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June 2007

CLEAN AGE Summary


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No. 26 (June 2007)

Inside of this issue
1.51st Research for Laundry & Cleaning Habits - What is current status on laundry and house cleaning practices?
2. Achieved 29.5% Plastic Usage Reduction in Containers versus '95
3. Reached Agreement to Adopt Risk Assessment in GHS Labeling for Household Products
4. New Development Expected toward Consumer Activities and Education


1. 51st Research for Laundry & Cleaning Habits - What is current status on laundry and house cleaning practices?
JSDA conducted the research among 300 women, consisting of single women and housewives.

The research that Japan Soap & Detergent Association (JSDA) has been conducting for many years is to monitor attitude and practices about cleanliness in everyday life. The theme of this 51st research is "washing laundry and house cleaning" carried out as fixed-point observation every three years. The research was conducted in November, 2006 among 300 women, consisting of 100 unmarried women with an occupation (single women, hereafter), 100 housewives with no occupation and 100 working housewives. All the panelists live in a metropolitan area, and the age of 100 single women was 20-29 and that of 200 housewives was 20-49. This reports key findings from the research.

Housewives wash everyday, whereas 20's single women wash once or twice a week: Regarding number of wash occasions, "washing everyday" is the highest among housewives, and "washing once or twice a week" is the highest among 20's single women. Comparing with the result of previous research conducted in '03, the number of 20's single women, who replied with "washing once or twice", slightly increased.
Regarding washing time of the day, about 80% of housewives wash in the morning, while washing time of the day varies among 20's single women with 30% washing at "7-11:00" or "after 21:00". In comparison between housewives with no occupation and working housewives, 90% of housewives with no occupation wash in the morning, but working housewives who wash in the morning remain only 66%, and about 30% of working housewives wash at night.
These patterns are consistent with the previous researches conducted in '00 and '03.

There is a major increase of people among 20's single women, who sort fashionable cloths from casual wears: Previous researches conducted in '00 and '03 showed that more than 70% of women sorted laundry depending on material, a use or the soil level of cloths before washing in each panelist group. However, those, who sort laundry, fell down by about 10 points in total in this present research versus the previous researches.
While sorting practice becoming unpopular, the most remarkable trend is that there is an increase of people, who sort fashionable cloths from casual wears; especially, among 20's single women, 84% of them sort fashionable cloths from casual wears. This accounts for 30 points increase versus the result in '03. On the contrary, people, who sort heavy-soiled garments from light-soiled garments, or those, who sort colored garments from white garments, significantly decreased.
A product used for laundry most is "granular heavy-duty detergent", followed by "fabric softener" and "light-duty detergent", regardless of the panelist groups.
There is an increasing trend from the previous research conducted in '03 of using "light-duty detergent" and "liquid heavy-duty detergent", of which usages now reached 70% and 53%, respectively.

Time of the day to dry laundry and dryer occupancy: Time of the day to dry laundry is closely related with washing time of the day; i.e. most housewives dry at "7-11:00" and 20's single women dry at "7-11:00" or "after 21:00". On the other hand, 20% of working housewives replied with "after 21:00", indicating a difference by living environment. In comparison with the result in '03, 20's single women, who dry at "12-15:00", slightly decreased, and those, who dry at "19-20:00", slightly increased.
In this research, drying function of the washing machine currently used was also asked.
Including an independent dryer separate from the washing machine and drying function in a bathroom, 53% of housewives and 18% of 20's single women now have drying capability at home other than line-drying. This gives more than 10 points increase versus the result in '03 in both panelist groups.
Regarding using frequency of these drying functions, 78% of 20's single women and 62% of housewives, who have drying capability other than line-drying, replied with "use frequently" or "use occasionally".
As for drying method, about 90% of housewives usually line-dry outside; however, 43% of 20's single women line-dry inside. Because all the 20's single women live alone, the reasons are easily determined. Among these reasons, "washing at night" is the highest, followed by "possible change of weather", and "potential crime prevention".

Products and tools for house cleaning: The product or the tool most frequently used for house cleaning is "liquid detergent for bathrooms", where 86% of 20's single women and 92% of housewives use it. Subsequently, "disposable mop (a floor wiper)" is used by 60% of 20's single women, and "mold remover" is used by 73% of housewives.
Looking at the present research result in comparison with the previous research results, usages of "liquid kitchen cleanser with grinding particles" and "detergent for ventilation fan and gas stoves" have fallen down in both panelist groups since '97. In addition, usages of "powder kitchen cleanser" and "cleanser-type detergent for bathrooms" are the lowest of the past three researches.
70% of housewives and 40% of 20's single women clean the whole house in December. This is because there is a custom cleaning the whole as preparations to greet the New Year in Japan. However, 40% of 20's single women replied with "the time is not fixed" in this research. Since those who do not clean the whole are less than 10% in both groups, it is considered that they do clean the whole but do not care about when to do it.

