Green chemistry is a design process that strives to reduce or eliminate the use of hazardous substances. It’s the best way to describe Bon Ami’s approach to product design. We didn’t start out striving to be green. We just started out with simple ingredients and simple processes to give you products that work well without dangerous chemicals.
One green chemistry tactic involves finding new uses for what was once considered waste. (An empty plastic bottle, for example, doesn’t need to be waste: It can be recycled to make something new.) This approach is part of our roots. A key ingredient in our scrubbing powder, first sold in 1886, was feldspar. At the time, feldspar was a waste product at quartz mines, and was being tossed away – until someone noticed that shovels used in the tossing were always shiny. One company’s waste became another company’s key ingredient.
For more than a hundred and twenty five years, we’ve stuck to a short list of ingredients largely because our company culture led us to keep the recipes simple. As environmental awareness grew in and around our company, we found other reasons to stick with the simple ingredients. What was once a habit or a sense of tradition became an intentional pursuit and a statement of purpose. Today, it’s more important than ever to keep it simple.
We’ve changed the mix of ingredients over the years. We replaced the tallow soap with a cleaning agent made from corn and coconut. We’ve added new products, and have found ways to keep them both simple and green. In designing liquid cleansers with fragrances (we still offer fragrance-free versions), we’ve chosen natural essential oils, never synthetic scents.
Ingredients, with names you can pronounce
Baking soda ~ Sodium bicarbonate : This common kitchen ingredient helps our formula absorb odors so your cleaning experience is more pleasant.
Bio-degradable cleaning agents (from corn and coconut) ~ Alkyl polyglucoside and potassium alkanoate : The chemical name for our primary cleaning agent is alkyl polyglucoside, or APG. That mouthful refers to the combination of glucose and fatty alcohols inherent in the natural oils of corn and coconut. Bon Ami uses a non-ionic cleaning agent, which helps you clean away greasy soils like lasagna and leftover vinaigrette from your dinner dishes.
Biodegradable preservatives ~ Methyl isothiazolinone and methyl chloro isothiazolinone : Water is the medium of life, and any time you have a product with water, there is a chance that bacteria will grow in it after time has passed. Bon Ami uses the minimum amount of bio-degradable preservative needed to keep our products free from such risk. Our preservative rapidly biodegrades, is non-persistent in the environment and non-bioaccumulating.
Citric acid : Citric acid is another ingredient used to soften water. It has a chelating effect, which means that it ties up minerals and impurities so that the formula can clean better.
Epsom salts ~ Magnesium sulfate : Ever take a bath with Epsom salts to help soothe your skin? That’s why we add them to this Bon Ami product. Epsom salts condition the water to help ingredients to be milder on the skin.
Feldspar : Feldspar is the original gentle abrasive used to formulate Bon Ami. It has a hardness of 6 to 7 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, which is softer and less abrasive than the silica that competing products use. Our feldspar comes from North Carolina and North Dakota.
Limestone ~ Calcium carbonate : The powdered limestone in our products acts as a gentle abrasive to help scrub away dirt and stains. Limestone has a hardness of about 3 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. Our limestone comes from Quincy, Illinois.
Soda ash ~ Sodium carbonate : Soda ash is an old-fashioned ingredient that helps to make the formula more basic. That means it’s more effective on soils and softer on your hands.
Tallow soap : Tallow soap is made from purified animal fat and soda ash. The simple formula is ancient: the first records of this soap-making process date back almost 5,000 years.
Xanthan gum : This is a food-grade thickener used to add viscosity and help keep the solid ingredients suspended within the liquids. You can find xanthan gum in common grocery store staples like creamy soups and ice cream.
... and ingredients we do not include
Shaped by the chemically-sensitive
We kept things simple largely because that’s what we knew best. But there were other factors that reinforced this approach.
Our connection to a community of people sensitive to an increasing number of pervasive chemicals had a significant impact on our company and our practices. At a time when other cleaning products kept introducing new cleaning agents, new fragrances and more bleach, we were admittedly tempted to follow along. But the letters from a small group of chemically sensitive people – expressing real gratitude to us for avoiding harmful substances – helped us stay the course.We remain connected to this community, and the dialog continues to shape our thinking on product and package design.