Nalco Water was founded as National Aluminate Corporation in 1928 through a merger of Chicago Chemical Company and Aluminate Sales Corporation, two Chicago-based companies selling sodium aluminate to treat water. Chicago Chemical Company sold mainly to municipalities and industrial plants for boiler feedwater treatment. Aluminate Sales Corporation sold to the railroads to condition the water used in steam locomotives.
In 1929, National Aluminate organized a small company in Texas called Visco Products Company to also sell sodium aluminate as an additive for drilling mud used in oil wells. This helped establish Nalco in the oil industry. The replacement of steam locomotives by diesel units eliminated virtually half of Nalco’s business in the United Sates. This proved a real turning point for the Company as it realized the need for diversification. Diesel fuel oil treatments and combustion catalysts, along with weed control chemicals for railroads created opportunities for Nalco in larger industrial markets.
The Company name was officially changed to Nalco Chemical Company in 1959 to reflect the broadening scope of activity. Within Nalco’s research and development efforts, there was significant movement from inorganic to organic chemistry and Nalco pioneered the development of important synthetic polymers for use in water treatment.