The History of Reckitts & Where it is Now

What is Reckitts?

Reckitts is a well known company that provides us with health and hygiene products. Find out how a starch manufacturer from Hull became one of the biggest names in health and hygiene.

Page Contents:

The Beginning of Reckitts

In 1792, a man called Isaac Reckitt was born. He and his Quaker family lived in the Boston area of Lincolnshire.

Isaac married a lady called Ann in 1840. A short while after their wedding, they decided to move to Kingston Upon Hull.

On the 1st of October during the same year that they moved, Isaac opened a Starch Works. He was able to do this with the help of his friends and his brother John who gave the couple loans.

It was then that Isaac was able to start producing starch made from wheat flour to create laundry detergent. He decided to add a blue pigment called smalt which helped to whiten their Reckitt’s Blue.


During the early years of the business, travel wasn’t an option. As a result, they sold their product only in the Hull area.

Isaac and Ann had a son called George who joined the business in 1843 when he was just 18 years old. George became a travelling agent for the company.

A year later in 1844, they began to sell Soluble Starch. George extended the company’s distribution area to places such as Newcastle in the North and London in the South.

Reckitt Blauw Packaging, Photo Credit, Reckitt Henk Albert Deklierk, Wikipedia, Creative Commons
Reckitt Blauw Packaging, Photo Credit, Reckitt Henk Albert Deklierk, Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Isaac and George tried to find a new source of farina, a cereal similar to semolina, in 1846. Instead, they ended up creating a formula for obtaining starch from sago flour.

In 1848, George became a partner in the business. As a result, Isaac and George decided to rename it Reckitt & Son.

George’s brothers Francis and James also later joined the company. They both joined George on the road travelling the country to sell their product Reckitt’s Blue.

All three brothers understood the power of advertising. However, they knew that they couldn’t cover the full country.

They banded together to form a plan. The brothers were able to persuade their father Isaac to produce framed show cards.

These were to be displayed in shops that sold their product. This also included handbills that could be delivered door-to-door.

In 1851, they also took a stand at the Great Exhibition. A year later, they began to introduce new lines such as Laundry Blue and Black-Lead.

Isaac was fortunate enough to be able to pay off all of his original debts in 1858. This also included him being able to buy the factory outright.

When Isaac died in 1862, the business was passed down to all three sons. They became equal partners of Reckitt & Sons.

17 years later in 1870, the brothers decided to make the business a limited company. As a result, the name changed to Reckitt & Sons Ltd.

How Reckitts became what it is today

The company became a big household name in Britain. It also started to see big export sales, particularly from Canada and New Zealand.

In 1873, they introduced their new product Paris Blue. Internationally, this proved to be a great success.

Their rivals, Yorkshire Dolly Blue, were located in the South of England. Although Reckitt & Sons were successful internationally, they still fell short to their rivals in Britain.

In order to turn this around, they decided to introduce a new product. This was Bag Blue which quickly became their signature product.

Their product ranges continued to expand. In the first half of the 20th Century, households were using well known items that we still use today.

In 1905, Brasso was created. People used this item as a polish in its native Australia.

The popular disinfectant ‘Dettol’ was also introduced to the Reckitt’s range in the 1930’s. This was closely followed by Lemsip, a cold remedy made by the company along with many others.

In 1938, Reckitts and Sons decided to merge with Colman’s – the mustard maker from Norwich. This led to another name change for the business – Reckitt & Colman.

Reckitt & Colman continued to expand and had its biggest merger with Dutch company Benckiser in 1999. The business changed its name to Reckitts-Benckiser or RB for short.

Where Reckitts is now

Throughout the 2000’s, RB required several acquisitions. These included Nurofen, Strepsils, Clearasil (2005), Scholl footcare, and Durex condoms (2010).

As a result, this merger led them to move their headquarters to Slough. However, their original factory remains on Dansom Lane in Hull.

The company announced a £100 million investment for new research and development facilities at their Hull premises. This safeguarded 1,200 jobs while also creating new ones.

The Reckitts business were able to stay in their home city thanks to this investment. Currently, they are continuing to develop these brands and create new products.