1. Introducing the Activities of our Special Committee for the Promotion of Communication:
Continuing the Steady, Unpretentious Efforts to Correct Misconceptions and Disseminate Accurate Information
|■ The Activities of the Information Response Working Group
The predecessor to the new Special Committee for the Promotion of Communication, initiated in autumn 2003, was the Information Response Working Group, which was active since 1997.
The occasion that led to the initiation of the Working Group's activities was the press briefing in 1997 by what was then the Environment Agency about "awarding people who had worked to banish synthetic detergents," which was a complete about-face from the views that were held up to then. This development was an indication that the reply by the Director-General of the Water Quality Bureau at the House of Representatives in 1990, made to the effect that both soap and synthetic detergent had "advantages and drawbacks when it came to environmental impact," and the research results that led to that conclusion, had become lost in oblivion in the Environment Agency.
The mass media has also increasingly forgotten about the particulars relating to research on the safety and environmental impact of synthetic detergents, as well as the sequence of past debates, while certain segments of the population are still trying to turn their backs on correct, scientific knowledge.
As an industry, we keenly felt the need to provide information about what kinds of things had been researched academically and what conclusions had been reached, to local government officials, media personnel, and others in the position of receiving the requests and demands of such segments of the population. The Information Response Working Group was set up for the accurate conveyance of scientific facts, and the focus of the Group's work was the active provision of information to the government and the mass media.
■ Special Committee for the Promotion of Communication
Incidences of the spreading of mistaken information, or purposely misleading information, on the safety or environmental impact of a product are found throughout the field of necessary household articles, and is not limited to detergents. To deal with this kind of problem, it is essential to maintain an agile PR function on an everyday basis for the purpose of broad conveyance of information based on scientific, objective data.
The Special Committee for the Promotion of Communication, which was an expansion of the Information Response Working Group, was set up to serve that purpose. Building on the six years of experience gained by the Working Group, the Committee's main purpose is to provide correct information on soaps and detergents that are a useful part of daily life, and make it so that consumers can use them with peace of mind.
While the focus of the Committee's activities will be addressing government and mass media such as newspapers and magazine publishers, it is expected that communication with NGOs will become increasingly important in future. The Committee also considers it an important task to not only respond to situations after they occur, but to more actively convey information through day to day communication with relevant parties and industries, through such means as seminars. In order to more accurately and appropriately provide the information, the Committee will also proceed with the organization and accumulation of databases.
■ Information: Correcting the Mistaken, Providing the Correct
Even outside information from the mass media, there are some cases where brochures designed for consumers that are found in such places as municipal office counters contain the description that synthetic detergents are bad for human health and the environment.
The basic stance of our Association is that the final decision of what to choose should be left up to the consumer. However, to make that decision, it is important for the customer to know the correct information.
Views such as those that say "down with synthetic detergents" are likely to have been strongly influenced by the groundless, mistaken claims and publications that were made in the past. To deal with this issue, we visit relevant managers and officials directly, to communicate and explain. We point out specifically where a given sources of information is mistaken, and how the information is at odds with what is considered scientifically correct.
Municipal offices sometimes receive questions and requests from Councilors and local residents who promote the use of soap and question the safety and environmental impact of synthetic detergents. It is the rare municipal office that is equipped with staff who have the latest and accurate knowledge of products. When faced with these kinds of questions and requests, the municipal office can contact our Association. We go beyond sending out informational materials; as much as possible, we try to dispatch one of our expert staff members directly to that municipality to provide information on safety and environmental concerns.
In order to deal with these kinds of situations as quickly as possible, the JSDA web site publishes the details of the Committee's periodical seminars in the "Get to Know Them Better: Soap and Detergent" section.
■ We Will Continue our Steady, Unpretentious Efforts
As a result of our steady and unpretentious efforts to date, consisting of such activities as providing information to the mass media and making regular visits to municipalities, there has been a gradual decrease in the number of incorrect articles in newspapers and magazines. Articles that attempt to address environmental problems from an impartial viewpoint, without being prejudiced by the idea that "pure soaps are good; soap additives and synthetic detergents are bad," are now seen in major newspapers.
