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Energy Impact

Small Danish Firm Has Big Hit With Cold-Water Formula

by Michael McCoy
January 21, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 3

Credit: Danlind
Credit: Danlind


Energy Impact

Laundry detergents effective in cold water are a hot item in the cleaning products world. Procter & Gamble pioneered the category in 2005 with the U.S. brand Tide Coldwater. It followed last year with Dash Cool Clean in Italy and Ariel Cool Clean in the U.K. Germany's Henkel also began promoting lower wash temperatures with the revamped Persil detergent it launched across Europe last year.

Yet the first European detergents maker to come out with a cold-water formula was not a Cincinnati- or Düsseldorf-based giant but a small Danish company called Danlind. It introduced the laundry powder Care Coldwash in Denmark a year ago this month.

A look at the new product's key ingredients shows that there's a lot more to creating a cold-water detergent than changing the label on the box. Surfactants, builders, and bleach activators were all modified, and more changes are afoot, the company says.

Care Coldwash is the brainchild of Henrik Jørgensen, Danlind's R&D and laboratory manager, who began to conceive the product in 2002, well before cold-water products came in vogue. Jørgensen got the idea after hearing a talk by a Ciba Specialty Chemicals representative on ActinOx, a manganese-based bleach activator that Ciba was promoting as working effectively with sodium percarbonate bleach in cold water.

Another piece fell into place two years later when the Danish enzymes specialist Novozymes started coming out with detergent enzymes engineered to work well in cold water. Notably, the company launched the amylase enzyme Stainzyme in 2004 and then the protease Polarzyme in 2005.

For Jørgensen, the trickiest task was coming up with the builder, an ingredient that neutralizes hard water and prevents redeposition. Danlind first tried a formula that included a phosphate builder. During trials, however, the company discovered that the new detergent did not effectively remove tea stains; further testing disclosed that the phosphate was interfering with the Ciba activator.

Danlind next tried zeolite builders, but the cold water conditions created solubility issues. The company's solution was a builder system based on sodium iminodisuccinate, a biodegradable chelating agent developed by Bayer, now Lanxess, that won a 2001 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

An added benefit of the new builder, Jørgensen says, is that it improves the detergent's environmental profile. Although phosphates are still used in some European laundry detergents, the European Union is considering a ban; zeolites, likewise, are under scrutiny in some countries, according to Jørgensen. He says the Lanxess builder helped the new detergent qualify for the EU's Euroflower eco-label.

Care Coldwash has been an unexpected success for Danlind. Whereas P&G promotes Tide Coldwater largely as a money saver, Jørgensen says Danish consumers use Care Coldwash because it reduces energy consumption and hence their carbon footprint. Consumers actually don't save much money. "They save on energy but must pay a little more for the chemistry," he says.

Since the January 2007 launch in Denmark, the company has introduced a version in the U.K. and has attracted interest from stores in Germany, France, Switzerland, and the Benelux countries, Jørgensen says. This year, it will come out with a low-temperature laundry tablet and automatic dishwasher detergent.

And Danlind continues to tinker with the Care Coldwash formula. Although the detergent currently contains a blend of anionic and nonionic surfactants, Jørgensen says he has been working with the Japanese detergents and oleochemicals maker Lion for the past year on a formula based on methyl ester sulfonate (MES), a surfactant made from palm oil.

Lion has used MES in its own products since 1991 and is now building a plant in Malaysia to increase its sales of the ingredient to the merchant market. Danlind expects to launch an MES-containing version of Care Coldwash later this year.

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