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Calgon is a brand registered trademark of different corporations. The original product consisted of powdered sodium hexametaphosphate (amorphous sodium polyphospate), which in water would complex with ambient calcium ion and certain other cations, preventing formation of unwanted salts and interference by those cations with the actions of soap or other detergents. Its name was a portmanteau derived from the phrase "calcium gone". Originally promoted for general use in bathing and cleaning, it gave rise to derivative products which have diverged from the original composition. Today, Calgon water softener contains the active ingredients zeolite and polycarboxylate, which are less problematic in wastewater treatment than phosphates.
The brands have their origin in Calgon, Inc. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which first put Calgon water softener on the market in 1933. It was acquired by Merck in 1968 and later broken up and sold off. Calgon was broken into:
In North American popular culture, Calgon's advertisements have generated several popular catchphrases and/or definitions, which have been referenced in numerous subsequent songs, television shows, and motion pictures.
This commercial was for Calgon bath and beauty products.
In this advertisement, a woman wearing a fluffy pink robe is seen in a chaotic home scenario. As tension rises, she utters the slogan "Calgon, take me away!" The next scene shows her relaxing in a bath in a quiet room.
A set of commercials from the early 70s that ran for years was for Calgon powdered water softener for laundry. They were set in a Chinese laundry somewhere in Anytown, USA.
A Caucasian lady customer at the counter (American actress and director Nancy Weiner) asks "Mr. Lee" (played by Chinese- American actor, Calvin Jung), "How do you get your shirts so white?" He puts a finger to his lips and says, with a light Chinese accent, "Ancient Chinese secret."
The scene shifts to Mrs. Lee (Japanese-American actress, Anne Miyamoto) in the back room, who overhears her husband and says - in a perfectly flat Midwestern accent - "My husband! Some hotshot! Here's his "Ancient Chinese Secret" - new formula Calgon!"
The customer is just about to exit the laundry when Mrs. Lee, having extolled the virtues of new formula Calgon - how, when added to rinse water, it helps make clothes 30% cleaner - pops her head around the door frame and calls to her husband, "We need more Calgon!" This prompts the customer to turn around from the door and stare daggers at Mr. Lee as she says, "Ancient Chinese Secret, huh?" Mr. Lee simply smiles and shrugs his shoulders.
Calgon water softener adverts in the United Kingdom, Ireland and in the rest of Europe promote the product solely on the basis of saving washing machines from breakdown rather than any benefits to the clothing in the wash, although the products on sale are identical to those in the United States. In Portugal, the Calgon advertisement jingle is the same popular one, for almost 30 years. In Italy, until Spring 2008, Calgon was called Calfort.
Calgon water softener adverts across Europe feature the same phrase and jingle translated into the local language.  They are as follows:
In May 2011 a study by Which? magazine demonstrated that there was no evidence to suggest that washing machines do last longer when treated with Calgon under "normal" washing conditions. Calgon disputes this. In October 2011, Dutch TROS TV program Radar also concluded Calgon water softener is not necessary under "normal" washing conditions for Dutch customers. 
The slogan "Calgon, take me away!" has been referenced in a number of forms of entertainment.
On rock band Incubus album S.C.I.E.N.C.E., the final track is entitled "Calgone." The song tells about the central character's worst day ever, which includes a flat tire and being abducted by aliens. At one point in the lyric, Brandon Boyd sings, "Thank goodness for bathtubs and suds."
The slogan "Ancient Chinese secret, huh?" has also been a reference in a number of forms of entertainment.
In the 1993 film Wayne's World 2, Wayne is sitting on his girlfriend's bed when they start talking about laundry. Wayne asks how she gets the laundry so clean. Casandra, portrayed by Tia Carrere, says "It's an ancient Chinese secret." Wayne, portrayed by Mike Myers, says, "Ancient Chinese secret, huh?" while looking directly into the camera with a box of Calgon in his hand.
In the Arrested Development episode Sword of Destiny, Lindsay recommends a Chinese herbal store called Ancient Chinese Secret to her brother, Michael. Michael and Tobias respond, in unison, "Ancient Chinese Secret, huh?", a reference to the 1970s Calgon commercial.
Indie band Clem Snide has a song titled "Ancient Chinese Secret Blues." The final lyrics of the song are "Calgon, take me away".