Something I watched recently made me want to write on a topic that I have no interest in and only passing experience with, but which is intriguing once you think about it for a moment.  I decided I would blog about the first such thing I could come up with.  After thinking for more than a few moments the first thing I came up with fitting this description was:

Barbicide. It’s that blue liquid that every barber/hair salon uses to store combs and scissors, presumably to disinfect it in some way.  Before reading that Wikipedia article, some obvious questions about Barbicide come to mind:

  1. Is there really no competition for Barbicide?  How do they maintain their monopoly?  There doesn’t seem to be a monopoly on the combs or the scissors, just the blue liquid that cleans them.
  2. Why always blue?  Presumably it is some kind of branding.  Does Barbicide have a patent/copyright on that particular shade of blue?
  3. The name suggests that it is a special chemical agent for killing some kind of mythical organism whose name has the root Barbi-.  But I don’t believe that.  In fact, I believe that Barbicide is just de-natured alcohol colored blue.  But I must be wrong right?
  4. How often do you have to change a jar of Barbicide?

The wikipedia article didn’t answer many of these questions but it did say something about 3.  In fact barbicide

… is a United States Environmental Protection Agency-approved hospital disinfectant. It is a germicide, pseudomonacide, fungicide, and viricide. In addition, it kills the HIV-1 virus (AIDS virus), Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

And it raised new questions.  Like, is it true as “Barbicide techinicians claim” that

it is the only disinfectant of its kind which holds its power and color over time; all of its competitors’ products eventually turn green or brown.

?  That at least tells me that there are indeed competitors and presumably they are all blue (at first.)  I checked the Barbicide Material Safety Data Sheet, a document prepared by OSHA and confirmed that alcohol is the primary active ingredient, although it also contains Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride (DBAC), and Sodium Nitrite.  I checked the Wikipedia page for DBAC and found some uninteresting (to me) facts like that it is a

nitrogenous cationic surface-acting agent belonging to the quaternary ammonium group

and some interesting facts like that it is toxic to fish.  Apparently it is not patented.  So Barbicide must be a patented formula combining these chemicals in some specific proportions with other, presumably blue, chemicals.

I went to the homepage for Barbicide.  Did you know that a jar of Barbicide is in the permanent collection at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution?  Now you do.  King Research, which produces Barbicide also makes other products, for example a drain cleaner that apparently excels at breaking down hair clogs. Natch.

I found this discussion forum where exactly my question 4 was raised and after many forum members professed ignorance, a call was placed directly to King Research who suggest replacing it every day, or when it gets cloudy.  This surprised me because when you factor in the claims of the Barbicide technicians, it seems to suggest that the competitor’s product turns brown or green in less than a day.  Well, no wonder they can’t compete.

Finally, I assumed that somewhere there must be a dark side to all of this, so I googled “Against Barbicide” and “Barbicide Controversies” and after many such attempts I finally came across the following transcript of a case from the Third Circuit Court of Appeal in which Barbicide was allegedly improperly used to sanitize a tub used in a pedicure:

Ms. Detraz demonstrated that Virgin Nails did not follow proper sanitization procedures when cleaning its equipment, specifically the pedicure tub in which Ms. Detraz immersed her feet and lower legs during the pedicure.  Virgin Nails used Barbicide, a disinfectant, to clean the whirlpool tubs attached to the pedicure chairs.

So, I learned a lot and it is not all for naught.  I think that I might actually have an interesting topic of conversation the next time I get my haircut.

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