If you’re like me, you like to know what you’re getting when you buy food, detergents, and other processed products. After all, with rumors flying around about yoga mat chemicals being put in hamburger buns, some of us have been taking a little more time to look at the list of items in our household products. Unfortunately, for the average consumer, the ingredient list on most products might result in sudden flashbacks to freshman chemistry. For instance, sodium hydrogen carbonate, is not some mad chemist’s Sunday evening experiment, but is just plain baking soda. The complexity of chemical labels on the back of common products has led to so much confusion that one clever chemistry teacher even posted a humorous ingredient list for chemicals found in just plain blueberries. Check it out here.
Why are chemical names for simple items so complex? When manufacturers are making the products they sell, the manufacturers use standard formulas to ensure consistency in large batches. This means that they must provide very specific chemical names for the ingredients they use.
Tell a marine biologist you saw a fish, and she’ll ask you which fish. The same is true for the chemists who make our products. In the world of an experienced chemist, the word “salt” may not mean much. Do you mean safe table salt, sodium chloride, or the incredibly dangerous lead diacetate, which can lead to lead poisoning if you try to put it on your fries? Salt comes in colors, too. There’s cobalt nitrate, which is a red salt, and sodium chromate, a yellow salt.
So, if you’re a detergent maker and you’re speaking to a chemist, you wouldn’t want to just tell her you want salt in your batch. You’ll want to let her know exactly which salt you want. This is why you’d use complex chemical names to refer to simple table salt.
While these names can confuse the average consumer, they actually are on the label for clarity and specificity. If a chemist knows exactly what kind of salt or baking soda is being used, then each batch of a given detergent will be the same. This means better products for you. No one wants a watered down laundry detergent!
Yes, chemical names can be hard to read, but many of the complex (and yes, we’ll admit it, sometimes frightening sounding) chemical names you see on bottles of laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and other household products, are actually safe, organic, and produced from common everyday ingredients. Women’s Health provides a nice list of common ingredients in shampoos. For instance, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, is not some disease you can get by walking barefoot by the Gowanus, but is actually just a simple detergent.
At Health of Nations, Inc. our ingredients lists are specific, and our products are always organic. In order to make it easier for you to understand the substances found in our organic laundry detergents and dishwashing detergents, we’ve offered a convenient breakdown of what each ingredient means. Find it here.