In regard to dioxins and endocrine-disrupting substances as well, articles that pointlessly cause anxiety have decreased, and we are beginning to see decent arguments that are based on level-headed analysis.
The debate on environmental issues in Japan can be said to have reached a point of maturity that allows constructive discussions to take place. In that context, we hope our upcoming activities will garner attention.
2. The Expanding Market for Automatic Dishwasher/Dryer Detergents
The Reason the Detergent has to be "Special-Purpose"
|"I hate having to stay in the kitchen after dinner, washing the dishes and tidying up when everyone else in the family is relaxing."
Perhaps this sentiment from homemakers has supported the now full-fledged popularity of automatic dishwasher/dryers in Japan.
Because they were expensive in Japan, automatic dishwasher/dryers had an image of being luxury items, and with the addition of a mind-set that considers it "no big deal" to wash the dishes, which is different from the US and Europe, they were slow to make major inroads into ordinary households, despite the fact that these products have been around for quite a long time. However, in recent years, the products have become compact in size, allowing them to be placed by the sink, and at 50,000 yen or less, have dropped in price compared to what they were before. In addition, continuous modifications have improved performance and shortened the washing time, and the name "automatic dishwasher/dryer" has begun to establish itself.
The products finally found their way into 10% of homes two years ago, and are expected to become even more popular in coming years. People who already have one are reported to feel they "can't do without it" and that they "take it for granted, like the washing machine." According to a survey by Lion Corporation, half of homemakers 40 years and under now want to purchase one sometime in the future. The product's image has also improved, with its positive aspects, like "being convenient and time-saving," "allowing effective use of time," and "giving freedom from rough hands" increasingly in the foremost in people's minds.
With things as they are, the household appliance industry is naturally pinning very high hopes on this item as their ace product, and are strenuous in their PR activities, stressing that the products "use less gas and water than washing by hand, thereby conserving resources and reducing the impact on the environment."
The companies in the detergent industry are also paying attention to this growing market, coming out with one special-purpose detergent after another.
Initially, when people bought an automatic dishwasher/dryer, the product came with its own "special detergent," which could be bought at the electronics store. But people complained that the detergent was inconvenient and unable to wash off traces of dried-on grains of steamed rice, while the carton-type packaging was vulnerable to moisture and caused the detergent to clump together in a hard lump, making it all but impossible to use it all up. And several years ago, detergent manufacturers started venturing into the field, betting their prestige as experts on the subject.
In order to deal with dirty dishes, there must be attention paid to the type of food residue and stains that are unique to the everyday eating habits of the Japanese, such as caked-on grains of steamed rice and stains left by green tea. With the addition of amylase, an enzyme that breaks down starches, to get rid of traces of rice, and of protease, which digests the protein in eggs and meat juice, companies devised detergents with improved washing performance that could get dishes completely clean. There have also been creative modifications made to containers and caps, so that consumers will find them easier to place into the automatic machines.
The market for special-purpose detergents for automatic dishwasher/dryers, which had not even hit the 2 billion yen mark five years ago, is predicted to swell to double that size by 2004.
"Why do I Need a Special-Purpose Detergent for My Automatic Dishwasher/Dryer?"
A lot of people may wonder why they can't use the liquid kitchen detergent, since it's sitting in their kitchen anyway, and which they use to wash the dishes by hand. They may think it's a marketing ploy on the part of manufacturers to hawk everything as "special-purpose."
But hold on one minute. The detergents are not "special-purpose" without reason.
When dishes are washed in an automatic dishwasher/dryer, they are in a sealed space inside a machine. The method of washing consists of spraying the dishes inside the chamber with powerful streams of high-temperature washing solution to remove residue and stains.
When an ordinary liquid kitchen detergent, which is designed to remove grease and residue by the action of surfactants, is introduced into the machine, the chamber fills up with suds, which may cause mechanical failure. In addition, the suds act as a buffer, reducing the washing performance and getting in the way of the rinsing process.
That is why special-purpose detergents for automatic dishwasher/dryers are designed to remove food soils easily, formulated with a small amount of low-foaming surfactant and washing aids ingredient such as bleaching agents and enzymes that work at high temperatures.
A recent development is a dishwasher/dryer that allows users to select a "liquid kitchen detergent" course. Our member companies are presently investigating this product, as it might be a potential risk for unintended use.