Housekeeping tasks, which are done by husbands, have not changed for the past 6 years since the research was originally conducted: Similar to the results of previous researches, housekeeping tasks favored by women concentrate on "laundry" and "preparation for meal", regardless of the panelist groups, and less-favored housekeeping tasks are "washing dishes" among 20's single women and "ironing" among housewives. Further, more than 20% of women, in both housewives and 20's single women groups, want to reduce time for house cleaning, ironing and washing dishes, if possible. These results are basically the same as the previous research results.
There are no major changes either about housekeeping tasks mainly done by husbands, as examined trends in chronological order. More specifically, housekeeping tasks done by husbands, which showed more than 5% increase from the result in '03, are only two; i.e. "throwing away garbage on a holiday" in a group of housewives with no occupation, and "washing dishes on a holiday" in a group of working housewives. Besides these, there are no major changes from the past researches on housekeeping tasks done by husbands. These tasks are limited to "throwing away garbage", "cleaning bathrooms" and "airing FUTON (bedding)".

2. Achieved 29.5% Plastic Usage Reduction in Containers versus '95

JSDA previously announced its voluntary guideline to reduce total usage of plastics in containers and packages per unit weight of product by 30% by 2010 versus the usage in 1995. Recent statistics showed that 29.5% reduction of plastic usage has been already achieved in major eight product categories such as shampoo in 2005. The details are provided at http://jsda.org/w/e_engls/e_plastics.html.

3. Reached Agreement to Adopt Risk Assessment in GHS Labeling for Household Products

GHS is a global labeling system on product safety, which will be mandated on chemical products in the future. Recently, GHS inter-ministerial committee reached agreement to accept risk-based labeling to determine chronic human health effect for household products when repeatedly used for a long term.

4. New Development Expected toward Consumer Activities and Education;

An Affiliation with Co-ops Association and Co-op Net Business Moves toward "Removal of a Ban to Sell Detergent Containing LAS"
- Interview with Masaru Oya PhD (Yokohama National University Associate Professor)

Movement of the world has been changing little by little, and now removal of a ban to sell detergent containing LAS takes place in some co-ops which never handled the product. Since last fall, many co-ops across the country have started handling detergent containing LAS, following Co-op Tokyo and Saitama Co-op, which had been already handling it.

[Interviewer]
Removal of a ban to sell detergent containing LAS in some co-ops is a very good news for us. There are four major local co-ops in Tokyo, and each seems to have different policy and operation. Further, it also seems to be different in its operation by areas even within the same co-op. How do you think about the background of these differences?

[Dr. Oya] The co-op system and the organization are very complicated. Some co-ops have their own policy, and operate individually in each area, while some co-ops like Seikatsu-Club Co-op, have nationwide activities. In such, all the co-ops in Japan do not necessarily follow the policy that the Japan Federation of Co-ops (Japan Co-op) proposes, but rather each co-op voluntarily sets its own principles.
However, they are now facing severe sales competition. In response to today's market dynamism, each co-op needs to seek for a direction to support each other. Moving forward this direction, they are now facing many issues to be resolved. In case of safety, for example, they needed to establish reliable safety measures and standards based on sound science. This scientific approach, which began from a review of food additives, definitely resulted in removal of a ban to sell detergent containing LAS.
Eventually, they needed to change the direction from conventional reaction, i.e. just to reject it simply because it's a synthetic detergent, to setting up a policy with solid basis at a level recognized as a national standard or at a level scientifically sound.


[Interviewer]
I wonder if establishment of Basic Law for Consumers and current direction of the Fair Trade Commission over The Premiums and Representations Act would have influenced the whole direction of these co-ops' activities, since there are no legal bases to support that LAS is not good.

