The History of Culligan Water

The history of Culligan Water is the story of one man's mission to make softer water accessible for everyone.

Our story begins in a hospital boiler room over 80 years ago. Let's dive in.

Who created Culligan water?

Emmett Culligan first became introduced to soft water in 1921 while his wife was giving birth. Emmett found his way to the hospital's boiler room. Which is where he began chatting with the maintenance superintendent about how the hospital was using zeolite to soften its water.
After hearing more about the benefits of soft water, Emmett began creating the technology needed to make soft water available for everyone.
While testing this idea at home, he created a homemade water softener that used two coffee cans and zeolite sand.
Over the next several years, Emmett worked tirelessly to establish what would eventually become Culligan water.
But before we continue with the history of Culligan water, let's explain what soft water is. And why Emmett made it his life's work to share it with other homeowners.

What is soft water?

To put it simply, soft water is water that contains few or no dissolved minerals. Such as calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese. However simple that definition may be, the technology behind it is a bit more technical.
Water softening involves a process called ion exchange. Which removes dissolved minerals that a filter won't catch. Basically, hard ions like calcium and magnesium exchange with sodium or potassium (salt) ions.
While Emmett's water softener looked different from the water softeners we know today, the concept is the same.
Water softeners use a resin tank where water runs through a bed of beads covered with sodium or potassium ions. As the water flows through the beads, the hard ions trade places with the softer ones, eliminating impurities in the water.
As water continues to undergo softening, the resin beads become exhausted over time. Therefore requiring regeneration. To regenerate or recharge the resin beads, you need to add salt to the brine tank.
Next, the calcium and magnesium are again swapped with sodium and potassium. And sediments are flushed from the beads into the wastewater drain. Finally, the tank is rinsed with fresh water and the system begins the water softening process all over again.
Now that we understand the basics of soft water, let's discuss some of the benefits.

What are the benefits of soft water?

Many of the soft water benefits identified in 1921 remain beneficial to homeowners today. By reducing the hardness of your water, you can:
  • Use less soap when bathing, laundering and cleaning, since soft water increases soap lather.
  • Reduce sticky soap residue and film on skin, hair, clothes and dishes.
  • Significantly decrease scale buildup in plumbing and appliances, ensuring efficient operation and increasing their lifespans.
  • Lower energy consumption and costs by improving water flow in your pipes and reducing scale buildup in water heaters.
  • Eliminate mineral-derived odors in your home.
  • Make household cleaning and maintenance easier and more cost-effective.

How did the Culligan water business get started?

In 1936, Emmett founded Culligan Zeolite Company in Northbrook, Illinois. But in order to create this product for more homeowners, he needed to find a place to produce Zeolite.
With an idea and only $50 in his pocket, Emmett leased land from the city council of Northbrook. He could then begin the mass production of Zeolite needed to make soft water possible.
After mastering the production of Zeolite, Emmett wanted to expand his business and make soft water accessible to people across the country. So he began franchising.

Where was the first Culligan water dealership?

The first Culligan dealership started in Wheaton, Illinois. And by the beginning of World War II, there were 150 new dealerships in the United States.
No new dealers began operating during the war. However, Culligan facilities were developed in San Bernardino, California, for the production of a dehydrating material called Silica Gel. Which protected metals from atmospheric corrosion.
As one of the largest suppliers of Silica Gel, the company was awarded an Army-Navy certificate for its contribution to the war effort.
In 1946, the company returned to expanding its dealer network. Within a few years, the Northbrook plant became the world's largest Zeolite manufacturing facility.
And in 1947, Northbrook added another two-story structure to its location. Plus, additional plant facilities were obtained in Evanston, Illinois.
Shortly after that, on October 13, 1951, the Northbrook Civic Organization proclaimed the day as "Culligan Day". The townspeople were invited to a square dance and barbecue to celebrate the opening of the new Culligan plant in their community.
As Culligan water's visibility began to grow, the company name changed from Culligan Zeolite Company to Culligan Incorporated in 1952.
Now that we know how the business expanded, let's learn how it became one of the most well-known water softening brands in the world.

How did the Culligan water brand receive recognition?

In a matter of years, Culligan water grew from local word-of-mouth acknowledgment to national recognition. With special thanks to print ads premiering in Life Magazine in 1947. And radio commercials introducing Hey Culligan! in 1958.
As recognition grew, franchises and product lines also expanded. And in 1970, the business named changed once again to Culligan International Company.
In 2007, Culligan water's headquarters moved to a new building in Rosemont, Illinois.
The new facility remains home to a state-of-the-art analytical laboratory certified by the State of Illinois EPA. Which is also compliant with National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Conference standards.

When did Culligan water develop some of its most well-known products?

Innovative water treatment and filtration solutions have always been part of Culligan water's history. But when were some of these popular products created?

Drinking Water Systems

In 1967, Culligan water introduced the first mass-produced reverse osmosis water treatment system.
Since then, reverse osmosis systems have evolved. But they still continue to provide better, safer and cleaner water for families across the globe.
Today, reverse osmosis water treatment systems are more advanced than ever before.
Now you can enjoy Culligan® water at the touch of a button. Something that Emmett would have only dreamed of! ClearLink PRO™ filters your water wirelessly, delivering clean, refreshing water from your main faucet.
This first-to-market wireless control is perfect for renters and homeowners alike. ClearLink PRO™ uses wireless technology to switch the main faucet between unfiltered and filtered water at the touch of a button.
In addition to providing reverse osmosis water at your main tap, Culligan water offers whole home water filtrations systems. So you can have fresh, great-tasting water at any faucet in your home.
Aside from installed solutions, Culligan offers bottled reverse osmosis water to be delivered to your home or office.

Bottled Water

In 1988, Culligan water made its move into the bottled water industry. Which included bottled water options for home and office. And a bottle delivery service for customers.
Now Culligan bottled water is more convenient than ever before. Not only is the bottled water delivery process easy, but the benefits to bottled water are endless.
Benefits of A Bottled Water Cooler:
  • Offers varied water temperature settings - hot, cool and cold.
  • Helps free up space on kitchen/office counters - bottled water coolers take up less than one square foot.
  • Provides various styles - easily match your water cooler to your décor.
  • Worry-free maintenance - your Culligan dealer will clean & sanitize your water cooler before or after delivery.
Along with Culligan bottled water coolers, Culligan water also features single-serve bottled water options.
And lastly, Culligan water has made great advances with their water softeners.

Water Softeners

In 2010, Culligan water released the Culligan® HE. Which became the world's most efficient water softener.
Today, these softening solutions provide you with the benefits of soft water. While also reducing your energy costs, Therefore saving you money.
And now you can even control your water softener on-the-go! Optimize your high-efficiency water softener's performance with a simple tap on the Culligan Connect™ app.
The Culligan Connect™ app is the latest innovation for HE water softeners. Making it even more convenient to conserve water and save energy.
Plus, Culligan water offers solutions that are salt-free.
Salt-free water conditioners are ideal for brine-restricted areas, small spaces and seasonal properties. Such as rentals, cabins or vacation homes. These portable exchange units give you some of the benefits of soft water without taking up the space of an installed water softener.
While the rich and storied history of Culligan water has shown us just how much the brand has grown, you may have one final question. What will they do next?

What's on tap for the future of Culligan water?

Culligan water continues to evolve and come up with new ways to improve water quality for homeowners and businesses across the nation. And even the world.
Our team of experts provides you with important information about your water. And they help you find the best water treatment and filtration solutions for your unique needs. So whatever your water worry, your local Culligan water dealer can assist.