Maybe you don’t want green cleaners

Turn off your lights! Fossil fuels are evil! Buy hybrid cars! Clean you home the green way! Be environmentally responsible. Vomit green if you have to!

It’s everywhere, and very little of it is completely understandable which causes much confusion. For instance the tiny electric car which, since it was electric was subsidized 50% by the state government and 25% buy the federal which made a 16000$ car a mere 4000$. Impressive. Makes me think that someone forgot to tell the governments that all the power plants in Oklahoma and most in the US still burn fossil fuels to make electricity. Of course the cars and plants are more efficient–for one thing they are tiny–but probably not worth the government footing 75% of the bill.

But the products that are making me laugh right now are the green household cleaners. I love the commercials (like this one, which makes me squirm–especially the octopus part) which say things like “stop torturing our aquatic life,” “say no to hazardous chemicals,” and “use a safe and natural way to clean.” So here’s the problem:

The main ingredient in nearly all of these “green” cleaners is going to be (and has been in all that I’ve seen) SDS or sodium dodecyl sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate–It’s all the same. It’s a nice molecule. It makes some nice bubbles, cleans really well, and is cool with dissolving in small amounts of water so it doesn’t fall out of solution and create soap scum. It’s a biodegradable surfactant that is created by combining sulfuric acid and a 12 carbon chain.

But wait! Guess what is the main ingredient in all of your not-so-”green” household cleaners? If you guessed not SDS, you are totally wrong!

So what is so special about this surfactant that makes it greener when it is exactly the same thing?! Well, it’s how they make it. Most industrial surfactants are made from petroleum products. But certain surfactants can be made from the oils of plants (like from the palm kernel) that come out to be the exact same molecule. The only problem with this is that there are not nearly enough palm plants in the world to produce the surfactant we consume, so most often, petroleum is used. Which is fine. It is the same molecule and just as biodegradable, it just comes from a different source.

These companies try and come across as though you are using less harsh chemicals that are better for the environment, and in the case of a small percentage of their products (such as disinfectants where they use antiseptic plant oils instead of bleach) they are. But in the majority of their products, they are simply trying to reduce our dependence on oil. Which is probably a laudable effort on its own. But they are pretty much straight up lying to you if they say the chemicals in their products will ‘torture aquatic life’ less than your old dish soap.

Posted in cleaners, SDS
3 comments on “Maybe you don’t want green cleaners
  1. blog says:

    Seems to me that it’s a decent idea to convince people to switch to electric cars, because in the end, it gives us one point of conversion rather than millions. Once a significant portion of the population is using electric cars, we can make a much larger impact by switching over to nuclear or sun or wind power plants than we could if everyone still had their own little fossil fuel power plant in their car.

  2. Mike says:

    Well, that was dumb of Blogger – it didn’t even use my open id name correctly… This is Mike, by the way.

  3. Alisha says:

    I think sometimes they use citrus. maybe? I saw on TV, some guy making cleaners from pineapples. YUmmy!

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