Physiochemical and Performance Parameters
Active Ingredients (sodium alkyl benzene sulphonate) The active ingredients used in the formulation of a synthetic detergent bar should comprise one or more of the surface-active agents, namely linear alkyl benzene sulphonate, secondary alcohol sulphate, fatty alcohol sulphate, fatty alcohol ethoxylate, salts of sulphated fatty alcohol ethoxylate, sodium alpha sulpho fatty acd esters, alpha olefin sulphonate, soap, sugar esters, and other non-ionic detergents. Simply put, the more the percentage of active ingredients, the better they tend to perform.
- None of the brands tested had declared their grade.
- The highest active ingredients were found in 555 followed by Surf Excel.
- The lowest quantity of active ingredients was found in Patanjali
To begin with, the higher the ability to remove soil, the better is the detergent bar. Generally, soil removal/detergency is associated with the action of a cleaning agent such as soap, detergent and alkaline salt. As there are no standards for detergency in detergent bars, composition for standard soiling was followed from IS: 4955 (specification for household synthetic detergent powders).
- Most of the brands performed quite well in the test.
- Moderately priced brands Ghari and 555 performed better in soil-removal test. Patanjali scored lowest.
Total Phosphates (percentage by mass)
The tests have been done as per IS: 4955-2001 as there is no requirement prescribed in IS: 8180. IS: 4955 is meant for household synthetic detergent powders.
- Highest total phosphate was found in Surf Excel at 7.69 per cent by mass, followed by Ghari at 3.26 percent and Rin at 2.46. All the other brands contained less than two per cent of phosphates.
- Nirma with 0.01 per cent and Reliance Sudz with 0.03 per cent reported the lowest percentages of phosphate content.
Also, no detergent brand available in the market has opted for the Indian ecolabel (known as Ecomark), which certifies environment-friendliness of a product. The BIS has laid down the standards for ecolabelling of detergents in India. The standards suggest replacing phosphates with any other environment-friendly substance.
An environmentally superior detergent is one that uses fewer chemical ingredients. The toxicity of detergents decreases if you remove additives like perfumes, colour and brightening agents. Synthetic surfactants may be replaced by non petrochemical surfactants or vegetable oil soaps; builders like phosphates can be replaced by sodium citrate and sodium bicarbonate; dyes and fragrances can be eliminated or minimised. Minimal packaging can also reduce environmental harm substantially.
STPP (percentage by mass)
Sodium tripolyphosphate is a white powder used in detergents as a builder to soften the water. It prevents dirt particles from adhering back to the garment. As per the Indian Standards, the STPP percentage by mass in detergent bars of Grade 1 and Grade 2 should be a minimum 0.5 per cent and 6.0 per cent, respectively.
- None of the tested brands had more than one per cent of STPP.
- Surf Excel with 0.7 per cent and Rin with 0.5 per cent led the table
As per data compiled by Indiastat from Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), about 817,933 tonnes of synthetic detergents were produced during 2009–2010. Almost all the laundry detergents in India contain STPP, ranging from 8 per cent to 35 per cent. Thus, total amount of STPP use in detergents is estimated to be 0.16 million tonnes.
Alkalinity is a measure of the ability of a solution to neutralise acids to the equivalence point of carbonate or bicarbonate. As per the Indian Standards, the active alkalinity of detergent bars of grades 1, 2, 3 and 4 should be 10 ml, 12 ml, 15 ml, and 20 ml, respectively.
- Lowest alkalinity was found in Tide and Reliance SUDZ, and highest in Fena.
The lower the insoluble material, the better is the detergent. Apart from adding on to the weight, insoluble materials also make a difference to the overall cleaning ability of the detergent bar.
Foam Height (of two per cent solution, after 5 min
The foam height is tested to measure the ability to create lather, which is quite essential for washing.
- All brands except Ghari crossed the 100 mm mark, which is quite good. Ghari could create 92 mm lather.
- Tide with 126 mm lather performed the best in this test.
The detergent bar should be securely packed and marked with the necessary information including
a) name and address of manufacturer
b) brand or lot number, grade and trademark, if any
c) month and year of manufacturing
d) maximum retail price (MRP) in rupees
e) net weight when packed
f) standard mark, if any
g) critical ingredients in descending order of quantity up to 0.5 per cent by mass
h) direction for recyclability of packing material; i) instruction for use
j) caution for avoiding prolonged contact. It is to be noted that no requirement has been specified for ‘best before’ date and that is probably the reason why no manufacturer has mentioned the same on the pack. However, since the product tends to looses moisture over a period of time and becomes hard, there must be a mention of shelf life.
Product Net Weight
As per Legal Metrology Rules, in detergent bars up to 150 grams, 4.5 per cent margin (low or high) is acceptable; in bars above 150 grams and up to 300 grams, an error of minus 4.0 per cent is permissible; and for bars of more than 300 grams, only three percent of error is allowed.
Detergent bars shall be suitably packed, as agreed to between purchaser and supplier. For ECO mark, the product shall be packed in recyclable, biodegradable material and shall have detailed instructions for its proper use.