Is there a cleaning product that does not contain palm oil?

I want to clean my keyboard and use something that is safe, works well, and does not harm the environment. Is there a well-functioning, environmentally friendly alternative to cleaning agents (most, it seems, contain palm oil). There is no such thing as ‘sustainable’ palm oil. Only 2% say they can be traced and in Indonesia the corruption is enormous – and that is where most of the palm oil comes from. So that’s why I would like to know which cleaning agent does not contain palm oil. Which cleaning agent is a sustainable alternative? I have no idea.

Asker: Marjanne, 42 years old

Answer

Hi Marjane,

This question has been open for a while, so I’ll do my best to formulate an answer.

Unfortunately, a conclusive answer is not possible, and that is because palm oil is not an ingredient of cleaning products, but a raw material from which that ingredient is made. If a label says “contains 5% anionic surfactants” then this ingredient could be made from palm oil, another vegetable oil, or petroleum. Manufacturers are obliged to state (certain) ingredients on the label (including the added preservatives), but of course never the raw materials used. Moreover, these raw materials change quite often, depending on the market and the cost price.

This perfectly illustrates that it is very difficult to estimate the total ecological impact of a product: surfactants made from eg palm oil are readily biodegradable, and therefore score better on this criterion than analogous substances made from petroleum. Moreover, palm oil is a renewable raw material, but it also depends of course on how the plantations are established and managed. For example, is virgin forest being cut down? Are harmful pesticides used in the plantation, etc.

In fact, one has to perform a full life cycle analysis of the different alternatives in order to make a good judgment.

Answered by

Dr Etienne Jooken

Chemistry

Catholic University of Leuven
Old Market 13 3000 Leuven
https://www.kuleuven.be/

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