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Oxygen Bleach

POWDERED OXYGEN BLEACH PRODUCTS OXICLEAN , OXY-BOOST,  CLOROX OXYGEN ACTION, STAIN SOLVER,  OXYGEN8, WHITE WAVE,  AJAX,  DECK AND SIDING BRIGHTENER,  ETC. AN OVERVIEW……

(Updated 8/23/02)

Introduction

By now many of us are familiar with powdered oxygen bleaching products seen in stores or advertised on television.  They range from “Tide with Bleach” to “OxiClean” to “Ajax Oxygen Bleach Powder Cleanser” to “Wolmans Deck and Siding Brightener”.  While these unique cleaners and stain removers have been around for years it is only recently that they have come into prominence in the consumer market. At The Laundry Alternative, we want to provide you with informative washing solutions from the SuperPop Washing Machine to types of detergents. This page attempts to look at these products and give you an overview as to what they are, how they work and how they are used.

What are Oxygen Bleaches?

Oxygen bleaches are materials that release oxygen for cleaning and bleaching of stains and dirt upon addition to water.  There are three types of oxygen bleaches sold in the consumer market, hydrogen peroxide, sodium percarbonate and sodium perborate.  While hydrogen peroxide is a liquid, sodium percarbonate and sodium perborate are powders.  Sodium percarbonate is used in deck, carpet, household and laundry cleaning products.  Sodium perborate is also a powder and is used mostly in automatic dishwashing and laundry products as a hot water bleaching agent.  While sodium perbcarbonate has the highest solubility in water, sodium perborate is more storage stable in detergent formulations.

Powdered bleaches are made by treating natural soda ash or natural borax with hydrogen peroxide.  These materials can absorb the oxygen while remaining free flowing solids. Upon dissolving in water, they release the oxygen.  (One popular infomercial seen on television claims that their oxygen bleach takes the oxygen right out of the air which is totally false!!)  Pure sodium percarbonate contains about 13-14% oxygen and sodium perborate contains about 10-15% oxygen. They are currently being manufactured in the United States, Korea and China.  While Asian bleaches are generally lower in cost, the US produced bleaches are the most consistent in composition and performance.

Advantages of Powdered Oxygen Bleach

Probably the best advantage of an oxygen bleach is that you can get rid of stubborn dirt and organic stains without having to use toxic and hazardous materials like chlorine bleach.  Also they can be used on carpet, upholstery and even the most delicate linens (except for some types of wool and silk) without harming the fabric.  Unlike many products that are sold as environmentally friendly cleaners that are not that effective, oxygen bleaches really do work and for some stains even do a better job than traditional bleaches or cleaners.

Other Advantages:

  • -Better long term shelf stability than liquid hydrogen peroxide products
  • -Acts as a disinfectant on both bacteria and viruses likely to be encountered in the home
  • -Brightens fabrics
  • -Oxygen bleaches can be mixed or used with other household cleaners
  • -Non-toxic to animals, plants and humans.
  • -Very environmentally friendly as they break down into natural soda ash and/or borax after the oxygen is released.

Disadvantages of Powdered Oxygen Bleaches

Powdered oxygen bleaches do have some minor drawbacks you should be aware of:

  • -Oxygen bleaching products can cost more to use than standard cleaning products
  • -They take time to dissolve in water
  • -While very effective, oxygen bleaches can take longer to work
  • -They are not suited for some finer grades of silk or wool

A Word On Liquid Oxygen Bleaches

As mentioned previously, another way to purchase oxygen bleach is as a water solution of hydrogen peroxide.   It releases oxygen which does the cleaning and bleaching leaving only water as the byproduct.  Hydrogen peroxide can be purchased in many dilutions.  Many consumers use 3% hydrogen peroxide for general household purposes. Another popular dilution is the 35% food grade which doesn’t contain chemical stabilizers as the 3% solution does.  However this does shorten the shelf stability.

