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THE BLUE GOO STORY (continued)
United Kingdom (North Wales) 2004 Sep 8
I'm very interested in Blue Goo comments. If you're not too bored with the subject I can fill in further details as I was a chemist with a major UK company (with links to the US) who produced various types of these products.
I am looking forward to your comments.
I have worked for companies making these blue flush products for nearly fifteen years, as a laboratory technician, formulation chemist and packaging technologist.
In my experience, the main reason for the poor flushing in low volume flush toilets is, as your correspondents identified, higher viscosity water. Movement of the partially dissolved block may also interfere with toilet mechanisms.
One group of products frequently use thickening agents to slow the dissolution of the dye(s) used (Acid blue 9 and Acid blue 1 usually) and the detergent(s) (Alkyl benzene sulphonates frequently used in clothes washing powder).
The thickening agents include soluble cellulose materials such as CMC (carboxy methyl cellulose) mixed with pine oil and derivatives (terpenes, terpinols).
Sometimes other oils such as geraniol (derived from Geranium flowers I believe) and perfumes designed for that purpose)
Interestingly, some formulations use calcium and magnesium salts, which effectively make the water "hard" to reduce detergent/dye solubility!
Another, older type of blue flush product used a specially formulated surfactants (cetyl-stearyl ethoxylates) which again produce a slow gel as they dissolve in water.
Most of the ingredients are harmless or at worst, irritant. But can promote the corrosion of steels and some perfumes/oils can damage ABS plastic cisterns.
As you can imagine, after so many years I could write a short book on the formulation/testing/packaging of these products. So if you require any further information I will be glad to oblige (especially since I'm not working at the moment - at college).
Many thanks for your detailed response. Would you have any statistics, such as: Is there a particular situation where these products should NOT be used? Is there someway to insure they will NOT cause the problem when used? How important is the location of the product in the tank?
You mention "low volume flush" and many complaints also mention them, but I've also heard from people who seem to be complaining about the 3.5 gal. toilets. In your opinion can both types of toilets be effected?
I recently received the first email to Toiletology 101 in 8 years defending the use of the tank additives, although the writer said the additive he uses is not blue. (It's posted on the Blue Goo Page) He claimed he has never had a problem and suggested Toiletology 101 is presenting only one side.
What percentage of toilets are adversely effected by these products? Logic tells me that companies would not market these products if a large percentage of them caused problems, am I being naive? Toiletology 101 has an average of 1800 visitors a day (Oct 2004), but I feel that what I'm hearing is just the tip of the iceberg and a lot of money is being unnecessarily spent on plumbers and DIY attempts to repair, not to mention the aggravations and frustrations of dealing with this elusive problem.
Do you personally use these types of products in your home?
May I post your reply on Toiletology 101 using only your initials ... S.H.? Or maybe the state where you live ... Hometown, USA?
Unfortunately, I did not have access to the complaint statistics (marketing held these and only sent in a few for analysis).
The numbers sold per year were tens of millions of products, reformulation was usually required for own-brand customers rather than as a response to complaints. One own-brand customer (a leading supermarket) charged the company £10 admin per complaint plus compensation, so a large number of complaints would have had to be addressed by reformulation.
As to the correspondent defending their use, I can believe they have no problems, as we ran automatically flushing test toilets for years with few problems.
The accumulation of gels from these products is dependant on a number of factors:-
Size of flush (at least 7.5 litres)
Speed of flush (slow flush may allow gel to build up)
Water temperature (warm water >18C speeds gel formation)
How many products used in a given time (usually 1 per month is recommended)
Toilet design (related to the speed of flush and space available in toilet)
Size of block (ours were 40-60g some other products were over 100g!)
Formulation (speed of water absorption, i.e. how much gel was produced in a given time, whether slowing the dissolution was achieved by the gel alone or in conjunction with oils etc)
Toilet usage (how many times flushed per day, how much gel is allowed to accumulate)
As you can see, there are a few variables. The formulations differ widely between manufacturers and a survey of brand names may home in on one product. When I was analysing competitors products, there were US products which were large, quick dissolving and produced a lot of gel. Sadly, I don't have the information to hand as it was some years ago.
When we were working on these products we used 10 and (newer) 7.5 litre UK siphon flush toilets, 3.5 gallon seems huge.
One US toilet we had as test equipment was slow flushing and used a rubber plug rather than the syphon mechanism, this was less reliable generally.
Yes I did use various products (they were free!) and did see gel accumulation, but no problem with flushing specifically.
My guess is that many of your complainants are using large blocks, with warm water, in low usage, slow flushing toilets and may be placing the product very near the flush mechanism.
I don't mind you using my initials, I live in North Wales in the UK, on the outskirts of a small Welsh village, so obscure that people 15 miles away don't know it exists!
Happy to help,
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