Since the dishwasher/dryer is still in the process of its evolution, users seem to be encountering a host of problems, perhaps partly aided by their own unfamiliarity with the machine. Common problems include deformation, melting, warping, and/or peeling of plastic dishes and containers, clouding of crystal glassware, and faded or disappeared artwork and/or gold and silver lines and details on chinaware.
The interior of the of the automatic dishwasher/dryer reaches very high temperatures, and the washing is done in an alkaline environment, which means that the machine cannot be used for certain dishes, containers, or utensils, depending on the material. Plastic products have different degrees of heat resistance - this is the point that requires the most attention.
Using special-purpose dishwasher detergent basically consists of placing the designated quantity of detergent, determined by the size of the dishwasher/dryer, into the machine. While there are some differences between machines, most of them "pool" a set quantity of water to wash, so it becomes necessary to stick to the designated amount of detergent regardless of how many dishes one loads into the machine.
Dishes that are heavily soiled or have food remaining on them can be wiped lightly and put through a "speedy" course, which conserves time and water, and makes for easier cleaning of the filter. Another pointer: cramming the dishwasher/dryer too full in an attempt to do all the dishes at once reduces the performance of the machine, because the washing solution cannot reach all the dishes.
In this way, we have seen the emergence of another strong ally to alleviate housework for the homemaker. Will we see an end to the lament we saw at the beginning of this passage? Have family members started to pitch in gladly in tidying up after dinner, now that they have purchased an automatic dishwasher/dryer?
In the above-mentioned survey, we have found that, alas, such is not the case, and in the majority of households, the homemaker is still left to deal with the after-dinner mess all by herself. In some cases, homemakers have said their families help them out even less than they did before. The reason? According to the homemakers, their family members seem to feel that now that the automatic dishwasher/dryer is here, they're off the hook and don't need to help out.
3. The 46th Clean Survey
-The Truth About Doing the Laundry-
What We Found Out from 324 Twenty-Something Single Women and Homemakers.
In each of the "Clean Surveys" conducted by the Japan Soap and Detergent Association, we focus on a topic relating to cleanliness in everyday life. The focus of our most recent Survey was "Laundry and Housecleaning," which is a fixed point investigation we conduct every three years.
We conducted the survey on a total of 324 women, 103 of whom were single women in their twenties living on their own in the Tokyo area, and 221 of whom were homemakers in their twenties, thirties, and forties (104 full-time homemakers, and 117 who were also employed outside their home).
Laundry and housecleaning are two chores that are done in every household. In this issue, we will focus on "Laundry" and report on the changes we found in the state of affairs.
|● Things that Changed and Didn't Change Compared to Three Years Ago
The previous survey on the same topic was conducted in 2000.
First we asked about frequency. The number of times the women did their laundry was once or twice a week for single women in both the previous and the present survey, at about 50%, followed by three or four times a week, at about 35%. Single women who did their laundry every day made up 4% of the total in the previous survey and 5% in the present survey, again a similar result.
The majority of homemakers, on the other hand, has always done their laundry every day, but for some reason, only 67% of full-time homemakers replied "every day" in the present survey, down from 73% in the previous survey, while the opposite trend seems to be emerging with homemakers who also worked outside the home: 54% did their laundry every day now, compared to 48% in the previous survey. In terms of how many loads of wash they did in a day (1.2 - 1.9 loads on weekdays, 1.5 - 1.8 loads on weekends and holidays), there was no change in trends between the two surveys: single women and employed homemakers tended to do slightly more loads on weekends and holidays than they did on weekdays, while full-time homemakers did fewer loads on weekends and holidays.
We also inquired about the time in the day the women did their laundry, and found that 76% of homemakers got theirs over with in the morning (87% of full-time homemakers), which was slightly down from the 79% in the previous survey. Single women used to be more or less evenly divided into those who did the wash in the morning and those who did it at night, but in the present survey, the morning washers (7 - 11 a.m.) increased to 36% from the previous 30%, while the night washers (7 - 8 p.m.) were down to 17% from the previous 24%. Nevertheless, as many as 33% of single women still do their laundry after 9 p.m.
