The Science of Cleaning Products

Ever wondered if those cleaning products on infomercials really work?

Ever wondered if those cleaning products on the infomercialsreally work? Do stains really disappear like magic? The makers ofOxiClean show how stains literally vanish when the “power ofoxygen” is used to safely remove the most stubborn of stains.So, what is the secret behind those little white crystals?

Experiment Materials

  • OxiClean powder
  • Warm water
  • Mixing bowl
  • White washcloth
  • Stain makers - grape juice, colored drinks, condiments, soy sauce
  • Iodine - This featured experiment uses iodine as the stain


The OxiClean® science demonstration presented by Steve Spangler on television (9News) was a version that Steve originally created for the product manufacturers in 1997 as part of a program called the Science of Clean. In Steve’s version, the two colorless liquids were mixed together and after a few seconds, the colorless liquid turned jet black! Steve accomplished this by using the classic Landolt Clock Reaction to produce an iodine solution. Iodine was selected as the stain since it shows up well on television and produces a very visual stain on the washcloth.

It’s important to remember that this science demonstration was developed specifically to show the amazing oxidation power of OxiClean® (the active ingredient in OxiClean is sodium percarbonate). Sodium percarbonate (C2H6Na4O12) is a great detergent and bleaching agent based on the chemistry of hydrogen peroxide bound with sodium carbonate molecules. Hydrogen peroxide is a strong oxidizing substance which will “bleach” the stains away.

Sodium percarbonate is excellent for cleaning and removing organic stains such as coffee, tea, wine, fruit juices, foods, sauces, grass and blood from fabrics and common surfaces made out of porcelain, ceramics, wood and many more. As a cleaning product, OxiClean® is favorable because it’s environmentally safe, biodegradable, and leaves no harmful by-products.

OxiClean® is a registered trademark of OrangeGlo International.

Additional Info

Science Fair Connection:

Testing the cleaning powers of OxiClean and other stain treatments makes a great science fair project. It is simple to do, requires few materials, and provides information that might be very useful for parents and teachers who attend the science fair! Below you’ll see some questions that you might want to consider for your science fair project, but we’re confident that you can come up with some other great questions to explore. Let your imagination run wild!

  • Stain ten white washcloths with common materials found around the house such as coffee, tea, soy sauce, grape juice, cranberry juice, soda, wine… you name it… and test the bleaching power of OxiClean on each cloth.
  • Isolate a particular stain such as coffee and test the cleaning power of several different products that all claim to use the bleaching power of oxygen!
  • Select a stain such as cranberry juice to stain five different carpet samples (found at your local carpet store). Test the stain removing action of OxiClean (or any other product) on those five carpet samples. Is there a type of carpet where the stain is permanent?
  • Select one stain, such as grape juice, and test to see if the temperature of the water affects the cleaning action of a selected product.
  • Set up a science experiment to test the manufacturer’s claims. Does a TIDE® cleaning stick really do a good job of removing ink stains? Does OxiClean® remove red wine stains from a carpet?

The key to any good science fair project is to select one variable to test and to make certain that everything else stays the same. Changing the type of stain and the temperature of the water may produce false results since two variables were changed at the same time. You have no way of knowing if the type of stain or the temperature of the water caused the result. Only change one thing at a time, create a new test, and then compare your results–we like to call this process “C3.” If you go through this process and document your results, you should be able to make some conclusions and have a great science fair project!