While the purchase price of hydrogen peroxide products are cheaper than the powdered versions you must consider that  much of the product is water.  On an oxygen equivalency basis the costs are similar.  While hydrogen peroxide solutions have the advantage over powdered products of being sold ready to use, powdered bleaches are easier to handle, have better storage stability and do not need any added chemicals to enhance stability.

Differences In Oxygen Bleaching Products

There are four categories of powdered oxygen bleach products being sold in the consumer market.  They are:

Ultra-Concentrated Oxygen Bleaches

Ultra-concentrated bleaches generally contain from 80-100% oxygen bleach (usually sodium percarbonate).  While the most expensive to purchase they are also the most effective products for bleaching and cleaning.  Ultra-concentrated products are more versatile in the type and severity of jobs they can tackle. Simply, the more oxygen available for cleaning the better.

Concentrated Oxygen Bleaches

Products sold in this classification generally contain 40-70% sodium percarbonate.  Infomercial sold oxygen bleaches which used to be sold as ultra-concentrated are now sold under this classification.  While now more reasonably priced they do not work as well on really tough cleaning jobs where a more concentrated product is needed.

Oxygen bleaches with additives and other cleaning agents 

One approach that some manufacturers have made is to add surfactants, additives, fillers, detergent builders and other cleaning agents.  These additives are used to maintain and assist the oxygen bleaches cleaning ability but lower the overall cost of use.  This is especially the case for products targeted for laundry use.  Generally these products contain 20-40% bleach.

Cleaning products that contain oxygen bleach as an ingredient 

The vast majority of oxygen bleaching products fall into this category.  They include laundry and dishwashing detergents, toilet bowl cleaners, cleansers, deck and siding cleaners, concrete cleaners, carpet cleaners, etc. Generally these products contain 25% or less oxygen bleach.

Comparisons Of Companies Marketing Oxygen Bleaching Products

Below are comments comparing some of the better known companies marketing oxygen bleaches:

Ultra-Concentrated Oxygen Bleaches

OxyBoost (TM) – Marketed by Natural Choices.  When you go to their web site it is obvious that their goal with visitors is to first help them solve a cleaning problem and not necessarily sell them a product.  That is of a real benefit when you have a cleaning problem and want to get it solved and not have to wade through a bunch of marketing mumbo jumbo.  They have stain removal discussion forums, links to web sites with vast cleaning and stain removal expertise and even a search engine to assist you in finding help for your particular stain or cleaning problem.  Their oxygen bleach, OxyBoost, is of the highest quality and is at least 80-90% sodium percarbonate.   It is very reasonably priced and they have probably the best use knowledge and customer service support of any company marketing alternative cleaning products. OxyBoost is sold in 1, 2.5, 6, 20, 45 and 100 pound quantities.  

Natural Choices also carries several other sodium percarbonate based products including dishwashing, toilet bowl cleaner, kitchen and bathroom cleanser and laundry detergent (See below).  They have the most complete line of oxygen bleach products available anywhere and are probably the most knowledgeable on their use.  They have several kits available that combine their oxygen bleach products and some of their other cleaners.     

Stain Solver (TM) – Marketed by Ask The Builder (Tim Carter).  Stain Solver has been sold for several years as part of  Tim’s “Ask The Builder” home improvement oriented web site.  He has an excellent illustrated page on how to clean a wood deck as part of his site.   Otherwise this site just contains basic infomation on Stain Solver and its use.  This product is very high in sodium percarbonate content (in excess of 90%).  It is sold in 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 pound quantities and is higher priced than Natural Choice’s Oxy-Boost.

Shout Oxy Power (TM) – Marketed by SC Johnson.  The newest entry in the consumer oxygen bleach market.  This is a premium product that contains at least 75% sodium percarbonate that should out perform Oxiclean, Clorox Oxygen Action or All Oxi-active.  Unless the other products change we would predict that Oxy Power should win out in the ‘name brand’ oxygen bleach wars based upon its price and level of active ingredients.

