Oxygen-cleaning technology has been commercially marketed since the 1970s. Oxygen cleaners began to grow in popularity with consumers in the mid-1990s when the current “green” awareness began to grow. Oxygen cleaners work on organic stains, but have little effect on grease or petrochemical stains. OxiClean is a highly marketed brand of oxygen cleaner. Because there are no harsh or caustic chemical ingredients in OxiClean, and because it breaks down into oxygen and water, it is considered a very environmentally friendly product. However, since the pH of the water is raised significantly with the potential for fiber damage, it is important to use oxygen cleaners correctly.
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According to research by Laundry Alternative, OxiClean consists of 50 to 60 percent sodium percarbonate. Sodium percarbonate must be added to water to be activated. When activated, it breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate in solution. The bubbling action, or the release of oxygen molecules, loosens stain molecules from fibers so they can be rinsed away.
Soda Ash/Sodium Carbonate
Sodium carbonate, or soda ash, is also sold separately as washing soda. As one component of activated sodium percarbonate, it boosts the water’s pH, making it more alkaline, which neutralizes acids that may be produced during the cleaning process so the stain molecules can be rinsed away easily. When properly dissolved, the pH of OxiClean can be as high as 11. Some items, such as carpeting, have warranty limitations or recommended pH cleaning of no more than 10.
The hydrogen peroxide component of the activated sodium percarbonate works as a bleach and sanitizer. It breaks down into oxygen and water.
OxiClean contains low-sudsing surfactants to complete the cleaning process. These are non-ionic detergents, which are neutral and do not react to hard water ions.