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Does Detergent pH Matter?

For the average consumer, detergent is a bit of a mystery. Most people don’t really know much about it, or why they pick one product over another at the store. Ultimately, they just want a detergent that’s affordable and will get their clothes clean.

You can do yourself (and your wardrobe) a favor, however, if you’re willing to take a minute to learn how different detergents work. A major difference has to do with pH. To help you understand, we’ll explain what pH is and why it’s a factor you should think about when buying your next bottle of detergent.

What is pH, Anyway?

The abbreviation pH stands for “potential of hydrogen” and is a way to represent the concentration of hydrogen ions in a given solution. The scale for pH runs from 0 to 14, with 7 representing “neutral,” i.e., pure water. Anything higher than 7 is alkaline (fewer hydrogen ions than pure water), while anything lower than 7 is acidic (more hydrogen ions pure water).

Like all other solutions, laundry detergents can be measured for their pH level. If you were to measure all of the top detergents on the market today, you would find that the vast majority register on the alkaline side of the scale. This is likely due to the fact that the cleaning agent in those detergents, enzymes, need an alkaline environment to work. In an acidic environment, the enzymes are essentially destroyed and won’t clean your clothes.

Some Problems with the Standard Approach

In some instances, standard detergents work just fine. When washing natural fabrics, these products get clothes pretty clean. However, if you look a little closer, you’ll find some problems that arise from these detergents’ high pH.

  • Smells tend to linger. When using a regular detergent with a high pH, you might find that your synthetic garments retain their unpleasant odor even after you’ve washed them. What’s happening is that the formula used in these detergents can’t effectively remove the body oils that collect in your synthetic clothing, and over time those oils start to smell. To get rid of the smell, you’ll need to get rid of the oils, and that’s a job handled best by a detergent with a lower pH.

  • Stretchy fabrics degrade. Many synthetic garments are meant to flex and conform to the shape of your body (think: leggings, sports bras, compression socks). Unfortunately, alkaline detergents can break down these fibers over time, and, as a result, they’ll start to lose their stretch. Switching to a lower-pH detergent can help you retain the integrity and shape of these materials for quite a bit longer.

  • The environment suffers. Not only can high-pH detergents come up short in terms of performance, but they might also do harm to the surrounding environment. Since alkaline detergents have the potential to break down synthetic fabrics, those tiny synthetic pieces will be carried out with the water and left somewhere in the ecosystem. Microplastics can cause serious problems in the environment, and a high-pH detergent may be contributing to the issue.

    The good news is that switching to a low-pH detergent like WIN can solve all of these problems. After you make the switch, you’ll notice your synthetic garments start to smell better, they last longer, and you’re no longer contributing to environmental degradation with every load of wash.

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    WIN detergent is designed to keep your synthetic activewear smelling fresh and looking clean, no matter how hard you train. Our powerful formula targets tough odors and stains, while also preserving the integrity and performance of your activewear. Whether you're a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, trust WIN to keep your sportswear in top condition.

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