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The Trouble With Bubbles

The Trouble With Bubbles

10th Jul 2020

Everyone loves bubbles – lots of suds when cleaning makes you feel good, right? But are bubbles responsible for cleaning?

It’s mostly (but not all) about marketing

Bubbles are, in most cases, a psychological ‘feel good’ factor when cleaning of any type happens, and nothing more. They can even make the cleaning job take longer if a lot of rinsing is required! As it’s often about marketing there are different kinds of bubbles for different purposes – smooth and creamy for body products, through to big and airy for detergents.

Functional bubbles

Many decades ago, major multi-national corporations started to add foaming agents to the likes of dishwashing liquid. Their thinking was that you would believe your dishes are more easily cleaned whilst sitting in a sea of bubbles than not.

This is actually true. Bubbles can help the “detergent” sit on top of soils, such as baked on food, giving time to penetrate, and making it much easier to wash soils clean away. As well as dishwashing, bubbles help this way when washing very grimy surfaces, for example when you are washing your car.

Bubbles can actually cause more harm than good

The best bubble maker is a surfactant called sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES). It’s the cheapest ingredient for a manufacturer to use to produce great bubbles and is found in most brands of cleaning and body cleansing products including body washes, liquid hand soaps, laundry and dishwashing liquids, and surface sprays (not SimplyClean of course!). Unfortunately, SLES is not so good for us, as it penetrates the skin and is a skin irritant.

In the laundry

Too many suds are undesirable and can stop your washing machine from emptying properly, resulting in foam left in the drum, and less soil being completely rinsed out of the machine. Often this requires an extra rinse cycle for the wash load. Otherwise any remaining impurities can be redeposited onto your clothes during the next wash.

Front loading machines cannot function with too many bubbles, and whatever your machine, too many bubbles make rinsing hard. Have you noticed the extra deep rinse cycles on offer with the newer models of washing machine? This is because poorly rinsed clothes can cause skin irritation, particularly on sensitive skins.

In the kitchen

It’s the same with your dishwasher. Bubbles are undesirable in a dishwasher, which is why detergents for a dishwasher are very different to those used in your sink.

So – don’t judge a cleaning product by its bubbles.

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