Sponsored by ATSKO the makers of U-V-Killer, No-O-Dor, Sport Wash and other products for hunters.
The Detergent Conspiracy – Pt 1
By Dan Gutting Vice-President Atsko, Inc.
Feb 22, 2009 – 5:44:06 AM
It seems like common sense that washing clothes would remove obvious dirt and everything else. You believe washed clothes are cleaner, but are they? If you believe that clean means there is less “stuff” in your clothes, the answer is certainly NO. How is this possible? How can this deception be maintained. How can so many people be wrong about such an obvious assumption?
Tests done in 1995 at the Clemson University School of Textiles and Polymer Science showed that washing in regular grocery store detergent actually added a measurable amount of weight (contamination) to the clothes. Washing added 2% of the weight of the cloth in just 10 washings. The residue was equal to the full amount of detergent recommended to wash clothes. Let me be specific about this. When you pour in the detergent before the wash cycle, the scoop of powder or cup of liquid, you use is equal to the amount of chemical you will have in your clothes after 10 washes. It doesn’t increase much beyond 10 washes because you reach a point where you are washing out as much as you are washing in.
This is not a closely guarded secret. The laundry ball and laundry disk products were based on the idea that for 30 days of use you would still have “clean” clothes from the detergent residue that was already in your clothes from your previous washings. This is a lot of chemical to wrap your body in 24/7. No wonder some people become sensitive to laundry products.
So what are these chemicals and why are they in our clothes. More important, what do they do to clothes and to us. There is a long list of chemicals in most laundry products. It would seem that if you can’t clean clothes with less than six chemicals, maybe you’re not focused on cleaning. The distinctions between green, natural and free, or between detergents and soaps are relatively small. Every washing agent should contain chemicals to separate soil from fabric and carry it away with the water. These are called surfactants and they do whatever cleaning occurs. All the other ingredients are there to help the surfactants or to make you believe your clothes are clean, and these must remain in your clothes to be effective.
Atsko has been teaching hunters about clean for more than two decades. The university research clearly establishes SPORT-WASH as the only detergent that rinses completely out of your camo. Why would you use anything else?
Two obvious additives are fragrance and brighteners. There are thousands of fragrances and over 200 brighteners which might be called dyes, colorants, color enhancers, color safe bleach, fluorescent whitening agents (FWA), etc. Then we add oils, silicones, and polymers to attach the fragrances and brighteners. Lubricants to make the fabrics less stiff, other lubricants for your washing machine pump, polyvinylpyrrolidone to seal the surfaces and ends of fibers, antiredeposition agents, perhaps sanitizers, enzymes and oxidizers, also softeners, and of coarse inert fillers so you know by the size of the expensive containers that you got your moneys worth.
These ingredients are almost universal across standard brands, greens, naturals, frees, and other specialties. For example most free and clear products will glow under a UV light, as will most brands declared “Safe” for army camouflage. The highest levels of fragrance are often found in “Baby” detergents. Perhaps, so you will be trained regarding how a clean baby should smell, or so your friends won’t be offended when the diaper needs changing. Detergents for colors and blacks have higher levels of polymer to hide the scattering “fading” caused by fiber erosion.
The latest news in home laundry detergents is P&G’s Proprietary Protective Fiber Complex . This goes beyond polymers to a new silicone complex that not only provides additional lubrication, but also forms little cells of oiliness to keep the silicone complex and other care ingredients from washing away.
This technology is especially important for HE machines. The new machines not only save water and power, but rinse clothes more completely. The designers of HE machines apparently are not part of the conspiracy. Better rinsing is good for you but makes it difficult for the detergent makers to leave enough residue to assure you that your clothes are clean. Detergent makers had initially been forced to add more of the “care” chemicals, but this new technology allows them to overcome the great rinsing performance of you new HE machine and attach exactly the right amount of residue to your clothes.
