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September 14, 2021 Home

The Origins of “Elbow Grease”

While none of us, we hope, has grease emanating from our elbows, we all accept the existence of the term “elbow grease”. Oxford Languages defines “elbow grease” as “hard physical work, especially vigorous polishing or cleaning”. When someone tells us to throw a little elbow grease on something, we know they’re asking for a little extra effort. At The Simple Scrub, we believe that elbows should be greaseless and cleaning should be easy, but we still want to explore how this strange phrase came to be. Keep reading for a little lesson on elbow grease.


(1.) Travel Back to 1672

The first time the phrase “elbow grease” made it to print was in 1672. An English metaphysical poet named Andrew Marvell used the words in a satirical book about English parliament. Marvell wrote Two or three brawny Fellows in a Corner, with meer Ink and Elbow-grease, do more Harm than an Hundred systematical Divines with their sweaty Preaching. Okay, Andy, why don’t you tell us how you really feel? In 1699, the phrase “elbow grease” appeared in the “New Dictionary of the Canting Crew” defined as “a derisory Term for Sweat”. The phrase had existed for sometime before that, known as “the best substance for polishing furniture”.


(2.) Travel Around the World

English isn’t the only language that has instances of this idiom. In fact, the phrase “elbow grease” is used in 70 languages around the world. In France they have “huile de bras” which translates to English as “arm oil”. And the Danish use “knofedt” which literally means “knuckle fat”. The commonality of this phrase indicates that cleaning is a universally challenging experience, requiring physical exertion from the arms and the rest of the body.


(3.) Find a Substitute

You’ve probably heard people say “there’s no substitute for good ol’ elbow grease”, or similar, when you’re setting out to do something that’s a chore. The implication is that it’s good to break your body a bit when the outcome is nice. But how can you enjoy a clean home when you’ve drained your body of all that knuckle fat, arm oil, and elbow grease? When the term was first coined, the people exerting the elbow grease were not generally the people enjoying a lush, clean manor. As the world has changed, more people have looked for better substitutions for cleaning that don’t require as much physical labor.


Replace Elbow Grease with The Simple Scrub

At The Simple Scrub, we believe that your grease should stay inside your elbows! In fact, we think your knees, back, and the rest of your body shouldn’t be rung out by cleaning. That’s why we created The Simple Scrub, a unique cleaning brush with a long handle, ergonomic grip, and strong but scratch-proof cleaning pads. Stay upright, and let the simple but smart technology of The Simple Scrub cleaning brush be a replacement for all that elbow grease we’ve been ringing out for thousands of years. Discover a better, elbow-grease-free cleaning brush by shopping today at