To most non-scientists, the ingredients listed on the back of non-natural cleaning products or personal products are completely foreign. Wired Magazine's series "What's Inside" deconstructs the ingredients in Palmolive Ultra with some interesting finds.
Triclosan: "Antibacterial soaps kill, well, bacteria — often with this broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent, which inhibits fatty acid synthesis. In higher concentrations, it destabilizes bacterial cell walls."
Ammonium C12-15 Pareth Sulfate: "In solution, this detergent creates negative ions, which cut grease. When mixed with bleach, it releases killer chlorine gas, a chemical weapon used in World War I. Good news: We're still alive, so there's no bleach in here."
Magnesium Isododecyl-Benzene-Sulfonate: "Everything gets nice and foamy because of this surfactant cleaner."
Lauramido-Propylamine Oxide: "This foaming aide keeps those tiny soap bubbles stable throughout the cleanup process. It also thickens the dishwashing liquid, so you'll feel like you're getting your money's worth."
SD Alcohol 3-A: "Alcohol is chemically similar to water, so it can work its way into bacterial cytoplasm, where it makes the proteins fall apart, killing the cell."
Sodium Xylene Sulfonate: "Known to chemists as a hydrotrope, this compound makes it easier for the other molecules in the detergent to dissolve in water. (Hydrotropes also can help to create high-foaming cleansers.)"
Sodium Bisulfite: "This food additive is often used as an anti-fermentation agent to prevent bottled wine from turning into vinegar. In soap, it works as another antiseptic."
DMDM Hydantoin: "A preservative that works by breaking down into, among other things, formaldehyde. Whatever was living on your dishes is now dead."
Pentasodium Pentetate: "A chelating agent that softens hard tap water by binding with dissolved metal ions, preventing them from being deposited as a yucky residue on your nice clean dishes."
Originally published 2009-06-02 - CB