[Dr. Oya] I agree with you. There is an interesting fact, however, that Japan Co-op published data and a report developed by an outside agency in 1997, which showed that there are no scientific facts to determine "synthetic detergent is harmful and its use must be avoided". This indicates that managements of the organization have long recognized that there are no scientific bases for refusing LAS.
The problem is that, until then, there had been a campaign in co-ops that soap is good and LAS is bad. This provided the organization with a driving force to a certain direction regarding consumerism or consumer education, and thus it was not readily possible to be smashed suddenly.
The biggest problem is how to deal with soap promoters, who conducted the soap campaign very hard. It is easily anticipated that they will get shocked with an impression of "what we have been doing till now is wrong". I think that especially those who have been doing the soap campaign "for the organization" are very difficult to accept such information.

[Interviewer]
There is a basic principle in co-ops to cooperatively purchase products, which they believe are safe. However, they have a safety concern about products sold in regular market, and there was a strong perception in co-ops, as logic readily and emotionally accepted, that natural products are absolutely safer than synthetic products. Since those products are generally more expensive, their approach is then to sell them at cheaper price using its scale merit in order to compensate the total cost.

[Dr. Oya] Co-ops in old days were so. Because they have a belief that a co-op is an organization of consumerism in broad perspective, co-ops have a kind of mission to protect consumers in an opposition axis of "a producer vs. a consumer". However, recently another requirement has drawn a major attention; which is, they must send scientifically correct information for the members.
In this circumstance, contradiction in the logic conventionally used became clear, and this directly led to current movement.
It is, however, not easy to change the direction, because co-ops maintained the power of consumerism in its consumer education process, focusing on "synthetic products must be removed in a choice between synthetic product and natural product". I think that co-ops have been looking for a way to change the direction from supporting soap campaign in the consumerism at that time to science-based approach, and finally they reached the point of change that we are observing today.
Right after World-War II, co-ops worked very hard over a long period of time to develop consciousness to protect safety of consumers, who did not have any concern about product safety. This activity, per se, is right and splendid from the viewpoint of consumer protection. We must appreciate what co-ops established, i.e. consciousness against harmful materials, in this process of consumer education.
What consumer leaders and managements in co-ops are concerned now must be how consumers can develop moderate balance without moving back to the original state that consumers do not care about product safety.

[Interviewer] I think that the direction of their activity has changed somehow. For example, there is still a continued activity to suggest "synthetic detergent exclusion" by talking without writing. Also, there is an organization claiming "soap is not a surfactant", and further some politicians in consumers networks are still calling for "detergent exile".

[Dr. Oya] It is my understanding that there is a limited intercommunication between those who have scientific knowledge and those who blindly believe soap within co-ops. Since those who stick to an opinion that synthetic detergent is bad for both environment and human health do not have scientific basis, they need to rely on a personal connection after all. Let's assume that one realizes the scientific fact on soap and synthetic detergent and tries to withdraw from the group, for example. The person, however, is afraid at the same time that withdrawal from the group might hurt other activities that the group carries out since such a group normally has other various activities to contribute the society than soap campaign, such as a recycling promotion. Basic approach of such a group is to keep driving force of the organization by tying them with the whole activities.
I judge from current flow, however, that they need to change the direction to an approach taking overall risk consideration at the end of the day.

[Interviewer]
Do you really think that that kind of people may change their way of thinking to a risk-based approach?

[Dr. Oya] In order to judge whether "A" or "B" is good, it is natural to take "A" if someone says "A is good". Majority of consumers follow this kind of thinking process in their lives. People go and buy it immediately when a TV program shows that "XX is good". Alike this, everyone followed and thought that it should be "expelled", since some experts said that synthetic detergent was bad, until now.
However, it is not easy to judge what is good or bad, because a risk can move either way based on the approach. Using different approach or focus on the risk, it is possible that a thing which was considered good with one approach can turn out to "maybe bad" or even "bad". This is what risk assessment is all about, and, in fact, it is difficult to understand the approach and application without training. It is important and necessary to apply risk assessment or the sort of thinking for safety evaluation, but, in reality, education to accept such a way of thinking is not yet performed in whole society. This risk-based approach is new, and has never been taken in conventional school education or consumer education.
In this current social environment, I have a great expectation on future roles of co-ops association as a leader of new consumerism / consumer education. We should respect those people, who approached people with the highest level of consciousness on environmental safety and successfully persuaded them, in facing to this major change of the direction, i.e. removal of a ban to sell detergent containing LAS. We should also appreciate their effort to change a choice of product with a good balance and restructure the organization, while warning overuse of product in order to reduce consumption.
Though soap campaign, per se, was not scientifically correct, their power, which led that kind of activity in various places, is necessary. I really wish that they should maintain a leadership position for consumers and society by setting a better direction in the environmental safety based on sound science.


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