Meet Frankie, the founder of the Dirt Company. If you haven’t already heard about Dirt, it is quite a wonderful thing. Simply put, Frankie decided to create a laundry detergent because she saw an opportunity to deliver a better product and experience, in a more sustainable way. She was able to create an extremely high performing laundry concentrate, that’s great on your clothes, skin, planet and hip-pocket. On her journey to develop Dirt, she obviously became quite knowledgeable when it comes to cleaning your clothes and how detergent works. So, we reached out and asked it she would be share this knowledge with us and with you.
You've probably not thought a heap about laundry detergent. You just buy it, use it, and if you like, rinse and repeat.
But the way laundry detergent does its job is actually pretty neat, if you're into science and stuff.
There are three main active 'cleaning' ingredients in laundry detergent;
Surfactants are the main ingredient in soap. You’ve seen them in action when you’ve squirted detergent into a greasy pan. The surface of the water wakes up, and all the little grease spots scurry away.
Because the molecules that make up that situation in your pan have ends that are either hydrophilic which means they are attracted to water, or hydrophobic, meaning they repel water and bond with oil and grease. Each type sick together, and will not bond between groups.
Enter surfactants. Surfactants are special molecules because they have an end that is attracted to water, and an end that is attracted to oil.
In laundry detergent, a surfactant molecule will hunt down the oil molecules on your clothes to bond with, and then thanks to the end already bonded to water in the formula and wash - dislodge the oil, ready to be washed away.
Pretty neat huh?
Enzymes work differently. They target and breakdown protein, the culprit behind many stains. There is a blend of several different types of enzymes in Dirt, each targeting a different type of stain such as starch, oil and grease. They actually somewhat 'digest' the protein in the stain, effectively removing it.
Enzymes give Dirt extremely strong stain removing power. If you spill some wine on your shirt you can apply a little bit of Dirt directly on the stain, leave it for half an hour before adding to a wash and the stain will be completely removed.
One thing to watch out for with enzymes, is they don't discriminate when it comes to finding protein to break down. Silk, wool and other animal based fabrics are all made up of protein fibre (animal fibre). You can see where we're going here... Enzymes might attempt to break down the protein in delicate, animal based fabrics - so it's best to use a wool or delicate detergent on these fabrics, because they will not contain enzymes.
Often fabrics contain wool or silk in very small quantities, i.e 20% wool, or 10% silk. In this case, the structure of your clothes is coming from whatever else the fabric is made from. If you’ve washed your delicates in regular detergent before, and it’s been fine - it stands to reason that you’ll have no problem continuing on or switching to Dirt.
If you’re not sure however, stick to a wool and delicates detergent. These contain surfactants, but not enzymes meaning the quality of the clean is diminished, but the overall result will be, 100% you can wear that again.
Scents. The final active ingredient, does exactly what you imagine it would. It makes things smell nice.
If the detergent's scent is made from essential oils (like Dirt), a nice smell is simply added to the mix.
If the detergent's scent is natural or in some cases 'eco', it'll likely contain a blend of essential oils and synthesised variations that are naturally derived and 'mimic' natural scents. It's a little stronger than a scent made up of pure essential oils, but it works the same way, adding a nice smell into the mix.
If the detergents scent is synthetic, it'll contain synthesised scented chemicals, that actually bond with bad odours and mask them. That's how you get that really strong laundry smell, if that's what you're into.
So there you have it, the active ingredients that make detergent tick.
The other ingredients you see on the label, all take supporting roles - science for another blog.
If you are on the hunt for new laundry detergent, then head on over to the Dirt Company, tou can grab one HERE
and make sure to follow their journey HERE