The Chemistry of Clothes Washing #1

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but from what little I do watch it seems that we no longer see ads on TV for laundry detergents or prewashes.

In marketing terms this generally means that the market is considered “mature” – that is, people have decided what they want and aren’t interested in being swayed by commercials.

It’s probably a fair comment, as the laundry detergent market has been through several phases and now pretty much each particular type of detergent has settled into its own niche.

Over the next few days we’ll have a look at these, but before we do that, we must consider the wider issue of washing clothes in general.  Specifically, we need to firstly look at what clothes actually are – that is, what they are made out of – what stains are, what detergents are, and how the three of these things interact.

That is, what chemicals in the detergents react with what chemicals in the clothes to remove them from the chemicals that are the clothes.  Or, to put all that another way, there are three classes of chemicals interacting here, clothes, stains, and detergents – they are all chemicals.

Over the next few days we’ll start to dig into some of these – and hopefully, you may understand a little bit more about this subject, to allow you to clean your clothes more efficiently.

And let’s be clear on this – the purpose of laundry detergent companies is not to allow you to clean your clothes, it’s to sell you things that will make them money.  If they could sell you sand in a laundry detergent box, they would.  But obviously sand wouldn’t work very well as a detergent, so they put some things in there to create in your mind the impression that they are cleaning your clothes.

Sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren’t.  But we’ll look at all this when we look at detergents – the various phases that the market has been through is the result of the way that we have been manipulated by the market, and it’s a fascinating story.  Stay tuned – tomorrow will look at the chemistry of clothes.

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