Clorox Bottles: A Key to Their Indetification and Date of Manufacture

Linda C. Sandelin
Associate State Archaeologist
June 11, 1998

This paper was written to be used by foresters and other resource professionals as part of CAL FIRE's Archaeological Training Program. Information on the dating of Clorox bottles may prove to be a valuable tool during the evaluation of historical sites since these items are frequently found in historic trash dumps. These bottles have distinctive markings allowing for a precise way to date the bottle; therefore one can fairly accurately date a site containing Clorox bottles. Information on dates and characteristics about Clorox Bottles was obtained for this paper from communication with The Clorox Company.

Established in Oakland, California, the Electro-Alkaline Company in 1913 began manufacturing liquid bleach for industrial purposes in 5-gallon crockery containers. The label with the diamond shaped design and word "Clorox" in the center originated at this time. Clorox bleach was used primarily in Oakland's laundries, breweries, walnut processing sheds, and local municipal water companies. These five-gallon containers were the company's only form of manufacture until 1918 when, in order to save the company from foreclosure, Electro-Alkaline expanded into the individual household market by manufacturing 15-ounce amber glass "pint" containers with rubber stoppers. This new household version quickly gained popularity and the company distributed their product throughout the country. From 1918 through 1928 the amber glass containers were used by many other companies, which bottled a variety of liquid products. Therefore, unless the paper label is on the bottle or the stopper that has the Clorox name on it is still attached, one can not determine if it is indeed a Clorox bottle.

In 1928 the company went public and became the Clorox Chemical Company. From 1929 on, "Clorox" glass bottles with rubber stoppers became distinguishable by numerous characteristics. From 1929 through 1930 the Clorox diamond trademark was found on the bottom of the bottle. The rubber stoppers had the word "Clorox" on the top. In 1931, "Clorox" was added in solid lettering to the neck and shoulder and in 1932 to the heel as well. Starting in 1933 the contents were identified and four years later a fill line was included under the content identification. The neck area was widened to 3" circumference in 1938. The following year saw the advent of their half-gallon jug with a finger-ring. A major bottle design change occurred in 1940 when the threaded neck appeared and screw caps replaced rubber stoppers. No other changes occurred to the bottles over the next five years. A grained texture was included on the shoulder and heel in 1945. The one-gallon container with a finger ring handle was introduced during this time. In 1951 outline lettering replaced the solid lettering which had been used for twenty years. The grained texture extended down the label panel. In 1955 the raised fill line replaced the side content identification. A two-fingered handle replaced the finger-ring for both the gallon and half-gallon bottles. In 1958 the grained texture was removed from the side of the label panel and remained only on the shoulder and heel. In 1959 the neck area on pints and quarts became more streamlined and bulb shaped: The four-finger handle on gallon and half-gallon jugs made its debut. Conversion to white, polyethylene plastic bottles began in 1960 and completely phased out glass Clorox bottles by 1962.

Reference: Letter report to CAL FIRE Archaeologist Linda Sandelin from Kedron C. Miller, Product Specialist, Clorox Company 5/20/98, on file at the CAL FIRE Archaeology Office, Fresno

  • 1932: Solid lettering on neck, shoulder and heel. Rubber stoppers used to seal opening.
  • 1937: Solid lettering on neck, shoulder and heel, fill line just under ounce identification. Rubber stoppers used to seal opening.

  • 1938-39: Solid lettering on neck, shoulder and heel, fill line just below ounce identification. Neck area widens to 3-4/16" around. Rubber stoppers used to seal opening.

  • 1940-44: Threaded neck appears, used with screw on lid. Other characteristics same as 1938-39 (Solid lettering on neck, shoulder and heel, fill line just under ounce identification. Neck area 3-4/16" around.

  • 1945-1950: A grained texture was added on shoulder and heel. Fill line above ounce identification. All other characteristics same as 1940-44 (Solid lettering on neck, shoulder and heel. Neck area 3-4/16" around.)

  • 1951-1954: Outline lettering replaces solid lettering; grained texture on shoulder, heel and extending down label panel, fill line does not show ounce identification. Threaded neck.

  • 1951-1955 Finger ring handle on one-gallon bottle.