At the beginning of the 1920s, the American Leo Gerstenzang invented the first cotton bud.
The idea occurred to him whilst he watched his wife wrapping cotton wool around a toothpick to clean her baby’s ears.
Three years later he had built his first machine that could automatically wrap cotton wool around both ends of a wooden stick. He used birch wood, so that there would be no splinters.
By 1925 everything was ready to go. Leo Gerstenzang marketed his first cotton bud under the name "Baby Gays". As he felt the name was not easily marketable, he changed the name to "Q-tips Baby Gays" in 1926 and then later to "Q-tips". "Q" stands for quality and "tips" for the cotton wool tips.
Over the course of time, more novel ideas occurred to him. The sticks of cotton wool were no longer being used just to clean baby ears, but were also employed in many other areas, such as for removing makeup and nail polish, applying ointments, cleaning audio heads in cassette recorders, cleaning model railways and simply for crafts.