Antimicrobial Research Series: Oxi-clean v.s. Trader Joe's

By Division I student Ibrahim

You have all heard the catchphrase: “Oxi-Clean, It gets the tough stains out.” You have probably also heard about Trader Joe’s detergent. Both companies have advertised that their product is the best at getting rid of bacteria. But which one is better?

This question is exactly what prompted an experiment designed by Meridian Academy scientists Grace, Kory, and Ibrahim. Their motivating question was “Does Oxiclean or Trader-Joes get rid of bacteria from compost better than the other?”

The difficulties of answering their microbiology project was that they didn’t always have the same type of detergent format. Sometimes they had powder detergent, and other times they had liquid detergent.

Before even starting the experiment, the group hypothesized that Oxiclean would work better in getting rid of bacteria because it is a more renowned brand that focuses mostly on laundry detergent, while Trader-Joe’s isn’t as known, and it develops many things so less time and money might have been put in the detergent, thus resulting in a lesser ability of getting rid of bacteria. After this, they thought of two detergents that they had in their homes that they could use. After choosing Oxiclean and Trader-Joes, the group chose compost as their source of bacteria, because Grace had a lot of it, and so it was convenient.

During the first trial, Grace brought in some compost, powder Oxiclean, and Trader-Joe's detergent. In this experiment, the group had two controls: a positive control and a negative control. A positive control is when you know that there is bacteria. A negative control is when you know that their is no bacteria. The positive control was just compost that they got with a sterile swab. The negative control was one milliliter of detergent with two milliliters of water. They did this for both of the detergents. Then they had Trader Joe’s with water with bacteria, and Oxiclean and water with bacteria. The results were pretty surprising. The Oxiclean negative control looked like bubbly specks. The bacteria had spread everywhere in the bacteria with Oxiclean petri dish. However in the Trader Joe’s with bacteria petri dish, there was a similar result. This would suggest that both detergents were susceptible to bacteria growth. The group thought that the water had increased the ability for bacteria to grow, not exactly the detergent.

The difficulties of analyzing the results was that they didn’t always have the same type of detergent format. Sometimes they had powder detergent, and other times they had liquid detergent.

Soon after trial one, the group did another trial. This time, however, they didn’t do controls because they wanted to do trials only. This time, they used three grams of Oxiclean with bacteria in two of the petri dishes, and three grams of Trader Joe's in the other two petri dishes with bacteria. The results were that The Oxiclean petri dishes were full of bubbly specks and there was no visible bacteria. They hypothesized that the Oxiclean powder dissolved and mixed with the gel at the bottom to create the specks. In the Trader-Joe’s petri dish, there were specks of bacteria visible.

After a long delay, the petri dishes for the third trial arrived. This time the group had 7 dishes so they did 4 controls in order to make up for last time. There was one positive control that was just bacteria. There were 3 negative controls that were Oxi-clean liquid, Oxiclean powder, and Trader-Joe's. Out of the three remaining petri dishes, two were Oxiclean and one was Trader Joe's. There was an oxiclean liquid with bacteria and and an Oxiclean powder with bacteria. The 7th and last petri dish was Trader-Joe's liquid detergent with bacteria. The results of this trial for the Oxiclean was that it worked really well and their wasn’t any real visible bacteria in both the liquid and powder petri dish. There were still bubbly specks in both, but he group had by now come to the conclusion that it was not bacteria because it came up even when their wasn’t any bacteria in the petri dish. The reason that the group thought that the Oxiclean worked really well was that the decrease in water used to make the Oxiclean liquid from last time really helped the detergent prevent bacteria growth. The Trader Joe’s had little visible bacteria and the liquid was visible.

In conclusion, the group found out that Oxi-clean worked better in preventing bacteria. However, water in Oxiclean seemed to help bacteria spread and grow. This is The results of the experiment meant that the groups hypothesis was right. However, this would mean that Oxiclean powder by itself worked better than Oxiclean with water, which is what people do when washing clothes.

For future experiments the group decided that more precise measurements of bacterial growth. The group also agreed that more trials were needed with more time for each trial. More time would mean that we could analyze that results better and we could actually get results that could be put out into the world. Researcher Kory says, “ I think that it was interesting and challenging. However, I would’ve have liked more time to conduct the experiment and to analyze our results.” A big question that was spawned from this experiment was how well detergents from other bigger brands get rid of bacteria.

Throughout this experiment, Grace, Ibrahim, and Kory learned about how it is like to be a real scientist conducting experiments. Researcher Grace said, “ The initial process was exciting, but after a while, it gets less exciting because we already kind of knew what detergent was better at getting rid of compost.