The name Lysol comes from a combination of the words "lysosome" and "solvent". The former comes from the name given to the cell organelle that produce digestive enzymes, the latter from the label given to liquids that rapidly dissolve solids, gasses or other liquids.
The active ingredient in many of the Lysol products is benzalkonium chloride.
The original formulation of Lysol contained cresols. This formulation may still be available commercially in some parts of the world. Formulations containing Chlorophenol are still available in the US.
In 1918, during the Spanish flu pandemic, Lehn & Fink, Inc. advertised Lysol disinfectant as an effective countermeasure to the influenza virus. Newspaper ads provided tips for preventing the spread of the disease, including washing sick-rooms and everything that came in contact with patients with Lysol. A small (US50¢) bottle made five gallons (19 litres) of disinfectant solution, and a smaller (US25¢) bottle 2 gallons (7.5 litres). The company also advertised the "unrefined" Lysol F. & F. (Farm & Factory) for use in factories and other large buildings — a 5-gallon (19 litre) can, when diluted as directed, made 50 gallons of disinfecting solution.
In the late 1920s Lysol disinfectant began being marketed by maker Lysol, Incorporated and distributor Lehn & Fink, Inc. as a feminine hygiene product. They intimated that vaginal douching with a Lysol solution prevented infections and vaginal odor, and thereby preserved marital bliss. This Lysol solution was also used as a birth control agent, as post-coital douching was a popular method of preventing pregnancy at that time. The use of Lysol was later discouraged by the medical community as it tended to eliminate the bacteria normal to the healthy vagina, thus allowing more robust, health-threatening bacteria to thrive, and may have masked more serious problems that certain odors indicated in the first place. All the same, Joseph De Lee, a prominent American obstetrician who held great sway over American obstetric practice through his writings, encouraged the use of Lysol during labor. "...[J]ust before introducing the hand, the vagina is liberally flushed with 1 per cent lysol solution squeezed from pledgets of cotton, the idea being to reduce the amount of infections matter unavoidably carried into the puerperal wounds and up into the uterus by the manipulations."
In the US, from around 1930 to 1960, vaginal douching with a Lysol disinfectant solution was the most popular form of birth control. US marketing ads printed testimonials from European "doctors" touting its safety and effectiveness. The American Medical Association later investigated these claims. They were unable to locate the cited "experts" and found that Lysol was not effective as a contraceptive.
Active Ingredients Ethanol/SD Alcohol 40 1-3% Isopropyl alcohol 1-2% p-Chloro-o-benzylphenol 5-6% Potassium hydroxide 3-4% Alkyl (C12-C18) dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride 0.08% Alkyl(C12-16)dimethylbenzylammonium chloride 0.02%
Ethanol/SD Alcohol - Highly flammable fluid that acts as sanitizer.
Isopropyl alcohol - Partly responsible for Lysol's strong odor. Acts as sanitizing agent, and removes odor.