Concentrated Oxygen Bleaches

Oxiclean (TM) – Marketed by OrangeGlo International.  Oxiclean is the best known of any of the brands and is king of the mass marketed oxygen bleaching products. It is sold on TV infomercials, through catalogs, magazines, distributors, the internet and in stores like Walgreens, Walmart and other national chains. Oxiclean is sold in 1, 2.5, 6 and 9 pound quantities or as part of several kits with some of OrangeGlo’s limonene based cleaners and polishes.  Oxiclean is a good product but is sometimes oversold considering what is and its lower levels of active oxygen bleach.  OrangeGlo has been criticized for putting much of its effort in marketing Oxiclean and not much effort in assisting customers. Oxiclean contains about 50-60% active oxygen bleach (Sodium percarbonate).       

Clorox Oxygen Action (TM) – Newly marketed by The Clorox Corporation. This product is basicly a carbon copy of Oxiclean from the percentge of sodium percarbonate it contains (50-60%) to the style of packaging, its lettering as well as product pricing.  Clorox is obviouly going directly after Oxiclean business and it will be interesting to see who will come out on top. The consumer should win in getting a low cost product but like Oxiclean the efficacy is still lacking in comparison to higher quality oxygen bleach products.  

All Oxi-active (TM) – Marketed by Lever Brothers.  Another new entry into the oxygen bleach stain removal product offerings.  It is a sodium perborate based product.  While sodium perborate is excellent for cleaning and stain removal in hot water its very limited solubility in lukewarm and cold water does limit the scope of its use.  Perborate compounds are also known to contain traces of arsenic which is why they are being outlawed in Europe.  With ever tightening water quality restrictions on arsenic levels being put in place in the US as well it would seem that this product does not have a good future in its current state.

Oxygen8 (TM) -A rapidly fading addition to the concentrated oxygen bleach consumer products.  It is sold by Medallion Products through QVC.  Initially Oxygen8 was marketed on television and in catalogs to compete directly with Oxiclean but at a lower price.  Like Oxiclean it is only 50-60% oxygen bleach. You can buy it online at the QVC web site (4-6 weeks delivery!!) but there are only a few companies or distributors still selling it.  Their customer service response is poor at best and there is virtually no technical service available.  

-Oxygen bleaches with additives and other cleaning agents

Color Safe Powdered Bleach – Marketed by The Clean Environment Company.  A sodium perborate based product (29%) of which they claim is the highest oxygen content available which is not true as concentrated percarbonate products are highest.  Good Price.

Natural Oxygen Bleach – Marketed by Lifekind Products.  A percarbonate based product that also contains fabric and water conditioners, detergent boosters, stain, mildew and corrosion additives.  Also contains sodium sulfate which is a filler and does no cleaning.  I am not sure that an oxygen bleaching product needs to have all these additives to be effective when its main use is to get rid of organic stains and dirt.  Good price.  

Non-Chlorine Bleach Powder – Marketed by Bio Pac.  Contains sodium percarbonate , soda carbonate (soda ash).  It also contains sodium chloride (salt) which is just a filler and does nothing for cleaning.

Oxygen Bleach – Marketed by Bi-O-Kleen.  Exactly the same product as Lifekind’s natural Oxygen Bleach described above.

White Wave – Marketed by Morganics .  Contains other additives to make it more suitable for laundry use.  Very good for people with skin sensitivities.   Probably the best buy in this category.

-Cleaning products that contain oxygen bleach an ingredient

There are really too many to review so I have listed products and companies of some of the better known brands Ajax – Oxygen Bleach Powder Cleanser (Beware!!!  Even though this product is sold as an oxygen bleach cleanser we could not find any oxygen bleach materials listed on the product label or MSDS)

Bio-Kleen – Automatic Dish Powder (Sodium Percarbonate)

Bio Pac – Automatic Dish Powder (Sodium Percarbonate but also contains phosphates!!!)

