Case Study: Cleaners

Effective cleaning of oil- and grease-related soiling is a slippery issue in industrial, commercial and consumer uses. The performance of cleaners must be balanced with environmental and personal safety issues with today’s products. Most slip-and-falls are related to soiled floors, with more than 4 million reported annually in the U.S. restaurant industry alone. Almost all industries mop floors regularly to maintain a clean appearance and safe environment, commonly used cleaners are based on caustic/surfactant formulations, which leave a filmy residue after mopping that makes the floor slippery once the “clean” floor gets wet. The residue has many sources: emulsified oil that turns into soap from hardness in the water, “builders” in the cleaners and un-emulsified oil, to name a few. In the past, surfactants have been used to modify the physico-chemical characteristics of proteins, such as solubility, binding properties, tertiary structure. However, little is known about the converse effect of proteins on surfactants. The addition of a complex mixture of low molecular weight proteins, peptides, co-factors and minerals derived from fermentation (the “protein bundle”) to various surfactant systems has a marked ability to reduce surface tension and interfacial tension in aqueous solutions, while simultaneously decreasing the criticalmicelle concentration (CMC). The technology is termed Molecular Kinetics and is based on protein structure function and surface modification chemistry. FGX3 aids degradation of contaminants at the molecular level and, in certain cases, utilizes some of the degraded material to create new surfactant-like molecules, thereby establishing an ongoing “autocatalytic” process. This improves cleaning, sanitary conditions, environmental aspects and worker safety. CMC and Interfacial Tension properties of the Protein Surfactant Complexes (PSCs) protein bundle, , causes the CMC to decrease from 442 ppm to 75 ppm in sterile conditions and to 4 ppm when bacterial action is added (see table).  Lowering the CMC means less surfactant can be used to clean a particular quantity of oil or other soiling factor, improving cost-effectiveness. In addition, lower surfactant levels mean there are fewer compounds in the cleaning formula, which helps to lower streaking on shiny surfaces. Interfacial tension is, by definition, the amount of work necessary to create a unit area of interface. Lowering the interfacial tension between the immiscible oil and water is a significant component of the cleaning mechanism of the protein-enhanced surfactant.

Improved Cleaning Utilizing the pendant drop test method and correlating the reduction of grease to the shift in CMC values, FGX3 manufacturers report that up to 35 percent of the breakdown products become water-soluble, surface-active agents themselves, depending on the type of oil. This effect multiplies the cleaning power as cleaning proceeds, which means that a lower level of cleaning solution is required compared to caustic or alkaline cleaners. By solubilizing fats and oils, streaking is eliminated on shiny surfaces such as tiles, glass and polished steel. Grease and oil breakdown, caused by the protein/surfactant cleaner, simulates saponification, however it takes place at rather neutral pH values. Motor oils, suntan lotions and many synthetic oils are not saponified with caustic or solvent cleaners. The emulsions they form, coupled with “builders”, create a residual film and increase the tendency for leaving streaks on surfaces. User Safety cases with caustic cleaners cite severe eye and skin damage and are clearly harmful if swallowed; there is minimal toxicological risk with the protein cleaner. Cleaners that use d-limonene as the active ingredient and “butyl” cleaners with 2-butoxyethanol or similar compounds can be harmful, especially with continued exposure. These compounds are generally not recommended for use in a food environment due to their hazardous nature.

The protein/surfactant solution, however, meets FDA requirements for food contact, and toxicity tests show it is inherently safe. All materials utilized in the product are either on the Generally Regarded as Safe list or cleared for food contact under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations for Food and Drugs. The pH of the neat solution is 4.5 and the diluted pH is typically between 5.5 to 6.5, which is in the range of human skin pH.

Continuing Catalytic effects are further optimized under “non-sterile” conditions. It is well known that many microorganisms adjust or change their environments by releasing various agents, and they utilize these secreted molecules for a number of purposes. Such environmental adjustments are a result of biological evolution, and it is extremely difficult to design a similar artificial composition, or even to simulate the natural process. However, it is possible to take advantage of and leverage those evolutionary developed microbial skills of the indigenous bacteria in commercial, residential, industrial and environmental applications. The company’s findings observe the synergistic biodegradation effect of a bacterial spore-free, surface active formulation working in concert with existing, resident bacteria. The following are case studies using the Protein/surfactant compositions, based on the “protein bundle,” significantly enhancing the metabolism of the protein/surfactant cleaner in various industries.

“Before and after” inspection in Mission Viejo, California where the shop had been using a highly caustic white-powder cleaner commonly used in automotive shops due to its low cost per pound show the white residue left from caustic cleaning, a combination of “builders” and dried emulsified oil. A  few days after cleaning with the protein solution where  before, in addition to leaving a dirty appearance, residue was tracked into the office areas and became slippery when wet. After using the protein/surfactant cleaner, residue was eliminated in the first mopping, leaving a cleaner floor. Don Fitzgerald of AAA says the protein/surfactant cleaner breaks down the oil into simpler compounds, which makes it easier to mop. “The floor had to be ‘scrubbed’ with other cleaners to get the same appearance” of the protein/surfactant cleaner, which requires only simple mopping. The protein/surfactant cleaner is safer to use and not a caustic. “I like the idea of benefitting the environment, and it doesn’t cost me any more than what I had been using,” says Fitzgerald.

