Left detergent in a hot car, still good?
May 22, 2011 3:23 PM   Subscribe

'Should I eat it?'-but-with-soap-filter: I left my Tide Free and Clear Coldwater liquid detergent out in the car for a day or two when it got hot. Now it smells just ever so slightly off- kinda winey/fermented. WTF, and will it still clean my clothes?

So I did a load with the detergent since then and it didn't leave any smell in the clothes, but didn't get them as clean as I might have liked either, but maybe that's my imagination. Has it changed chemically from the heat and should I chuck it? If there is no reason to think that there is anything wrong with it, I'd rather not waste most of a large bottle, but I'm not a chemist.
posted by slow graffiti to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
IANAC. But your soap is fine.
posted by reverend cuttle at 3:34 PM on May 22, 2011

Our detergent travels to Hawaii in un-temperature controlled containers via ship. It gets very hot. It it were a container of milk, you would have a problem. Your detergent is fine.
posted by fifilaru at 3:39 PM on May 22, 2011

There is nothing in highly processed washer detergent that spoils.

I learned to get over the fear of things left in the car by an astute poster (possibly here on mefi) noting (after someone was concerned about storing gasoline cans in their car and a fear of them exploding on hot days) that the gasoline in your gas tank hasn't exploded yet, has it? And it's out there from the bite of winter to the ravages of summer.

Yeah. You're fine!
posted by carlh at 3:53 PM on May 22, 2011

Maybe it's a smell from the plastic getting heated up?
posted by wondermouse at 3:56 PM on May 22, 2011

Best answer: Biochemist here. I'm pretty sure your detergent is fine. I just took a sniff of a different Tide liquid detergent and I could see how you might describe it as a little winey/fermented. I can't believe your car got hot enough to decompose your detergent or any of its ingredients.

I couldn't find an MSDS online for Tide Free and Clear, but here is a pretty broad MSDS from Procter & Gamble for a whole bunch of their Tide liquid detergent products. Yours is probably quite similar to the ones covered here. Scroll down to Section 10 for stability.

Spoiler: stable, no conditions or materials to avoid, no hazardous decomposition products known.
posted by Quietgal at 3:58 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to store my liquid detergent in the car trunk, since I did my laundry at a laundromat. Never had a problem.
posted by salvia at 4:20 PM on May 22, 2011

This is the kind of thing that you can call the company's 800# for. They'll usually mail you a coupon for a free replacement bottle, even if your current bottle is fine.
posted by xo at 4:38 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am a chemist and I have studied the degradation rates of compounds very similar to those in soaps. Chemically, my best guess is that liquid detergents are stable for at least three months when stored in the original bottle, even if they get pretty hot. I wasn't seeing very high breakdown rates even at the three month marks in my tests, less than 1%.

Mixed with water and a culture inoculum like sewer sludge, they can break down fairly quickly, which is why there's no problem putting them down the drain, but without the bugs and the water, they're pretty stable in even moderate heat.

The second thing to consider is that the immediate and intermediate breakdown products will mostly not be bad soaps either. Even off a bit, the soap will still function.

I wouldn't worry too much.
posted by bonehead at 4:58 PM on May 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

Your detergent arrived at the place you bought it in a truck. That truck got as hot as your car in all likelihood, and the detergent was in it for longer than a day. This is not a thing to worry about.
posted by donnagirl at 5:19 PM on May 22, 2011

I'm not a chemist.

But, aren't the cold water formulas fortified with enzymes? One of the few things I recall from high school biology is that enzymes denature at some surprisingly low temperatures.

So, the detergent itself may be fine, but the enzymes may be broken.
posted by Netzapper at 6:12 PM on May 22, 2011

I store my laundry soap in my car. Never a problem yet.
posted by rhizome at 6:53 PM on May 22, 2011

The other thing to consider is that the hot water in your machine is probably just as hot as the inside of your car. Don't sweat it.
posted by schmod at 7:20 PM on May 22, 2011

Detergents should be fine.

Enzymes, which is just a class of proteins, is a really vague term. There are enzymes that will denature if you look at them wrong (much less heat them or expose them to detergent - which is how you linearize proteins for SDS-PAGE).

But there are proteins which run at different weights than you'd expect (which suggests, among other things, that they're not fully linearized) and are even still active despite spending quality time is a concentrated SDS solution in a boiling water bath. The staph aureus protein "protein A" is rugged enough to go through the electrophoresis process and still be intact enough to non-specifically pull antibodies out of solution.

I'm not sure what enzyme they use for enzymatic detergents, but unless the whole enzyme hype is 100% pure hype, it has got to be something fairly rugged. If it is pure hype, I guess it doesn't matter anyway.

Also, proteins which have been dried down, assuming they survive they drying process without denaturing, are typically more stable than proteins in solution.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:12 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older Overgrown azalea...   |   Early admission to Cambridge when you're not the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.