Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Windex vs. Dettol – the smackdown

If you’ve ever seen My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding, you’ll recall the patriarch’s love affair with Windex, which he used to clean his glasses, hands and car and prescribed as a cure-all for a variety of ailments and skin blemishes.

“Put some Windex.”

But if you’ve ever lived in the Middle East – or even stopped by – you’ll know that the real big gun in the household arsenal is not the beautiful blue window cleaning spray, but a screw-top bottle filled with a yellowish liquid that turns cloudy on contact with water: Dettol, a product with almost limitless powers.

This distinctively-scented antiseptic is used in its various forms to clean toilets, floors and kitchen counters, wash dishes, rinse vegetables and fruit, disinfect cuts, bites and wounds and as a gargle for sore throats.

It also comes fetchingly packaged as a bar of yellow soap, great for washing people, pets and clothing. And let’s throw in curtains and upholstery, too, for good measure. (A visit to Dettol’s website reveals it’s now being marketed in multiple forms, from disinfectant wipes to hand sanitizer).

Last week an Arab friend was reminiscing about Dettol, which is manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser, an Anglo-Dutch household products and drugs group, and was in 2011 ranked as the 48th most trusted brand in India by The Brand Trust Report.

Yes, India, which is one of the world’s top 10 economies. So that’s a pretty big deal.

Anyway, Mahmoud remembered his mother daubing his skinned knees with diluted Dettol on a cotton ball, while the maid used it to mop the floor and his father poured it into the toilet bowl.

“What the hell is this stuff?” he wondered, examining the bottle’s English-language label with its little sword logo. “It’s a colonial conspiracy!”

Who knows, he may have been onto something. A quick Google search after our conversation unearthed the following bit of trivia from the unreliably sourced yet relied upon Wikipedia: “In Australia, Dettol spray has been shown to be lethal to cane toads, an invasive species that was introduced from Hawaii. … Spraying the disinfectant at close range has been shown to cause fast-acting death.”

So if you are a cane toad, or even remotely resemble one, steer well clear of the Middle East if you value your life. You have been warned.

And for all the rest of you human beings, forget about the Windex.

“Put some Dettol!”

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