The folks over at National Public Radio have an interesting piece on the magic of Dawn dish detergent this week. Online, the article bears a headline promising a story rich in chemistry: “Why Dawn Is the Bird Cleaner of Choice in Oil Spills.” But the reporter spends most of the article simply stating that Dawn IS the most popular bird cleaner. As to why that’s the case, she simply notes that the detergent’s formula is proprietary but that the key is “balancing the surfactants.”
The article also notes that Dawn is made with petroleum. Presumably petroleum is the least expensive source for the greasy surfactant tails. The reporter also spoke with a chemist at the green cleaning products company Seventh Generation, who noted that they have an “oil-free” detergent.
So, I have a few questions for you dish detergent afficiandos out there. What makes Dawn’s sufactants so superior? And where, if not from oil, does the greasy surfactant tail in Seventh Generation detergent come from? Vegetable oil? Animal fat? What’s the difference in cost between these ingredients and petroleum-derived ones?
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