Building Blocks of the Best Biodegradable Laundry Detergent
Formulating an effective biodegradable laundry detergent is an exercise in balance and pragmatism. It is not enough to lean into eco-friendly messaging — the ingredients in the biodegradable detergent must enhance the stain fighting power and preserve fabric colors. Based on the research, here are the keys to formulating the best biodegradable laundry detergent.
Respondents in a 2021 survey from Mintel’s US Home Laundry Products Market Report showed that stain removing power and fabric/color preservation are two out of the top four attributes consumers consider to be the most important when choosing a laundry detergent. Stain removal was number one.
The most preferable ingredients will empower brands to take a holistic, end-to-end approach to sustainability. Eco-friendly formulation contributes to a healthier environment.
As laundry detergents go down the drain and into our precious water system, biodegradability is essential to limiting the accumulation of substances in our waterways. Looking at the life cycle of detergents, the phase that requires the most energy in a laundry detergent is washing. A sustainable laundry detergent must be able to clean in cold water to save energy and reduce the greenhouse gasses linked with laundering.
Potential areas of opportunity include ingredients that:
Replace persistent chemicals with biodegradable alternatives
Perform in all water hardness conditions
According to an IRI Omni Consumer Survey Solutions study, end-of-life attributes like “biodegradability” are what 79% of consumers most closely associate with “sustainability.” This strong association beats out “conservation” (66%) and “waste reduction” (62%) by a substantial margin.
A weight-efficient ingredient is more effective in smaller quantities than other common ingredients. This trait both increases sustainability (taking up less weight/space in transit) and can provide cost savings for the manufacturer.
For example, internal research from Lygos has shown that a 1% formulation of Soltellus™ polymer in a laundry detergent performs on par with a 5% formulation containing polyacrylate. This 5X weight efficiency of Soltellus™ represents an opportunity for savings in the detergent’s main anti-redeposition agent. As Soltellus™ is a multifunctional ingredient, it is also possible to reduce the amount of sequestrant and builder.
Early sustainable and biodegradable products suffered from a misconception that they could not be as effective as standard alternatives, but today’s consumers have largely changed their minds. A 2020 study from the Society of Consumer Psychology shows that buyers now believe that eco-friendly chemistries can be as powerful as conventional ingredients.
The study describes sustainability today as having a “halo effect” that seems to counteract or even override earlier notions that sustainability comes at the expense of performance. Certain modern biodegradable ingredients, such as Soltellus™, are proven to perform at parity with conventional ingredients used by leading detergent brands when included in a formulation.
The ideal building block for the best biodegradable laundry detergent will be both multifunctional and biodegradable. Soltellus™ is a strong example. This water-soluble polymer is an anti-redeposition agent, a stain remover, a chelant, a dispersant, and a builder, all in one ingredient. Most importantly, it is biodegradable, whereas common competing ingredients like polyacrylate are not.
The biodegradable option, in this case, is also far more potent. In cold water, a 1% Soltellus™ formulation is either on par with or outperforms 5% polyacrylate on many types of stains, such as yolk, blood, grass, olive oil, and lipstick. There’s little reason for a leading laundry detergent — with chemistries such as Soltellus™ available — to opt for an ingredient that is also persistent in the environment.
The application scientists at Lygos are ready to assist with formulation and product development of your biodegradable detergent. Our expertise in the field of sustainable products and specialty chemicals is your competitive advantage.
Connect with Lygos today for more information on how our high-performance biodegradable Sotellus™ polymer can enhance your detergent’s cleaning power and stave off the formation of stains on fabrics.