Overall, there seems to have been no remarkable change in the frequency or timing of laundry compared to three years ago.
● Big Growth in Special Care and Delicate Item Detergents
Through our present survey, we found that the actual situation relating to laundry has changed noticeably in several ways.
In response to our question, "What kind of laundry detergent/fabric softener do you presently use?" 85% of single women and 93% of homemakers responded, "powder detergent." "Detergents specially designed for Dry Clean Only fabrics," "fabric softeners," and "neutral pH detergents for delicate fabrics" came next in popularity, each with 50% or more responses (Graph 1).
Compared to the previous survey, there has been a surge in the use of detergents specially designed for clothes with Dry Clean Only labels and neutral pH detergents for delicate fabrics.
Dry Clean Only detergents are now used by 79% of single women, a 30-plus point increase, and 84% of homemakers, a remarkable 40-plus point gain. For both groups, the figures have risen significantly compared to three years ago.
Neutral pH detergents for delicate fabrics have also made gains, with 57% of single women and 67% of homemakers, an increase of roughly 20 and 7 percentage points respectively, now using the products.
The use of liquid detergents also went up: 54% of single women now use the products, an increase of more than 30 percentage points, while 45% of full-time and 51% of employed homemakers use them, an increase of 15 and 19 points respectively.
On the other hand, the use of chlorine bleaching agents and laundry starch has gone down in the homemaker groups.
● Caring for Dry Clean Only Fabrics During Laundry
The remarkable increase in the usage of "Dry Clean Only" and "delicate fabric" detergents indicates that people have become accustomed to washing delicate fabrics and clothes bearing "Dry Clean Only" labels at home.
This fact is also borne out by the responses to our question, "How do you care for your Dry Clean Only clothes during laundry?" The response, "I put them inside a mesh laundry bag" was highest for single women and full-time homemakers, with 76% and 78% respectively, while "I use neutral pH detergent for delicate fabrics" was highest for employed homemakers, at 68%.
The percentage of people who responded, "I use neutral pH detergent for delicate fabrics" went up more than 20 points compared to the previous survey for both single women and homemakers, with 52% and 65%, respectively. The response, "I use detergent specially designed for Dry Clean Only fabrics" was chosen by 63% of homemakers, a 14 point gain, and 56% of single women.
● More Pronounced Trend Toward Doing Bigger Loads
We also asked, "What do you keep in mind when you do the laundry?" Homemakers indicated their interest in conserving water and the environment: 61% of them replied "I use the water left over from the previous night's bath" and 54% each responded "I use refill pouches and/or bottles as much as possible" and "I try not to use too much detergent" (Graph 2).
However, compared to the previous survey, there has been a 12 percentage point decrease in the number of homemakers who replied they used refill products.
Meanwhile, 57% of single women responded that they used refill products, which is a high figure. It is noteworthy that the number of single women who said they did "avoided frequent washes by doing bigger loads" went up by 10 percentage points compared to the previous survey, to 54%.
More homemakers (5 point increase) also responded they did fewer but bigger loads, suggesting the underlying effect of the more widespread use of large washing machines, changes in everyday hours, and an attitude of trying to streamline the housework.
● Hanging Up the Wash: Single Women Indoors, Homemakers Outdoors
Single women and homemakers are clearly demarcated when it comes to how they dry their laundry. Homemakers, both full-time and employed, overwhelmingly dry their laundry outdoors (Graph 3).
In comparison, more single women now dry their laundry indoors, a tendency that is particularly pronounced with underwear, which is hung indoors by over 60% of single women (76% of homemakers hang theirs outdoors).
A higher percentage of single women than homemakers responded "hang to dry indoors" for every other article of their clothing and personal effects except curtains. For curtains, 30% of homemakers also responded they hung theirs indoors. This is an indication that the detergent manufacturers' recommended method of hanging just-washed curtains directly onto their curtain hooks to dry is gradually taking hold.
Homemakers and single women also differ significantly in terms of when they dry their laundry. Compared to the fully 78% of homemakers (particularly full-time homemakers), who dry theirs in the morning between 7 a.m. to 12 noon, 47% of single women dry theirs at night after 7 p.m., a high percentage despite the 5 percentage point decrease from the previous survey (Graph 4).