New soap is cleaner and greener

Air bubbles in a mixture of liquid water and OFS soap(Credit: Paul J. Dauenhauer)

Whether they're hand soap, shampoo, dish-washing liquid or laundry detergent, the majority of commonly-used soaps contain petroleum-based cleansing agents. Obtaining that petroleum isn't exactly an eco-friendly process, plus it becomes a source of pollution once it goes down the drain. While there are petroleum-free soaps out there, they often don't perform that well. Now, however, scientists have developed one that is claimed to actually work better than mainstream products.

The new soap was developed by a consortium led by the University of Minnesota. It combines renewable biodegradable ingredients such as fatty acids from soybeans or coconut, along with sugar from corn, to form a soap molecule known as oleo-furan-surfactant (OFS).

According to the university, relatively low concentrations of OFS are required to form soap particles, so less soap is needed to do the same amount of cleaning.

Additionally, unlike their petroleum-based counterparts, OFC soaps don't become gooey in cold water, plus they don't clump up and become difficult to rinse out in hard water. While some conventional soaps address the hard water problem via chemical additives called chelants, those compounds add to production costs, and end up creating more pollution down the line.

The technology is now being commercialized by Minnesota-based spin-off company Sironix Renewables.

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