A Delhi-based consumer-interest organisation tested nine detergent bars in the price range of Rs 4.35-11.5 per 100 grams, on parameters such as detergency and active alkalinity. Presented here are the key findings and a summary of the lab reports.
Most Indian households wash clothes by hand. The percentage of households using washing machines is still smaller to those washing clothes by hand. Washing machines are used mainly in the upper middle class and upper-class households as they are relatively expensive. Hand wash of clothes may be done by using detergent powders or detergent bars. Detergent bars are a relatively popular way of washing clothes by hand. This story focuses on the recent test results of nine different popular brands of detergent bars sold at retail in Indian markets.
Earlier, all types of manufactured laundry soaps that were used in the households were made of natural vegetable oils and edible fats. These raw materials have now become scarce. Moreover, soaps made from natural elements had their limitations as they were not much effective when used with hard water. Hence, synthetic detergents—or non-soapy detergents (NSD)—began to be formulated with components like surface-active agents and complementary components like builders. These products are specially formulated to promote the development of detergency and most popular detergent bars tested belong to such a category. This test was carried out by Consumer Voice in a NABL accredited laboratory.
While foaminess and mushiness are perhaps the visible qualities that are noticed more while using a detergent bar, there are other aspects that are equally or more crucial. Due to the large number of detergent bars available in the market, the process of selecting the “best” brand is often a formidable one. In order to find out if some of the better-known detergent bars are complying with national standards and how these come out on quality parameters, we tested nine brands.
The following comparative assessment of laundry detergent bars gains significance in light of the fact that the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has revised certain important parameters including detergency (which establishes how well detergents can remove dirt from soiled cloths/fabrics). Other parameters that have been revised are ash built-up and phosphate limit. All of these ultimately determine the overall quality of the product you are using.
Apart from detergency, phosphate and ash built-up, the tests covered other parameters related to quality and acceptability. These included foam generation, mushiness, insoluble matter, active ingredients and active alkalinity. The Indian Standard covers four grades of detergent bars but none of the nine brands have declared their grades as Indian standard is voluntary. Consumer Voice based its test criteria on relevant Indian Standard 8180, specifications for household laundry detergent bar and its finalised revised draft that is under printing. These tests were conducted at an NABL-accredited laboratory on samples which were purchased at retail without the knowledge of the manufacturers as per ISO guide 46.
The 58 marks out of a max score out of 100 were given to detergency 26 followed by active ingredients 20 and ash built-up 12 Of remaining score 28/100 were distributed to four criteria: active alkalinity, matter insoluble in water, foam height and mushiness—7 each. Total phosphates had a score of 6. Remaining scores were for marking (4) and packing and new weight (2 each). After testing, each criterion was given scores for each brand based on test results. Overall scores were added to compute the winners.
Reliance Sudz and Henko scored the highest with 87 each points followed by Surf Excel-86 and Rin-83, Fena-79 , 555-78, Ghari- 76, Clean mate-75 with Patanjali lowest 71.
The prices of these nine brands ranged from a low of Rs 4.35 for 555 to Rs 11.5 for Surf Excel for 100 gms which was most expensive. Of the top two performers Reliance Sudz was priced at Rs 6 as compared to Henko rs 10 per 100 gms. Therefore, Reliance Sudz was adjudged as the “Best Buy “ or “Value for Money” brand. We can analyse the comparative performance of each brand on the criteria used to learn why some brands fared better than others.
Detergency refers to the process by which soil is removed from a surface and undergoes solubilisation or dispersion. The detergent solution wets the surface and is absorbed by it, which then lowers the surface’s tension to allow the soil to separate itself from the surface. Generally, soil removal/detergency is associated with the action of a cleaning agent such as soap, detergent and alkaline salt.The higher the ability to remove soil, the better is the detergent bar. As per the final revised Indian Standard draft, the minimum detergency of detergent bars of grades 1, 2, 3 and 4 shall be 65%, 55%, 45%, and 35%, respectively.
Detergency was highest in Henko (60.12%) and lowest in Patanjali (42.14%).
The active ingredients used in the formulation of a synthetic detergent bar shall comprise one or more of the surface-active agents, namely linear alkyl benzene sulphonate, secondary alcohol sulphate, fatty alcohol sulphate, fatty alcohol ethoxylate, salts of sulphated fatty alcohol ethoxylate, sodium alpha sulpho fatty acid esters, alpha olefin sulphonate, soap, sugar, esters and other non-ionic detergents. Simply put, the more the percentage of active ingredients, the better the detergent bar tends to perform.
Highest active ingredients were found in Henko (17.85%) followed by Reliance Sudz (17.24%). None of the brands had declared their grade (As relevant Indian standard is voluntary in nature). On the basis of active ingredients, 3 brands fall in Grade 1; 4 in Grade 2; and the rest in Grade 3.
As per the final revised Indian Standard (draftIS:8180), the maximum ash built-up in detergent bars of grades 1, 2, 3 and 4 shall be 1%, 5%, 10%, and 12%, respectively. Brand with a low ash built-up was give more marks.
Ash built-up was lowest in Reliance Sudz (1.85%) and Henko (2.18%). It was highest in Patanjali (6.67%).
Alkalinity is a measure of the ability of a solution to neutralise acids to the equivalence point of carbonate or bicarbonate. As per Indian Standard, the active alkalinity of detergent bars of grades 1, 2, 3 and 4 shall be 10 ml, 12 ml, 15 ml, and 20 ml, respectively.
All brands except Ghari met the requirement for Grade 1 active alkalinity. Ghari with 13.80 ml had the highest active alkalinity among all the tested brands; Clean Mate with 3.20 ml is lowest followed by Reliance Sudz with 3.60 ml.
Matter insoluble in water
There is no requirement in this regard in the national standard. Insoluble materials indicate the quantity of filler material in the bar’s composition and a lower quantity is considered to be good. Apart from adding on to the weight, insoluble materials can also make a difference to the overall cleaning ability of the detergent bar.
Clean Mate (71.79) had the highest percentage of insoluble matter. It was lowest in Henko (35.43).
While the national standard has not specified any requirement for foam generation, it is important to consumers. A high and faster rate of foam generation is perceived to be indicative of cleaning efficiency.
All brands performed well in this test (140 cm–190 cm). Foam generation was highest in Reliance Sudz (190 cm) and Henko (185 cm).
Mushiness is the property of a bar to absorb water and also get dissolved in it. While no requirement has been specified in this regard in the national standard, it is an important factor for consumers. Mushiness should be lower but the detergent bar should not be too hard either. The amount of mushy part was measured and reported.
Mushiness was highest in Patanjali and lowest in Henko followed by Reliance Sudz.
As per the revised Indian Standard draft, detergent bars shall not contain total phosphate more than the specified maximum limits as given below:
Grade 1: 5%; Grade 2: 8%; Grade 3 and 4: 5%
All the samples met the requirement for phosphate content. No phosphate was found in Rin, Fena and Ghari.
The author is Managing Editor of Consumer Voice and former Dean and head of Commerce, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi
Disclaimer: This study was conducted independently by Consumer Voice