All this residue is not without consequence. It impacts every feature and benefit of modern high tech clothing. Wicking, breathability, rapid drying and water repellency are all degraded in just a few washings. Over time detergent residue actually erodes the fibers and color much as water and ice destroy mountains. Oxidizers and enzymes attack the smooth surface of the fibers causing tiny pits and fissures that hold particles of residue. As temperature and humidity change, these imperfections swell and shrink. The crystals force the pits and fissures to deepen the spread. The eroded surface scatters light causing colors to look bleached and faded and the fibers weaken, loose memory, and even break. Elastomers fail quicker than other fibers causing daily washed swimwear and exercise outfits to degrade in just a few weeks. Even the flame resistance of children’s 100% polyester sleepwear is lost. Detergent residue not only slows drying, but will rehydrate itself when dry by drawing moisture from the air or from you. PVP (polyvinylpyrrolidone) for example will hold 40% of its weight in water. Extra moisture reduces the efficiency of insulation. Insulation is also less able to loft up when coated with sticky residue, this further decreases effectiveness. Fabrics feel stiffer when coated with sticky chemicals because fibers cannot slip against each to allow a soft hand. Detergent manufacturers try to overcome some of this friction with silicone but deliberately leave some stiffness to ensure an opportunity to sell fabric softener. It is only a small exaggeration to say that washing clothes in regular detergents destroys them as fast as not washing them at all.
SPORT-WASH Laundry detergent is more economical than any other detergent available. ATSKO also makes a unique product to permanently remove optical brighteners from your camo. U-V-KILLER eliminates the brighteners which are found in camo. The benefit is that deer can see the brighteners so U-V-KILLER makes you invisible to the eyes of a whitetail. Now you camo is both residue and odor free and it can do its job to conceal you.
What are the effects of laundry residue on humans? An increasing slice of the population is experiencing episodes of eczema, psoriasis, and other reactive skin irritations loosely referred to as contact dermatitis. In cases where the irritation clearly stops where clothing contact stops, most pediatricians, dermatologists, and allergists will recommend elimination of fabric softener. This would be a halfway solution if it was possible, but within a few weeks the clothes become stiff and scratchy, causing the patient to return to using fabric softeners before the next disappointing visit. Since babies are perfumed from birth to smell like baby powder they have ample opportunity to develop sensitivity to laundry chemicals before their own immune system matures. Some people experience burning eyes, and headaches or nausea in the detergent isle, but most are conditioned to surround themselves with “Natural” fragrances and don’t ever connect the dots to the allergies and discomfort they spend good money to control.
IS THIS REALLY A CONSPIRACY
A conspiracy implies that people are secretly plotting to cause something. Everyone knows that diapers and baby detergents all smell like baby powder. Everybody knows what the detergent isle smells like at the grocery store. You may know someone who has spent a fortune on allergy shots; perhaps to be desensitized to one detergent he can use the rest of his life. There is no secrecy here.
So why don’t people choose clean instead of perfume, brighteners, and other residues? Why are scented candles and perfume considered desirable when they were originally invented to cover foul odor in ages before personal hygiene? Indeed, for most of the last 30 years, laundry care detergents have borrowed heavily from the personal care products industry. Much of the marketing is remarkably similar. The world leader in personal care also leads the pack in laundry care and they are both sold to the same consumers. We should not expect the world leaders to change the strategies that have succeeded for three generations, and we can expect that their competitors will continue to copy winning ways.
Does this mean that there will never be laundry products to simply clean your clothes and thus restore brand new performance? No, it just tells us not to expect “clean” from the world leaders. An alternative product, a Residue-Free Detergent (RFD), has been available for over 20 years. It grew out of necessity for special users like hunters, athletes, infants, and elderly where regular detergents simply don’t work. Now as the need for an RFD becomes more apparent, there are copy cat products making remarkably similar claims. Some make a feeble attempt to mimic our formulation but most simply follow the world leaders while applying a label that suggests suitability for the growing applications that require a Residue-Free Detergent. So the need and the product are here, but the conspiracy persists.