Do 'green' detergents contain anti-corrosion agents?

livebetterJune 14, 2011

Here is the first of (hopefully) several replies regarding the formulas of "greener" detergents.

This is Seventh Generation's response to my question:

Thanks for writing to us.

We do not have any anti-corrosion agents in our detergents. All the detergents do have anionic surfactants that act as anti-redeposition agents. These help to dissolve any dirt or grime and wash them away, they do not allow the dirt to redeposit on the clothing. The ingredients used for this are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Laureth-6, these are both coming from either palm kernal oil or coconut oil.

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@livebetter, I'm wondering if they actually understood the question. Their answer sounds to me like they thought you were asking about removing rust (corrosion) stains from your laundry ;-)

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 3:48PM
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@izeve - My take on it is that they don't have it, and they're putting spin on the product to distract the consumer's attention.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 4:04PM
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@izeve, they were clear on the question. I actally asked about anti-corrosion and anti-redeposition agents.

Here is response from Clorox Greenworks:

Thank you for contacting us about your Green Works Natural Laundry Detergent. We always appreciate hearing from our consumers.
The Green Works Natural Laundry Detergent do not contain these ingredients.

I'm waiting on a few more. I will post responses when I receive them.

As Seventh Generation wrote, "Hopefully this can help you find the right products for your home."

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 5:18PM
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I recently purchased a bottle of Woolite Complete (thought it might be good for husband's dress shirts - no enzymes or brighteners).

I checked ingredients tonight and don't see the anti-corrosion ingredients (I think??).

So, could SG be right in saying some of the surfactants do the job?

Water - Diluent
Alkylbenzene Sulfonic Acid - Cleaning Agent - Anionic Surfactant
Coconut Acid - Cleaning Agent
Sodum Hydroxide - Cleaning Agent - Alkalinity
Sodium Laureth Sulfate (C10-16) - Cleaning Agent - Anionic Surfactant
C12-16 Alcohols Ethoxylate - Cleaning Agent - Nonionic Surfactant
Triethanolamine - pH Adjuster
Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate - Cleaning Agent - Builder
Sodium Chloride - Thickener
Proprietary Inert Filler - Filler
Sodium Formate - Stabilizer
Fragrance - Fragrance
BHT - Preservative
Methylisothiazolinone - Preservative
Benzisothiazolinone - Preservative

Interesting: the Woolite dark color and color care versions contain Poly-4-Vinylpyridine-N-Oxide which is a color scavenger.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 10:01PM
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@ livebetter

I applaud your effort to resolve this issue. One thing to consider, too, is the pH and gentleness of the detergent. It's possible that milder detergents like Woolite and some natural/green products don't require corrosion inhibitors because a) either the pH is below the threshold where corrosion is a concern, or b) the ingredients are not as corrosive or aggressive as other products that do contain such ingredients, or both.

Does anybody know a detergent chemist? LOL

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 10:12PM
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@sshrivastava, you really had me curious so I wanted to get more info. I'm sure these companies think I'm "off my tree" ... lol.

That's a good point regarding the pH.

Although, I would think one of the companies I questioned would explain to me why those ingredients are not needed in their formulation. Sigh ...

Sure wish we had a chemist on this forum :)

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 11:30PM
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triethanolamine can function as a corrosion inhibitor, although it's primary function in detergent is as a pH buffer.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 11:49AM
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Corrosion of aluminum is a concern at pH values below 4 and above 11. Extremely acid or caustic environments seem to do equal damage. I don't think any detergent/booster combo would ever cause pH to get to those extreme levels, however if any of those detergents build-up or evaporate onto the spider assembly, you may see very high pH values at those localized sites over time.

I have conditioned water. Due to soft water's aggressive nature (it can remove copper ions in copper pipes without any additives), I opt for detergents that do contain corrosion inhibitors to level the playing field a little bit. While it may not be necessary and I'm generally OCD anyway, I say better safe than sorry.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 12:47PM
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I pulled out ye olde detergent formulation handbook (yes, I have one)... I see that sodium metasilicate (powder) and sodium metasilicate pentahydrate (liquid) "provide alkalinity and can protect soft metals such as aluminum, copper, zinc, brass and tin from the corrosive effects of strongly alkaline cleaning solutions. Silicates also reduce the redeposition of soils."

My book also states that STPP is often combined with sodium metasilicate to produce a synergistic effect where the two work better together. Also of note regarding STPP, it cannot solubilize fats on its own, but can with the addition of SDDBS (sodium dodecyl benzene sulfonate). Some people in this forum are under the impression that STPP can rid your machine of gunk and clean oil stains from clothing, which doesn't appear to be the case. However, my book does recommend that if you are using detergents with a precipitating softener (sodium carbonate, soda ash, wash soda, etc) in hard water, adding STPP will prevent those precipitates from agglomerating onto your washer parts.

You will note that the vast majority of drum spiders in front loaders are made from aluminum, a metal that can be corroded by a strongly alkaline cleaning solution. The addition of silicates to such a solution should minimize the corrosive effects on the spider assembly.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 9:21PM
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