaşar Calgonla."
  • Italian: "La lavatrice vive di più con Calgon." (before 2008: "La lavatrice vive di più con Calfort")
  • Polish: "Dłuższe życie każdej pralki to Calgon."
  • Portuguese: "Poupe a vida da sua máquina, com Calgon."
  • Romanian: "Masina de spalat traieste mai mult cu Calgon."
  • Russian: "Пусть машина служит долго, Calgon."
  • Serbian: "Веш машина живи дуже уз Калгон"
  • Slovenian: "Da pralni stroj bo dlje živel, dodaj Calgon."
  • Spanish: "Alargue la vida de su lavadora, con Calgon."
  • Greek: "Το πλυντήριό σας ζεί περισσότερο, με Calgon."

Cultural references


  • In "Shake It Off", the third single from Mariah Carey's 2005 album The Emancipation of Mimi, Carey sings "Just like the Calgon commercial, I really gotta get up out of here..."
  • Kanye West's album Late Registration, the song "Gone" mentions "...and we used to bubble like a tub full of Calgon..." in reference to a dead friend.
  • The female punk band L7 also references Calgon in the song "Diet Pill" ("...Calgon can't take me away from the things I did today.") off their 1992 Bricks Are Heavy album.
  • Underground hip hop group, Modill, reference Calgon in their song "Send Me to Bliss" where MC Racecar details his frustrations with life and utters the line, "I should be concentrating spittin' rhymes like Parkay, thinking Playstation, Calgon, take me away!"
  • The band, Clem Snide, reference Calgon in their song, "Ancient Chinese Secret Blues" ("Calgon take me away") off their album, The Ghost of Fashion.
  • The group "Murders of the City" from Seattle reference Calgon in their song "Sympothty" when lead singer Billy Smort says, "I sometimes use Calgon to clean my anus."
  • Hip hop group Crooked Lettaz incorporate "Calgon, take me away!" into the chorus of the title track off their album, Grey Skies
  • Indie Hip Hop group Gym Class Heroes reference Calgon in the spoken word/poetry track "So Long Friend", when Travis McCoy laments "I need some of that Calgon take me away action, immediately". The Track appears on their The Papercut Chronicles album.
  • In the song "Bow Wow (That's My Name)" by Lil Bow Wow, guest rapper Snoop Dogg says "Calgon Calgon take me away, I'm in the dirty-dirty with my nephew J".
  • The Dixie Chicks' song "Cowboy Take Me Away" was inspired by the slogan "Calgon, take me away!"
  • The Incubus song, "Calgone" (off the S.C.I.E.N.C.E. album), was inspired by the product Calgon, prominently featured in the lines, "Thank goodness for bathtubs and suds".
  • The Urge (St. Louis Band) sing "like Calgon it takes me away" in their song "What is This" off of their album Too Much Stereo
  • The Vandals, an Orange County CA punk band, sing "It's your choice rice plain or fried/take a rickshaw ride/They make the whites so white and your colors so bright/ Ancient Chinese secret, huh?" in their song "Chinatown," available on their album "Fear of a Punk PLanet".
  • The Barenaked Ladies say "Ancient Chinese City, huh?" in their song "Crazy ABC Lyrics," available on their album "Snacktime".
  • In the context of bragging about how smooth he is with women, Big Daddy Kane references Calgon in his hit "I Get The Job Done" from his 1989 album It's a Big Daddy Thing.
  • Blinding Eye Dog, a Baltimore punk band mentions Calgon in their hit song "Flesh Like Calgon."

Television and Film

Bath and beauty

  • In the movie Beerfest, after Barry (Jay Chandrasekhar) finishes his very emotional and twisted story explaining why he can no longer play Beer Pong, Jan Wolfhouse (Paul Soter) turns to his brother, Todd (Erik Stolhanske) Wolfhouse, saying "Wow. So much to digest." Todd replies, "Calgon, take me away."
  • In a second-season episode of Roseanne, Roseanne declines to use "fragrances and oils from around the world". She then asks "Ain't you got no Calgon?"
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring Space Mutiny, (s08ep20) Mike Nelson and his robot pals make frequent quips regarding the main villiains' last name, Kalgan (which the other characters frequently pronounce like Calgon). They feature the verbal elements of the Calgon Advertisements, such as "Calgon, take me away." The reference also takes place in a number of different episodes, usually pertaining to water or bubbles in water.
  • In a second-season episode of Gilmore Girls, Lorelai replies to Luke with "Calgon, take me away."
  • In an episode of "The Nanny", Fran Fine says the famous line "Calgon take me away!".

Water softener

  • The Calgon water softener commercial was parodied in the television series Arrested Development (the "Sword of Destiny" episode from season 2). Lindsay Bluth recommends a store called "Ancient Chinese Secret", and her husband and brother reply in unison, "Ancient Chinese Secret, huh?"
  • On the Saturday Night Live episode hosted by Jackie Chan, a parody of the commercial is done. The parody is almost accurate, save for the part where Chan beats up a customer (played by Chris Parnell) for discovering the "Ancient Chinese Secret" and threatening to kill him if he reveals it.
  • In Wayne's World 2, Wayne asks his (Chinese-American) girlfriend Cassandra how she get his "clothes so white and fresh-smelling?" She replies that "It's an age-old Cantonese family method that very few people know about." Wayne then spots the Calgon and rejoins with "Wait a minute... Calgon? Ancient Chinese secret, huh?"
  • In 'Family Guy', when the family visits the U.N., Stewie looks in an open briefcase where the Chinese delegate sits and says, "Hidden missile silos behind the Great Wall...Ancient Chinese Secret, huh?" and takes a picture of the document.
  • In 'Bundle of Joy', a third season episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Geoffrey fantasizes about being overwhelmed following the addition of a new baby to the household, and returns to reality by yelling "Calgon, take me away!"


  • In Julie Kenner's thriller The Givenchy Code, the heroine refers (chapter 35) to an earlier sex scene in a shower as "the ultimate Calgon moment".


External links

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