N.V. Lever’s Zeep Maatschappij

Abandoned: 2008

Demolished: 2015

Visited: 2014

Vlaardingen, The Netherlands

Lever Brothers was a British manufacturer founded in 1885 by William Hesketh Lever (1851–1925) and his brother, James Darcy Lever (1854–1910). The brothers had invested in, and promoted a new soap making process invented by chemist William Hough Watson. It was a huge success. Watson invented the process which resulted in a new soap, using glycerin and vegetable oils. The resulting soap was a good, free-lathering soap, at first named Honey Soap then later named ‘Sunlight Soap’. Production reached 450 tons per week by 1888.

Sunlight Soap

Sunlight Soap was introduced in The Netherlands in 1901. Because of the big demand, they had built a soapfactory in Vlaardingen, close to Rotterdam. During 1917 the factory was opened and produced Sunlight Soap exclusively. In 1921 the factory also brought the abrasive powder Vim on the market, in 1922 followed by soap powder Rinso. In 1929 was also the toilet soap brand Lux introduced.


Midst 1929 Lever merged with the Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie, founding Unilever. The occupation during the Second World War caused a lack of raw materials. Many products were no longer manufactured. On 14 February 1945 the factory was used as a launching pad for V1 rockets, that led to a bombardment by the British. After liberation, the production was resumed. In 1952 the synthetic detergent was branded Omo, followed by Sunil and Lux Liquid at the end of the 1950s. The detergent Andy was first produced in 1960. In 1971 came the detergent Bontkracht on the market as well as the liquid abrasive Jif . All this and more was produced in Vlaardingen. All this led to name changes, in 1976 it was: Lever Sunlight , in 1986 it became Lever BV, and in 1998 became the Lever Faberge Sourcing Unit Vlaardingen.

They started to specialize in liquid household cleaners, including international brands Cif and Domestos. Production rose to 150 million bottles per year. Nevertheless, the factory was closed in 2008, along with two other Unilever factories.

Photos N.V. Lever’s Zeep Maatschappij

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