Understanding your laundry detergent


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During the middle ages the use of soap was considered unnatural. Some historians suggest the rejection of soap, and the associated lack of hygiene, may have contributed to the Black Death that ravaged Europe.

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Understanding your laundry detergent

  1. 1. Understanding Your Laundry DetergentHow clothes are cleanedMost people do not realize that it is the water in the washing machine that does most of the cleaning, notthe detergent. Primarily, it is the water that mixing with the dirt on the clothes that lifts off the soilingmatter and holds it in suspension. Then when the washing machine drains the water finishes the job bycarrying the dirt away with it.Question: So, if the water does the work, why do we need the detergent? Answer: Because the detergentmakes it all happen more efficiently.Although water appears to be one large body of fluid actually its not. In fact it is made up of minusculeballs of water because of a phenomenon called surface tension. The job of detergent is to break down thissurface tension. Once the surface tension is broken the water will mix better with other water molecules.By lowering its surface tension the water can be made to penetrate the clothing fabric rather than slide offits surface. So in effect the detergent makes the water more efficient. Some people describe it as makingthe water "slippery". The result is that the water can attack the dirt more aggressively, loosen it, and thenhold it until it can be washed away.Also, the detergent helps keep the dirt suspended within the water. This is necessary to prevent the dirtfrom reattaching itself to the clothing fabric.Detergent and hard waterWhen detergent is used in hard water it produces soap scum. Yes, the same stuff that makes that ringinside your bathtub. The harder the water the more soap scum.Water hardness is a measure of its mineral content. So, the more minerals, the more soap scum. The morescum, the less concentrated the detergent. Therefore, if your water is hard you need to compensate byusing more detergent. Conversely, the softer the water the less detergent is required to clean the clothes. Ifyou read the detergent box it will usually indicate how much detergent is needed for different waterhardness.Unsure of your water hardness? Telephone your municipality or water provider and ask for the waterhardness level. It is quoted in grains. That is, 2-4 grains is soft, 4-6 grains is medium, and above 6-8grains is hard water. If you dont know your water hardness, then experiment. Cut back on your detergent.If the clothes still come out clean, cut back further.Once the perfect amount of detergent required is determined continue to use this same amount for everyload. Always use a measuring cup to dispense your detergent. The plastic one that usually comes in thedetergent box is sufficient. Use a marking pen to draw a line on the measure so your proper quantity willbe consistent. Simply dumping out a quantity from the box is wasteful and will contribute to poorcleaning results.For more info: http://ecologicalsurfactants.com/