Consumer Voice, a Delhi-based consumer-interest organisation, tested 10 utensil cleaning bars in the price range of Rs 5-8 per 100g on parameters such as cleaning efficiency and surface damage. Presented here are the key findings and a summary of the lab reports.
Housewives in each Indian household face the task of washing utensils after every meal. Gone are the days of washing utensils using the ashes from the Kitchen chulha which used wood and coal. As the household has upgraded to using cooking gas, the technique of washing utensils has graduated to using “Utensil Cleaning Bars”. Most Indian households are using these cleaning bars to clean food and oil residues from utensils and polish all varieties of utensils to ready them for the next meal. These bars are manufactured, branded and sold at retail prices between Rs 5 to 8 per 100gm. They are available in different size packs and for comparison purposes they are priced between a low of Rs 5.36 upto Rs 8.00 per 100gm. Each brand claims excellent utensil cleaning performance. Consumer Voice tested ten brands and compared their performance on different parameters. These brands included Xpert, Reliance, Exo and Patanjali in the low price segment ( Rs 5 to 6 / 100gm); Odopic, Vim and Nip in medium price segment ( Rs 6 to 7 / 100gm) and Clean mate, Pril and Pitambari in high priced segment ( Rs 7 to Rs 8/ 100gm).
Test methods used
Consumer Voice tested each of the 10 brands as per their overall performance based on the comprehensive testing in an NABL accredited lab. The tests covered a range of quality, performance and acceptability parameters. These included cleaning efficacy, tough-soil cleaning, active matter, surface damage, lather, mushiness, moisture, active alkalinity, retention on 250-micron sieve, and matter insoluble in alcohol. The performance tests were conducted using stainless-steel plates as per guidelines of Indian Standard. It may be noted that Exo and Pitambari claimed to be anti-bacterial.
Scoring criteria and overall rank
The test and evaluation methodology assigned the highest weight (25%) to cleaning efficiency defined as number of plates cleaned per 5gm of bar. It was followed by active matter percentage by weight (15%) and tough soil cleaning and surface damage, each 10%. And lather generation ( 8%). Moisture, active alkalinity, mushiness, retention in sieve and matter insoluble in alcohol each had 5%. The remaining 7% weight was related to packing, marking and labelling. Each brand was subjected to these tests in the labs and assigned marks out of 100 using these criteria. The top three brands were Clean Mate 93/100, Xpert 92/100 and Vim 89/100. Patanjali stood at the bottom with a score of 73/100 preceeded by Exo 82/100 and Reliance 83/100.
Cleaning efficiency of a bar is measured by the number of soiled plates cleaned by a fixed amount of bar. Five grams of each brand was taken from each bar to measure the efficiency. All the brands could clean five plates soiled with grease and oil as per standard. However, Clean Mate and Xpert each cleaned the maximum number of plates (10) and got the highest score. Active matter refers to the key ingredient of a utensil bar consisting of cleaning agents and compounds. As per standard, each bar must have at least 8% active matter. Each of the brands were above the minimum 8% requirement. However, Xpert had highest 16.77 % followed by Clean Mate 16.71 % followed by Odopic 14.81% and lowest was Patanjali 12.15%.
Tough soil cleaning
This test involves the soiling mixture composed of wheat flour 16.5%, besan 16.5% , rice flour 17%, vegetable oil 50%. This mixture is spread evenly on a stainless steel plate using a brush. This soiled plate is then heated by putting on hot plate at 325 degrees Celsius for about two minutes and cooled to room temperature. The soiled plate is then cleaned by each utensil bar. Each brand was able to meet the standard of being able to clean the plate. However, Xpert scored highest 97.5% followed by Clean mate 96.8% while Patanjali scored lowest 88.09%.
This test is performed by soiling a steel plate by 2gm of oil and then cleaned with the test bars. As per standard only two scratches are acceptable. All brands passed this test.
Lather is the amount of foam generated after dissolving a fixed quantity of powdered utensil bar in a fixed amount of water. Each bar is supposed to generate 70ml lather. The foaming efficiency test was passed by all ten brands. Clean mate and Pitambari generated the highest amount of foam ( 122ml) followed by Xpert and Reliance Scrubz lemon powder( 120ml each).
Moisture , volatile-matter content and active alkalinity
Each utensil bar should not contain more than 10% moisture and volatile matter by weight as per standard. A higher moisture content can make the bar lumpy. All 10 brands conformed to this standard when tested at 105 degrees Celsius. The standard also specifies that maximum limit of alkalinity is 20ml. A higher level of alkalinity can adversely affect the hand skin of users. Each brand was found to be well below the standard set making them safe for human skin. Pril with 1.25ml had the lowest alkalinity Xpert with 3.9ml had the highest.
Mushiness and retention (on a 250 micron sieve)
When a bar is kept on the kitchen sink it comes in to contact with water. Mushiness is its property to absorb moisture and also get dissolved in the water. This test measured the mushiness in each brand. Reliance Scrubz and Nip were found to have the highest mushiness. Vim showed the lowest mushiness. The composition of the bar should be such that ingredients of each bar should be soluble in water. The max limit of retention is specified as 0.1 %. All brands except Patanjali had retention well below the max limit. A 250 micron sieve is used to detect the amount of undissolved matter.
Insoluble matter in alcohol
Insoluble materials are a part of the utensil bar’s composition. These indicate the quantity of filler material in the bar’s composition. As per standard these can’t exceed 80%. All brands except three were meeting this requirement. Three brands Patanjali, Pitambari and Xpert exceeded the maximum permissible level of 80%. Clean Mate had the lowest 77.04% of insoluble matter and therefore scored highest on this parameter.
Each brand was also evaluated on other parameters that are important for consumer. These include marking with proper information about the identity, origin, manufacture and customer care. None of the brands were marked with instructions for usage although the standard requires it. Batch number was not marked on three brands Nip, Reliance Scrubz and Xpert. The standard also requires each brand to have secured plastic wrappers, paperboard containers and sealing to retain the essential moisture. All the brands had moisture proof flexible packaging.
Net weights are required to be printed on each package. Legal metrology rules provide a tolerance of 9gm in a package containing 200 to 300gm and 12gm in a package containing 300 to 500gm. This means that actual weight can vary to the given extent. Four brands Clean mate, Vim, Pril and Reliance Scrubz had correct net weight. Five brands had less net weight as per their marking but were within the tolerance limit: Patanjali, Nip, Odopic, Xpert and Pitambari. Net weight of Exo was less than the tolerance limit.
Other forms of utensil cleaners
This test report covers only cleaning bars. However, utensil-cleaning products are available in formulations in powder, bar, paste or liquid form, containing a cleansing agent like synthetic detergent, soap, SLS, etc., along with powdered, mildly abrasive materials (optional in case of liquid). These are used primarily for cleaning of utensils and crockery, and secondarily for kitchen shelf and basin or even cooker tops, etc., where cleansing is effected by the combined action of detergency and scrubbing.Liquid utensil washers are liquid-based soaps which have gained in popularity due to their being more convenient to use as well as ability to reduce surface damage. Liquid soaps also cause less wastage in comparison to bars as they do not have mushiness property.
Comparative Testing: ISO Norms
Such tests are commonly conducted by consumer organisations uninfluenced by manufacturers or other commercial interests. Their sole purpose is to educate consumers and spread awareness about facts that may be important for consumers to exercise informed and rational decision making in the market place.
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