A history of Initial since 1903 historical collage with blue hue

A History of Initial

For Washroom Services, Call Us On 0800 313 4972  or Contact Us Online

For Healthcare Waste, Call Us On 0800 030 4005  or Contact Us Online

A History of Initial

We have always been British owned, innovative and focused on building customer relationships, earning us a position of trust within the UK market. Initial have 120 years of expertise, providing businesses of all shapes and sizes, and across many sectors, with dependable and reliable hygiene services.

Scroll through our history to learn about our UK origins and how we came to be an established washroom hygiene and medical waste services provider with a local feel.

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120 years in the making

  • 1903

    Initial's founder Arthur Perkins Bigelow with wife Laura

    Initial is born

    Mr A. P. Bigelow, a soap salesperson in New York, spotted an opportunity in European linen supply services. His first innovation was simple, giving customers the same towels by marking each towel with the customer's initials.

  • 1920s

    Initial in the 1920s towel routeman on trike black and white

    Leading firm

    Initial quickly expanded across the UK. We opened our own laundry and floated on the London Stock Exchange by 1928, becoming the leading firm of our kind.

  • 1930s-1950s

    Initial roller towel being used by woman black and white historical photo

    Embracing the roller towel

    After three decades of success, our eye was caught by an American innovation - the roller towel! Spotting the product's advantages, we moved quickly in 1937 to become the first company to introduce the roller towel in the UK.

  • 1960s

    Initial van black and white historical photo

    Raining towels

    By 1963, Initial had 17,880 miles of roller towelling in circulation. If rolled out, the towelling would reach from London to Hong Kong almost three times! Initial acquired Dudley Industries to significantly boost production and cater for an ever-increasing demand.

  • 1970s

    Initial Medical technician holding sharps bin loading onto van

    Origins of Initial Medical

    It was at this time that Initial first explored the hazardous waste market by helping customers manage and safely store their medical waste. The Initial Medical brand owes its existence today to these humble beginnings, keeping customers compliant as healthcare waste legislation grows more complex.

  • 1980s

    Initial switched strategy to hygiene products in the 1980s, producing the Elite range shown here in the 2000s

    More than towels

    During this time, we noticed that many of our customers were not receiving the level and type of servicing they required for their washroom facilities. And so, before long, we used the might of our Dudley Industries production house to switch our strategy and to produce hygiene products. Our Initial Washroom Hygiene service emerged, focusing on delivering fresh smells, a more hygienic experience and a stylish look.

  • 1990s-2000s

    Initial colleagues in different countries

    Global success

    Initial entered South Africa, the Caribbean and Asia during the 1990s. 1996 was particularly significant; Rentokil, a world-renowned pest control provider, acquired Initial. This move marked the creation of the parent brand – Rentokil Initial – that we operate under today. By the end of the 2000s, Rentokil Initial was present in five continents worldwide.

  • 2013

    Initial Signature dispensers on wall in washroom

    Introducing Signature

    As we look back, the Signature range launch was a huge moment for Initial Washroom Hygiene. Signature is a stylish range of quality washroom products made from durable materials and designed to reduce the spread of germs. The range sets the bar for hygiene excellence and won the prestigious Red Dot Design Award in 2014.

  • 2018

    Papua New Guinea trees protected by Cool Earth and Initial in partnership

    Fighting the climate crisis

    We announced a new partnership with Cool Earth, helping to protect 42,000 hectares of rainforest. That equates to 20 million trees and 8 million tonnes of carbon stores. We have also funded seven 9,000L rainwater-harvesting tanks, used by communities during droughts.

  • 2020

    Initial electric van logo blue van green plug


    Since 2020, we have been trading fossil fuels for the power of electricity to service our customers. Our latest eco-friendly vans run on 100% electric power, helping to protect our environment.

  • 2021-2023

    VIRUSKILLER™ and AirTrinity air purifiers in indoor spaces

    Post-pandemic world

    The Coronavirus pandemic changed our customers' lives, so we adapted our services to help businesses safely return to work. Our VIRUSKILLER™ air purifier range launched in 2021, followed by AirTrinity in 2023. These air purifiers deliver clean, healthy air indoors, giving confidence to employees, customers and patients about their safety in your premises.

Why choose Initial Washroom Hygiene

Setting the standard for Hygiene and delivering safer work, public and leisure spaces across the UK, since 1903

Why choose Initial Medical

Setting the standard in healthcare and infectious waste management in the UK

1. Contact Initial

Contact us and we will arrange for your local hygiene team to be in touch.

  • Local, expert Customer Delivery Representatives
  • Calls are returned within 24 hours (Mon-Fri)

2. Site

An Initial Washroom Hygiene Consultant will perform a thorough inspection of your business and discuss your business's specific hygiene needs.

  • Virtual or in-person appointments available at a time of your convenience
  • Physical surveys will adhere to social distancing and face covering guidance

3. Tailored Solution

After finding out your needs, we will recommend a solution based on your specific requirements.

  • Hygiene solutions tailored to your business requirements
  • Products compliant with all hygiene and environmental regulations
  • Discreet installation with no disruption to your business

4. Ongoing Aftercare

Following your installation, we will stay in touch to ensure our products meet your requirements and recommend any other solutions that may be beneficial to you.

  • A dedicated Account Manager who will deal with any of your queries
  • Account reviews on a schedule to suit you
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