The science of clean: Innovation, creative chemistry go into Lima-made Tide

Innovation, creative chemistry go into Lima-made Tide

By Camri Nelson - [email protected]

Procter and Gamble senior chemistry scientist Mary Johnson explains how the washing machines in laundry labs operate at the Ivorydale Tech Center in Cincinnati during a tour Friday.

Procter and Gamble senior chemistry scientist Mary Johnson explains how the washing machines in laundry labs operate at the Ivorydale Tech Center in Cincinnati during a tour Friday.

CINCINNATI — Since arriving on the market in 1946, Procter and Gamble has been re-engineering Tide, a laundry detergent manufactured in Lima, to ensure that clothes washed with its product are clean, fresh, bright and odor free.

The Ivorydale Tech Center in Cincinnati is the birthplace of Tide and one the longest continuing operation facilities for P&G in North America, said Mary Johnson, a P&G senior chemistry scientist. ITC is one of five P&G Fabric Care locations across the globe, with 825 fabric care scientists.


It took 13 years to develop Tide, and it was the first detergent to provide outstanding cleaning. It became No. 1 shortly after being released and is currently ranked No. 1 among other detergents, Johnson said.

“One of the reasons that Tide is No. 1 is because of a constant stream of innovation,” said Johnson. “We take this very seriously, and so do our consumers,” Johnson said. “It’s a common human need. Everyone has to wash their clothes.”

Innovation has been important to the company because it understands the importance of clean clothing.

“The idea is if you don’t wash your clothes properly, they will be stained, dingy, smelly, dirty, and people will judge you,” Johnson said. “It really affects a lot of aspects of life. We are really dedicated to keeping up with cleaning challenges. It’s harder to do laundry now than it ever was before in some ways.”

In order to resolve some of those cleaning challenges, P&G released Tide PODS, detergent packs with a unique and innovative design. The pods have three chambers that release softening agents and thoroughly cleans the clothes, Johnson said.

In 2016, P&G launched Tide PurClean, which is 65 percent bio-based and is guaranteed to work just as well as the regular Tide product.

“We really like to be close to where the innovation is and close to the consumers,” Johnson said. “We talk to tens of thousands of consumers every year because we want to know their laundry cleaning challenges, frustrations, desires and what they hope to see.”

Johnson acknowledged that in some places in China and Africa, there are people who are hand-washing their clothes, so P&G has to tailor its products to places that have low water volumes.

“That way everything is as efficient as it can be,” Johnson said. “Even though the water appears to be dirty, it’s still cleaning your clothes, and we are doing it without damaging your skin or your hands. We want to be mild on skin and still provide an outstanding clean, even under some challenging conditions that our consumers can encounter.”

Through its research, P&G fabric care scientists found the life cycle of clothing is determined by the first wash. Another notable finding is that 30 percent of the stains found on clothes are visible stains, such as dirt and spills.

The other 70 percent are invisible stains, such as body soil. Johnson said each day the average person releases 10 grams of salt, 40 grams of grease and sebum and 10 grams of skin cells.

After surveying consumers, P&G found that the biggest laundry challenges are clothing brightness at 20.5 percent, stain removal at 20.5 percent, malodor removal/freshness at 19.6 percent and clothing whiteness at 17.9 percent.

To resolve those issues, P&G has four essential components in its laundry detergent: surfactants, enzymes, polymers and builders and chelants.

Surfactants provide cleaning of the dirt and soils, the enzymes break down the stain and dirt into smaller pieces in order to remove the dirt, the polymers capture the dirt and prevent it from redepositing, and the builders and chelants purify the chlorine, minerals, metals and protects the fabric.


Through the use of P&G’s multiple laundry labs, which are filled with an abundance of washing machines, the fabric care scientists test out various Tide products or its other detergents to discover how well the detergent reacts on clothing and water.

“In this lab we can dial in different kinds of water,” said Johnson. “We can get water hardness and water composition in London or in Latin America, add chlorine to the water levels and evaluate the different laundry detergents under the conditions that are much closer to those in those countries.”

In one of the labs, P&G Fabric care scientist Kevin Kluesener explores the newer washing/dual machines to better understand how they are evolving to determine how the companies products should change.

One of the trends that he has noticed is the growth of high efficiency washing machines, which are bigger yet use less water.

“We see that consumers are running colder cycles as well, and we think this trend will continue,” Kluesener said. “People are becoming more aware of how much energy and water they are using.”

