Washing powder is a type of soap that is used to launder clothing. Modern washing machines are equipped with drawers or compartments into which people can place washing powder. The powder is combined with water inside the washing machine and a detergent solution contained within the powder removes dirt and stains from the laundry. Washing powder usually contains enzymes such as proteases and amylases which clean by breaking down dirt molecules.
Hot water kills many types of germs and can also remove dirt from clothing and other types of laundry but hot water can also cause dyes to fade and leave clothes excessively wrinkled. Warm and cold water are less damaging to synthetic materials but are less effective at removing dirt and killing germs. Additionally, hard water, containing high mineral levels, has less of an impact on dirt and stains than soft water. Washing powder is designed remove dirt and stains regardless of the water temperature or mineral content.
Enzymes are proteins that can be used as catalysts to create bio-chemical reactions enabling animal organs to break down molecules such as food particles allowing for digestion. In 1913, a German scientist named Otto Rohm began testing the effects of enzymes in laundry soap. He first used a proteolytic enzyme which he extracted from the pancreas of animals. The enzyme did cause a chemical reaction that caused dirt particles to separate from cloth and other materials, but he found that the process also caused stains to appear. Since Rohm's early experiments, many other scientists and chemical firms have found other types of enzymes to be far more effective as detergents.
Washing powder often contains a variety of chemical compounds that have an impact on certain types of materials. Some detergents contain softeners that prevent washed materials from becoming brittle and hard. Many detergents contain bleach, which can be effective at removing discoloration and stains from clothing. Bleach, however, can also cause damage to dyed materials and is best used on white or light colored clothing. Washing powder also typically contains disinfectants that can eliminate germs that cannot be killed with water.
While people in industrialized nations typically use washing powder in washing machines, the powder can be used for hand-washing clothes. Some detergents contain enzymes and chemical compounds that can be abrasive to the skin. People can reduce skin damage by wearing protective gloves or by purchasing types of detergents that are specifically designed for people with sensitive skin.