Posts Tagged ‘Laundry Detergent’

October 6, 2011

The Dirt on Detergent

It has been known for hundreds of years that alkali solutions (solutions with a high pH, the opposite of acids) remove dirt from clothing. This is why lye was once used as a detergent.  Most of today’s laundry detergents are anionic surfactants that become alkaline in wash water.  A surfactant is something that can dissolve (or dissolve in) two dissimilar substances – like oil and water, for example.  An anion is a negatively-charged particle.  Since dirt is largely positively-charged, the negatively-charged anions from the detergent attach to it, and then the complex dissolves in the wash water, away from the clothing.

Hard water contains a lot of positively-charged calcium and magnesium ions.  Remember that dirt is also positively-charged.  This means that the detergent must chelate, or “lock up” the calcium and magnesium ions before it can affectively clean.  This explains why hard water requires more soap for cleaning.  The chelating agents in detergent combined with calcium and magnesium ions often appear as soap scum.  Animal fibers (silk and wool) are not affected by alkaline wash solutions – this is why they need dry-cleaning.  Some non-ionic (neutral) detergents may be used for these fabrics.

Fabric softeners are positively-charged surfactants.  They are acidic in water.  They alter the surface of the fibers so they feel soft to the touch.  They also may remove some residual soap and dirt particles from the fabric.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 2 Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Water Quality August 25, 2011

FAQ: Is it Something in the Water?

Q:  No matter how often I wash my towels or what detergent I use, they retain a musty odor.  Is it something in the water?  What can I do to get them fresh-smelling?
     
A:  This is a very common observation that is almost never caused by the water.  Ironically, all that washing could be part of the problem, especially if you’re using an excessive amount of detergent.  If the detergent isn’t completely rinsed out of the towels, mold will grow on the residue, causing a musty odor.
     Cutting back on detergent might solve the problem, especially if during the rinse cycle you add a half-cup of white vinegar or baking soda to neutralize the odor.
     It’s more likely, however, that your washing machine itself is the culprit.  Or rather, the smelly fungus that can grow inside the washer, especially on the rubber or plastic seals, gaskets and hoses.
     Because towels are thicker and more absorbent than most items that go through the wash, they trap more fungus — and therefore the musty odor is more noticeable.
     The easiest way to solve this problem is to do a “maintenance wash” with no clothes or detergent, using hot water.  Using a small dose of bleach in your maintenance wash should help.  Some people also find using a small amount of lemon juice or ammonia instead of bleach solves the problem.  One maintenance wash per month is a good idea if this is a chronic problem.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Water Quality