Saturday, November 25, 2017

Dawn of an Internet constant

There are all sorts of things one can find out in the Internet, but one of the things it’s particularly good at is delivering instructions on how to do things. Just as in real life, the quality of the suggestions we get can vary widely, but at the very least, they can provide a starting point. Sometimes they also raise more questions, even about dishwashing liquid.

One of the things I searched for on Pinterest were recipes for homemade cleaners, not just because they’re often less harsh than commercially manufactured products sold in the supermarket, but also because they don’t use chemicals made from petroleum. They can also be cheaper.

One of the things I noticed immediately was how many—maybe even most—homemade cleaner recipes that use dishwashing liquid as one of the ingredients specified a particular brand, namely, Proctor & Gamble’s brand Dawn. Naturally, I wondered why.

It turns out it has to do with a particularly famous event: The Exxon-Valdez Disaster, when 10.8 million US gallons (which is 260,000 barrels, 40,882,447 litres, or 41,000 m3) of crude oil were spilled in Prince William Sound in Alaska when the Exxon Valdez ran aground on March 24, 1989. People who worked to rescue the wildlife found that Dawn worked the best for removing crude oil (See: “Why Dawn Is The Bird Cleaner Of Choice In Oil Spills” from npr).

There were more than a few eyebrows raised at that, since Dawn contains chemicals made from petroleum. While many of us might see that as ironic, others felt that using such products helps to perpetuate demand for petroleum that led to the oil spill they were fighting with petroleum based cleaners. I get the argument, but I almost needed to draw a flowchart to follow it.

Okay, so maybe Dawn really is the best for cleaning crude oil off of birds and other wildlife, the origin of its ingredients notwithstanding. Most of us just don’t need to do that around our homes, so maybe we don’t need those particular miraculous properties in our homemade cleaners, either?

A big issue for me, though, was that Dawn isn’t sold in New Zealand (technically, it IS available in NZ from specialist retailers selling to Kiwis, sometimes actually overseas, and I’ve seen it offered at three to ten times the price someone would pay in the USA). I knew that if I was going to try mixing any of the cleaners I was reading about, I’d need to substitute the dishwashing liquid for something I could actually get.

And that was why I looked into why so many people specified Dawn dishwashing liquid in their homemade cleaner recipes: I needed to understand why they were doing that in order to pick a substitute. I chose a replacement, and I’ll be talking about my experience and results in future posts. However—spoiler alert!—it turns out that pretty much any dishwashing liquid can be used in those recipes instead of Dawn. Quelle surprise!

There are often specific reasons why people do the things they talk about the way they do them. If we find out what those reasons are, we can decide for ourselves whether those reasons are sound, and whether we think that how they do the the thing is a good idea, necessary, or whatever. This was one of those times for me, but I sure wish that most of the time it was that easy to find out the reasons for stuff.

Still, I guess you could say this was the Dawn of a new adventure (thank you; I’m here all week).


rogerogreen said...

DAWN really does get out certain grease better than anything else I've used.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

Plenty of other people say that, too. I don't have any specific memory of using it when I lived in the USA, though I probably did. For me, the issue was simply that it's not easily and/or affordably available in New Zealand, and I needed a substitute.

Logan said...

I have always hated that soap... :-P