Dish Detergent Gains Credibility Through Oil Crisis

The makers of Dawn liquid dish detergent are benefiting from the increased publicity generated through the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. In a coincidental ad campaign before the disaster, Proctor & Gamble, who manufacture Dawn, started advertising the fact that the detergent is used to clean mammals and birds harmed by oil spills. While Procter & Gamble do not have the best environmental track record, it seems that Dawn has brought them some credibility in the field of environmental safety.


The detergent is the preferred soap for nonprofit organisations that clean wildlife to rescue them from disasters, and the ad campaign highlighted this fact before the Deepwater Horizon spill. The ad showed baby otters and ducklings emerging from a bubble bath of Dawn, saved from oil damage.

An ironic product placement for Proctor & Gamble

The product placement for Dawn has made the marketeers of the product uncomfortable, as they are now unintentionally being linked to the crisis.

The number of damaged birds collected by the federal authorities has reached nearly 1,400. As live birds are brought to be cleaned, cameras show images of Dawn bottles in the background being used to wash the birds.

Dawn, which has sent 7,000 bottles of the detergent to the gulf at no charge, and plans to send 5,000 more, has not directly used the disaster to profit, and feels uncomfortable with the turn of events which placed the product at the forefront of environmental news.

The International Bird Rescue Research Center is currently helping nearly 30 birds a day that arrive to be cleaned in Fort Jackson, La. The oil covering them is rubbed with a chemical pretreatment, and then washed with Dawn in sinks in an open warehouse. The process is helping the birds to shake off the oil that is threatening their survival. Once the birds have been cleaned, they are released back to gulf beach areas that are as yet unaffected by the oil spill.

Taking small steps to help in an unimaginable crisis

The Bird Rescue Research Center was founded after two oil tankers collided in San Francisco Bay in 1971 and 7,000 birds were covered in oil. They began using Dawn detergent 1978 as the best product for the job. In recent years, Dawn has started raising money for the center and is on track for $500,000 by the end of the month.

Jay Holcomb, the executive director of the center, acknowledged that it was unclear what happens after the birds were released again, stating that “it is like a Band-Aid to a gunshot wound to the heart,” when we consider the ongoing survival of the birds and mammals in the wake of the oil spill.


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