Country Save – Non-Chlorine Bleach (Sodium Perborate)

Ecover – Non-Chlorine Bleach (Hydrogen Peroxide)

Heathers Naturals – Oxygen Bleach Cleanser (Sodium Percarbonate)

 Natural Choices – Oxy-Prime Powdered Laundry Detergent (Sodium Percarbonate) Oxy-Dish Automatic Dishwashing Detergent (Sodium Percarbonate)  Oxy-Flush Toilet Bowl Cleanser (Sodium Percarbonate) Oxy-Scrub Kitchen and Bathroom Cleanser (Sodium Percarbonate) Oxy-Drain Drain Maintenainer (Sodium Percarbonate) Oxy-Grout Grout Cleaner (Sodium Percarbonate)

Orange Glo International – OxiWash(TM) Laundry Detergent (Sodium Percarbonate) Seventh Generation – Ultra Non-Chlorine Bleach (Hydrogen Peroxide) Seventh Generation – Automatic Dishwasher Powder (Sodium Perborate)

Wolman – Deck and Siding Brightener (Sodium Percarbonate)

How To Buy Oxygen Bleaching Products

The first thing to consider is what are your cleaning and stain removal needs?  If you have a wide range of problems from laundry, carpeting, upholstery, pets, children, wood decks, etc., then a ultra-concentrated or concentrated bleach product is probably the choice for you as it will give you the best stain removal power and versatility of application.

If you are just concerned with normal laundry use then one of the oxygen bleach detergents or an oxygen bleach with cleaning additives is probably just fine.  If needed you can use an oxygen bleach as a presoak or as an additive to your normal detergent.

Take note of what ingredients are used and avoid products with fillers like sodium chloride (salt) and sodium sulfate.  Due to their limited solubility bleaches based on perborates cannot provide as high of an available oxygen content as concentrated sodium percarbonate bleaches can.

If you are familiar with oxygen bleaches and how to use them then buying from a vendor with the lowest price and who doesn’t provide a lot of support is okay. If you are unfamiliar or don’t have much experience with these kinds of products then you are better off buying from a vendor who will provide you good customer support like Natural Choices.  If convenience and a name brand is important then you can choose from brands like Oxiclean or Bi-O-Kleen.  

Price Comparrison

Internet retail prices shown below are based on One Pound size containers (or calculated from the closest size to 1 pound) for equal comparison.   Most companies offer larger sizes at a lower per pound cost. Ultra-Concentrated Bleaches

CompanyProductPrice/Lb*Bleach Type
Natural ChoicesOxy-Boost$5.40Percarbonate
Ask The BuilderStain Solver$9.00 Percarbonate

Concentrated Bleaches

CompanyProductPrice/Lb*Bleach Type
QVCOxygen8$7.95Percarbonate
Orange Glo InternationalOxiclean$5.95 Percarbonate

Bleaches With Other Additives, Fillers and Other Cleaning Agents

CompanyProductPrice/Lb*Bleach Type
Clean Environment CompanyColor Safe Powdered Bleach$3.00Perborate
SodasanBleach Additive$3.90 Percarbonate
Bi-O-KleenOxygen Bleach Plus$3.13Percarbonate
MorganicsWhite Wave$5.18Percarbonate
LifekindNatural Oxygen Bleach$3.98Percarbonate
Bio PacNon-Chloride Bleach Powder** Percarbonate

*Internet purchase price.  Does not include shipping costs.

** Only bulk pricing available

Future Of Oxygen Bleach Products

With the wide availability of sodium percarbonate and sodium perborate at reasonable prices and the ease at which they can be formulated into a range of effective and safe consumer products, the future for these products is bright.  Oxygen based bleach based products will continue to  provide consumers with naturally derived safe and effective alternatives to toxic household cleaners.  The largest use will continue to be in laundry applications but you will see oxygen based bleaches in other household products such as toilet bowl cleaners, siding cleaners, tile and grout cleaners, carpet cleaners, masonry cleaners and concrete cleaners to name a few.

Due to the availability of  lower cost Chinese and Korean made sodium percarbonate costing as little as half the price of domestic produced materials, the pricing of oxygen bleach products will be very favorable to manufacturers.  The only question is the quality and consistency of these foreign made materials which has made manufacturers of high quality oxygen bleach products reluctant to use them.      

References

Solvay-Interox (Page last updated 8/23/02)