Whether you worry about allergic reactions or environmental harm, knowing the ingredients in your favourite household items can alleviate these stresses. While Dawn is available in several different dish detergent products, many of the major ingredients are common throughout the brand. For more specific information, look to the product for which you want to know the ingredients, or download the ingredients list from the P&G website. (See Resources)
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Although water pressure can help clean, water alone cannot remove oil from dirty dishes. This is because water and oil do not bond. In order to resolve this chemical issue, the manufacturer of Dawn dish detergents adds chemical surfactants to many of their products. Chemical surfactants contain two sides: one side attracts naturally to water, while the other side attracts to the oil on dishes. The oil-loving side of the surfactant pulls the oil off of the dish, while the water-loving side attaches the molecule to the dish water. When you rinse the water away, it carries the oil away with it. The alkyl dimethyl amine oxide in Dawn Power Dissolver is an example of a chemical surfactant.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
One of the more common cleaning agents in Dawn detergents is sodium lauryl sulphate. This chemical bonds with grease, allowing easy removal in water. When combined with other nitrogen-bearing ingredients, the chemical may form nitrosamines or nitrates. Continued skin contact with these byproducts lead to damage in the lungs, liver and brain.
Scientists regularly debate the benefits and dangers of sodium lauryl sulphate. And even though OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; NTP, the National Toxicology Program; and other organisations have declared the chemical "safe," some scientist are concerned with its continued use.
Like the potassium carbonate found in Dawn Power Dissolver, buffering agents regulate the pH balance of a solution. For Dawn, this prevents the detergent from becoming too acidic or too alkaline, both of which could result in damage to dishes, skin and the environment. According to the Household Products Database, some Dawn products that contain buffering agents include: Dawn Manual Pot and Pan Detergent, Dawn Power Dissolver and Dawn Hand Dishwashing Liquid.
Because the base chemistry of many products is similar, even across brands, companies do not need to list all of the chemicals they use for fragrances. While some chemicals are naturally odourless, others emit strange or unpleasant odours. In order to mask these odours, companies add fragrances to dish soap. These fragrances come either from a natural source or a pleasant-smelling chemical compound. For example, propyl acetate gives off a pear scent, while octal acetate gives an orange scent. If you are concerned about chemical fragrances, look for products with "all natural" scents or odourless products.
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- PG: Dawn Power Dissolver
- University of Nebraska Lincoln: Surfactants in Detergents
- "Making Scents Magazine"; Warning: What Your Shampoo's Label Won't Tell You...; Harry Terhanian; Summer/Fall, 1999.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Household Products Database
- Ashland University: Esters in Nature and Society; Brian K. Mohney, Ph.D.