The powdered form must be mixed in water prior to use; a liquid version is also available. The product name is a slang synonym for "clean". Although considered all-purpose, it is "not recommended for carpets, upholstery, aluminum, glass, laundry or mixing with bleach or ammonia".
Until 2001, Spic and Span was made by Procter & Gamble, a major international manufacturer of household and personal products based in Cincinnati, Ohio. This product has sponsored many soap operas, serving perhaps most notably as the main sponsor of Search for Tomorrow for two decades.
In January 2001, Shansby Group, a San Francisco investment firm, purchased the brand from P&G along with the Cinch line of multi-surface cleaning products. GTCR Golder Rauner acquired the brand in 2004, after a reformulation of the Spic and Span product line.
The product took the name from a common phrase meaning extremely clean, "spick and span", which was a British idiom first recorded in 1579, and used shortly afterwards in Samuel Pepys's diary. A spick was a spike or nail, a span was a very fresh wood chip, and thus the phrase meant clean and neat and all in place, as in being nailed down. The "span" in the idiom also is part of "brand span new", now more commonly rendered "brand spanking new", and has nothing to do with the words "Spanish" or "Hispanic".
Nevertheless, in 1999, the Mexican-American organization LatinosUSA organized a boycott against Spic and Span because of the use of the word spic, which is a derogatory term for a person of Latino descent. In addition, the term "spic and span" was used to derogate mixed-race couples of African American and Puerto Rican origin.