Stains.

Stains.


This episode is sponsored by Tide. Only use Tide PODS for laundry. ONLY. FOR. LAUNDRY. Vsauce! I’m Jake and have you ever stared at your
washing machine while it’s cleaning clothes and wondered…what is happening in there? Because I have. And I have a lot of questions. Because what’s going on behind me are numerous
chemical reactions all happening on a level that can’t be observed by the human eye. But how does laundry detergent like a Tide
Pod, actually clean the multitude of different stains on clothing? And why doesn’t the stain from one piece
of clothing go into the water and get on all of the other clothes you have in the wash? Where does the stain go? Well, let’s start with water. Water on its own isn’t very good at cleaning
things. Water has very strong surface tension…it
likes to stick with water. You can see this when you pour water on glass,
drops form on it’s surface or when poured on the ground it pools together. It also won’t bind with fats or oils. Try washing a greasy pan with just water…it
washes right off carrying very little if any of the grease with it. That’s where detergent comes in. It uses a couple of key ingredients: Surfactants,
anti-redeposition polymers, builders and enzymes. And the enzymes act a lot like the ones that
can be found in carnivorous plants like venus fly traps or pitcher plants or even in our
own body. The main difference is that these are manufactured
in giant microbe vats. Enzymes are molecules that are biological
catalysts. They help certain chemical reactions break
down molecules into smaller amino acids. Now different enzymes break down different
things and there are a bunch of varieties within this little pod but two I want to focus
on in particular are Protease and Amylase. Protease breaks down proteins which are the
key components in grass and blood stains. To see it at work, we need something that
is primarily protein…jello. Wiggle wiggle. Our jello with water doesn’t do very much
but our jello with protease does. After only a few hours it completely dissolves
the entire thing. Then we get to amylase which is an enzyme
that is particularly good at dealing with starchy stains like gravy, oatmeal or baby
food. Fun fact: amylase is also used in the process
of brewing beer/ It converts the starches into sugars in fermentation. Ok, let’s see it break down something starchy
like cereal. Again, our beaker with water doesn’t do
much whereas with the beaker with amylase turns the cereal into goo. In addition to protease and amylase there
is also Mannanase to break down thickeners in foods like ice cream. And while that’s all well in good we still
have a problem….water. That’s where Surfactants and anti-redeposition
polymers come in. Surfactants is short for surface active agents
and they basically make water wet better. What I mean by that is surfactants reduce
the cohesion, the water molecules sticking to each other, and surface tension allowing
it to spread across, around and into the fibers of whatever is being cleaned instead of just
sticking together with the other water molecules. And what is really cool about surfactants
is that they a very unusual chemical structure. The surfactant molecules have a small head
and a long tail. The tail is hydrophobic, it attracts the fat,
grease and dirt molecules while the head is hydrophilic, and attracts water molecules. The tails stick into the dirt surrounding
it, creating a micelle. This isolates the stains from other molecules
and then the head is attached to the water, suspending the stain particles in that water
keeping all of that grime and gunk from reattaching to the fabric. And then we have anti-Redeposition polymers. They’re special polymers that work with
surfactants to capture and suspend soil in the water, basically trapping it. So that answers our question about why stains
don’t just go from one piece of clothing to all pieces of clothing… But we’re not done with water just yet because
tap water is full of things like calcium and metals that interfere with the washing process
so detergents use builders, water conditioners, to attract them and keep them out of the way. Similar to the way surfactants capturing dirt
and grime. And once your clothes have been cleaned by
enzymes and builders and surfactants there is one more chemical process. Let’s turn the lights off. If we shine a flashlight on a tide pod it…looks
normal. But if we switch our flashlight to a UV light…this
happens. It’s optical brighteners. They absorb UV light and re-emit it in the
visible spectrum making your clothing brighter. When that UV light is re-emitted it does so
in the blue visible spectrum which makes things appear whiter by changing the color temperature
of light. And optical brighteners aren’t just found
in detergent, they’re used in paper, cosmetics and in plastics like your nice super white
looking phone charger. Look at my teeth. My toothpaste has brighteners. If I had to venture a guess, some of the clothing
you’re wearing right now was made with brighteners in it so all detergent does is replenish what
gets washed away when you clean your fabrics. This is why if you’ve ever been in a place
with a bunch of UV or black lights, you’ve probably noticed how white shirts glow. It surprised me how much is actually happening
in your washing machine because form the surface it looks so straightforward. And it wasn’t until years ago when I read
Mary Roach’s incredible book that I realized what a clever and complicated bit of science
is happening in there. I would highly recommend reading this book
if you haven’t. Mary interviewed a P&G researcher, the folks
who make Tide, which is what lead to me talking to researchers there as well. So thank you to Tide for finding this topic
interesting and wanting to support Vsauce and this video and, as always, thanks for
washing.

Comments

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    Vsauce3

    Two videos in a row…WHAT IS HAPPENING?! Also, CYSTM Season 1 trailer will be coming out MONDAY! I really hope you like it!

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    Michael J.

    Now do one about DRYER LINT. How, with the amount of material I pull out of the filter every time, do I even have any material left in my clothes.

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    h7hj59fh3f

    I'm going to eat a Tide pod because Jake Roper told me that it contains enzymes just like what's already in my body therefore it's safe.

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    E. L

    Lol, what a great and honest way to praise one's sponsor. Usually the sponsor-praise is pretty transparent and fake, but this was genuine

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    Martin Clementz

    I don't know about this one, I feel like paid publicity takes away the credibility, just like the time Veritasium got sponsored by Head & Shoulders.

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    Guedez

    A whole bunch of tidepods and he didn't ate any, strong man of strong will I see
    Also, don't believe him, he wants them all for himself.
    This video is also a great youtube poop material, with the whole unspoken blood stains part

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    Cody

    This is an interesting precedent: a non-hokey or bullshitty cursory explanation of the composition and mechanisms underlying a consumer product. If more adverts were like this I'd be more inclined to watch them.

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    KaosNoKamisama

    Good video, just two observations: 1- Teeth are naturrally reactive to UV light (that's why a good dental restoration has to use materials that won't make you look toothless at the dancefloor), it's not because of agents in your toothpaste; and 2- I'm surprised you didn't mention the importance of the rinsing process. I think it was SciShow who did a piece about a paper that dealt with the importance of the rinsing process in getting the dirt out of the fiber structure itself.

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    TheOnlyCobalt212

    Jake: “TIDE PODS: ONLY FO
    Me: “what? Can’t hear what ur saying over the delicious crunch of my tide pod snacks
    ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)”

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    jordan secrist

    This is literally a fancy video version of the science fair experiment I did in 3rd or 4th grade. I got honorable mention. Kind of annoying because 1st was a volcano as usual.

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    majlessiju

    Nice comeback. How do you have 3.6m subscribers still even with all these huge gaps in time? Purity and love. Keep those themes going man.

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    Vrixton Phillips

    you and numberphile almost have me regretting going into the humanities xD ALMOST! but not quite. Humanities are important lol

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    ramenai

    Missed Opportunities:

    – Wear a white shirt to demonstrate optical brighteners
    – "And as always, thanks for washing"

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    Owen Weiss

    All of mind field for free, a vsauce video, and now 2 vsauce 3 videos in less than 24 hours. Christmas came early this year 🙂

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    a.i. c.

    "Only use tide pods for laundry" sounds like hes saying only ever use tide pods for laundry but it changes with the added "only for laundry", "use tide pods only for laundry" or "don't eat tide pods" don't come across that way🤔🤔🤔

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