How often do you glance at the list of chemicals that comprise your favourite cleaning products? The answer is likely to range between ‘once’ and ‘never’. In fact, if one were to take a look, the list of long and complex chemical names (for example, ‘Quarternary Ammonium Compounds’) would seem to be like gibberish to the average person.
This begs the question: why does soap, or any household cleaning product for that matter need to be so complex? Did our ancestors sit and create complicated chemical concoctions just to clean their toilets?
We know the answer to this question. Even less than 70 years ago, products like fat, vinegar and natural glycerin were the building blocks of our cleaning products. They were blended with a diverse range of plant-based products, based on intended usage, to make the final product. Simple, effective, and most importantly, free from the barrage of chemicals that the average person can’t even read.
There are many reasons why these chemicals make their way into homes and offices. Chemicals are used to artificially harden soap so it doesn’t crumble when used roughly; chemically rendered foaming quality is considered a sign of effective cleaning; artificial fragrances establish brand differentiation among consumers. These qualities have nothing to do with how effective the soap, or cleaning product is – they’re just ways to make it more appealing. Yet, as successive research studies over the years have shown, these chemicals are not only largely useless from a utility point of view, but often very harmful to human health.
Yet, simultaneously, extensive research has also been put into the service of unlocking the power of plants, the first and foremost source of enhancing human life. With its abundant biodiversity, the potential of the plant world is immense. Over the years, companies and research organisations have invested extensively in unlocking this potential so that it benefits society. Cleaning products are just one of the many areas where plant-based compounds are demonstrating their superiority, both in cleaning efficacy and environmental sustainability, over conventional chemical-based products.