Many of the washing machines that he experiments with have WiFi capabilities, which he said most manufacturers have promised will have by 2020-2022. These machines let consumers download a app that allows them to monitor how many cycles they run, how much energy they are using, how much detergent is being used and various other options.

“There are a lot of apps out right now, and I think the manufacturers are trying to find the best way to design the apps and find out what consumers want,” he said.

One the various tools Kluesener uses to better explore the washing machines is a data acquisition system. This system will provide him with a cycle profile that indicates the water levels, temperature, drainage, agitation and the strength of the spin cycle.

“It’s very important that you delight the consumers and provide that clean, freshness, brightness and stain removal that the consumer is looking for,” Johnson said. “You have to know the needs of your consumers and be able to adjust accordingly.”


Mandy Pessler is one of 30 analysts at ITC, who works in the analytical imaging lab. She evaluates the fibers in clothing and the dirt/soil that has attached to it to better innovate Tide products.

Through various tools, Pessler is able to understand the stability of the fabrics, the individual raw materials that make up the fabrics and how the detergent interacts with the fabric.

The light microscope allows scientists to examine clothing with a 12 to 132 times magnification. The bench top provides images of the macro level; portable light microscope provide a 20 times magnification. With the Scanning Electron Microscopy, she is able to thoroughly examine those fibers or soil with a 50,000 to 800,000 times magnification.

The $850,000 SEM provides black and white images of the residue left on the fabrics, such as the soil, sebum, artificial body soil and various other components that contribute to malodor.

“With the SEM, you can look at the macro level and zoom into the fiber level to really understand how superior your product is compared to competition and really understand what are the residues left behind and the actives, which are there to clean the materials.”


As a part of the P&G sensory team, Kelly Van Haren workers with a descriptive analysis, a panel of external, non-P&G employees who grade scents and the textures.

“They will grade the intensity of scents that is on a fabric or the malodor that is on a fabric,” Van Haren said. “That’s the main stuff that they are trained in. Sometimes they grade the fabric, not just softness, but deeper into how the softness is different between different actives.”

For five hours a day, three days a week, the panelists are provided with samples labeled with three digit codes and are tasked with evaluating and grading them. This process allows the fabric care scientists to learn the needs and wants of their consumers.

“They have no idea of what they are smelling,” Van Haren said. “That way when we do claim support, it’s clear that they don’t have any stake in the game and they are not familiar with what’s P&G.”

They conduct their evaluation in a controlled room setting where all the colors in the room alter the colors around them. The light causes all the colors to be dull.

“We don’t want panelists to be biased when they grade,” Van Haren said. “If we have two cups of detergent, one is green and one is purple and I wanted to know which one is lime scented more, I don’t want them to to assume that it’s the green one.”

Aside from the controlled rooms, the sensory labs also have aging closets, where the scientists store fabrics with controlled air elements in order to determine how long scents will last.

“That way when we say that it last 12 weeks, it’s not that we put it in a container and sealed it up and then 12 weeks later took it out,” Pessler said. “We actually use technology to help us with our innovation.”


P&G Analytical scientists like Marcia Ketcha focus their research on odor analysis by attempting to trap the head space on top of the fabrics.

“We do that in all sorts of ways,” Ketcha said. “We dose the materials ahead of time and wash them with different treatments. Sensory will evaluate them, and we will run analytical data as well.”

One of the many tools Ketcha uses is a gas chromatrography machine, which evaluates material in vials and separates the components in the material so that they can later be measured. The scientists typically know what materials are on each sample they just want to measure the components.

Samples where the components are not identified are placed into a bag that is filled with nitrogen. The nitrogen and the components are vacuumed and trapped and placed into a thermal desportion unit to discover the elements in the fabric.

“Once we identify the odor is, we can engineer backwards and figure out what technology would be good at removing it,” Johnson said. “We have labs like this across our different sites. We can go the extra mile to really understand the exact molecular components, fibers and head space. This is why we re-engineered Tide. We want to take care of dinginess, malodor and dullness while providing that great freshness and stain removal. It’s our complex system and deep knowledge that allows us to do what we do.”

Procter and Gamble senior chemistry scientist Mary Johnson explains how the washing machines in laundry labs operate at the Ivorydale Tech Center in Cincinnati during a tour Friday. and Gamble senior chemistry scientist Mary Johnson explains how the washing machines in laundry labs operate at the Ivorydale Tech Center in Cincinnati during a tour Friday.
Innovation, creative chemistry go into Lima-made Tide

By Camri Nelson

[email protected]

Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @CamriNews

Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @CamriNews

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