Posted on April 4, 2016
Over the past decade, popular awareness about the environmental impact of everyday consumer products has exploded. While eco-friendly products were once a niche market reserved for those with a passion for environmental protection, today it has become increasingly common for a routine shopping trip to take the environment into account and eco-friendly options are now the default choice for even mainstream consumers. In response to growing demand, green laundry detergent manufacturers such as Ecover, Seventh Generation, Simple Green, and Method have emerged to compete with traditional players and are capturing a healthy portion of the marketshare. This push towards eco-friendly alternatives to traditional products has been so strong that detergent giant Procter & Gamble recently committed to eliminating phosphates from all of its laundry detergents globally within two years.1
However, phosphates aren’t the only ingredient that eco-conscious consumers are seeking to avoid. In fact, the list of objectionable ingredients is lengthy and includes many of the very things that make traditional laundry detergents both effective and appealing, such as optical brighteners, sodium lauryl sulfate, chlorine, ammonia, and petroleum solvents. Unfortunately, taking these components out of laundry detergents often compromises performance and consumers looking to incorporate eco-friendly products in their everyday routines are left unsatisfied with the results. According to Consumer Reports, “Green detergents may lack the enzymes and other chemicals that give many standard detergents their stain-fighting oomph.”2 For many consumers, this means having to choose between clean laundry and environmental ethics; as one review of green laundry detergent performance noted, “If you can look past the stain-fighting abilities of this one, it does have an impressive list of eco-claims.”3
The questionable performance of eco-friendly detergents as a group could threaten the economic viability of some brands. In order to bolster appeal and commercial success, it is critical that manufacturers of green laundry detergents carefully evaluate the performance of their products to ensure that they have the cleaning power necessary to satisfy consumers. Spectrophotometric instrumentation offers the best way to obtain objective, reliable performance data and analyze the efficacy of detergents.
Measuring the Performance of Green Laundry Detergents
The performance of green laundry detergents is inherently a question of color. Cleaning products should remove unwanted color changes in the form of stains while preserving the original color of the garment and preventing unnecessary color leeching. As such, laundry detergent performance analysis is a color measurement process that seeks to quantify the degree of color change.
Spectrophotometers are designed to easily capture color information and translate it into hard data to allow for the highest level of insight into color behavior. The versatility, accuracy, and flexibility of spectrophotometric instrumentation makes it ideally suited for analyzing textile color regardless of sample type; with proper sample preparation, the same instrument can be used to analyze everything from dyed denim to textured wool and smooth, shiny silks. By providing an objective, repeatable basis for color comparison, spectrophotometric analysis allows you to precisely capture the degree of stain removalprovided by a particular laundry detergent. Simultaneously, color fastness and detergent residue can be rapidly analyzed for a comprehensive picture of product performance.
However, the benefits of spectrophotometric analysis don’t just lie in the raw data; modern color measurement software packages such as HunterLab’s EasyMatch QC can correlate product performance with specific ingredients and other process variables to help you gain valuable insight into your formulation. With an unprecedented flexibility to collect, display, and analyze color data, you can easily compare different formulations and isolate variables to refine your chemistry and enhance performance. The information gained through this analytical process allows you to not only develop the best products possible, but also make accurate performance claims for use in advertising and marketing materials.
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