A dishwasher manufacturer was using a highly caustic cleaner with a pH level around 12. It contained 2-butoxyethanol, sodium tri-polyphosphate, sodium silicate and sodium xylene sulfonate surfactant. The dangerous cleaner had to be diluted 5:1 to get good results; this was ten times the recommended dilution. The protein/surfactant cleaner was used at 25:1 dilution, which provided a large cost reduction. There was no streaking and adhesion to the surface was excellent In addition, the protein cleaner eliminated safety hazards, and the amount of surfactants and organic loading going to sewer was reduced.

At a soy sauce manufacturing plant, the protein/surfactant cleaner was used to degrease equipment and to clean floors. In one area, soy oil was used to temporarily coat and lubricate stainless steel floors to aid in moving equipment. The soy oil was removed using the protein/surfactant cleaner. Visitors commented that traction was extremely good. A solution of the product is poured down the drain on a weekly basis, where the proteins in the cleaner keep the drain lines free of grease build-up and prevent plugging. The plant eliminated the need for quarterly mechanical reaming of drain lines since switching solutions.

At a national chain restaurant in Oceanside, Calif., the protein/surfactant cleaner is used in many areas, replacing four different cleaners, all of which were caustic. In monetary terms, the total expense for cleaners was cut in half. The restaurant owner was able to reduce his workers’ compensation insurance premium as a result of the reduced number of slip-and-fall accidents since using the cleaner. Polishing marble floors is especially difficult, due to residue left in the pores of the marble. With the protein/surfactant cleaner, the pores are kept clean by the indigenous bacteria in such a way that the grease and oil solublised by the enhanced detergent action is rapidly digested by the bacteria that are already present. The bacteria continue to digest the grease and oil after the floor has been mopped. The result is the complete removal of grease and oil from tiles’ pores and grout, yielding a cleaner appearance and a reduction in potential employee and customer slip-and-fall cases. To illustrate the effects of the proteins on resident bacteria, it is noteworthy to compare the protein/surfactant product with a commercially available bacteria-based surfactant cleaner.   The table shows the PSCs removed three times as much grease with no added bacteria compared to the bacteria-based cleaner – 16.8 percent vs. 5.2 percent. The protein-enhanced cleaner is not based on bacteria in the product, nor is it based on enzymes. It is stable, has a long shelf life and maintains its effectiveness in cleaning after exposure to high heat or pH extremes from 3.5 to 10.5. Laboratory studies comparing the protein/surfactant based product with competitive cleaning products were conducted using the pendant drop test, which has proven to be an effective screening method, with good correlation between lab and actual use results. This test method is designed to demonstrate the power of the product’s biochemical action on grease and oil substrates without the influence of agitation. Field results support the controlled lab studies. FGX3 is based on the ability of a proprietary “protein bundle” to affect surfactants by lowering surface tension and interfacial tension – a measure of the surface tension between water and oil. Studies also demonstrate an autocatalytic effect, resulting in the ability of the protein/surfactant composition to actually convert the degraded grease and oil to surfactant-like materials. The ability to change the nature of surfactants greatly enhanced the detergency of surfactants without necessitating the need to incorporate harsh or toxic chemicals or solvents, such as silicates or glycol ethers.

Commercial Bacteria/Surfactant Cleaner in Seeded solution Protein/Surfactant Cleaner Cleaner in Seeded solution
Pre -Grease Exposure Solution Properties
Surface tension prior to grease drop exposure mN/m 55.02 52.92
CMC prior to grease drop exposure ppm 26.2 189
Properties and Effects During Grease Exposure
Initial interfacial tension upon exposure to grease 13.28 12.52
Equilibrium interfacial tension with grease 7.24 4.27
Time frame for interfactial tension equilibrium mins 2,100 >2,880
Grease drop volume after 2,880/48hrs uL 4.47 4.16
Time frame for grease drop volume equilibrium mins 2,100 >2,880
Post Grease Exposure Solution Properties
Surface Tension of 5.0ml retain after grease exposure mN/m 13.28 12.52
CMC after grease drop exposure ppm 257 153
Calculated Properties Based on above Data
Conc of the aqueous retain in terms of converted grease ppm 52 168
CMC shift pre vs post-grease exposure 5 36
% of the 5.0 ul grease converted to solubles 5.2 16.8
% of 5.0ul of grease converted to surfactant like materials 0.5 3.6
% grease that is converted which becomes surfactant like 9.6 21.4

Another benefit to using a protein/surfactant product is that no “designer” bacteria are added to the local environment, which can work against the goal of maintaining sanitary conditions; benign as those added bacteria might be prior to cohabitating with the resident bacteria. While surfactants and compounds in many commercial cleaners might be termed “biodegradable,” the oils that these products clean are not readily biodegradable. FGX3 accelerates the biodegradation of organics by increasing the metabolism of the resident bacteria. This, in effect, means that the wastewater treatment process begins during cleaning or mopping. Organic compounds, like oils in mop water, will continue breaking down in the sewer system due to the proteins that remain in the solution. Further, since relative amounts of surfactants are reduced when used in conjunction with the PSCs the overall environmental benefit is multiplied.

This research provides the basis for a new paradigm, in that the addition of biologically derived material is used to improve the detergency power of surfactants. The impact of the protein/surfactant combination on interfacial tension determines the efficacy of the biological material and can, therefore, be optimized for a particular end use. The synergism between protein/surfactant cleaners and the oils being cleaned lead to unique, autocatalytic effects. One of the advantages of this new approach is the possibility of formulating state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly products, which requires less surfactant to achieve better performance, with improvement in safety to the users.

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