Composition and chemistry
The original Dettol liquid antiseptic and disinfectant is light yellow in colour in the concentrated form but, as several of the ingredients are insoluble in water, it produces a milky emulsion of oil droplets when diluted with water, exhibiting the ouzo effect.
The active ingredient in Dettol that confers its antiseptic property is chloroxylenol (C8H9ClO), an aromatic chemical compound. Chloroxylenol comprises 4.8% of Dettol's total admixture, with the rest made up by pine oil, isopropanol, castor oil, soap and water.
When diluted, Dettol may be used to clean cuts, wounds, etc. and to disinfect environmental surfaces such a household floors and the walls of slaughter houses etc.
In Australia, Dettol spray has been shown to be lethal to cane toads, an invasive species that was introduced from Hawaii, as a result of bad judgment, in 1935. It had been hoped that the amphibian would control the cane beetle but it became highly destructive within the ecosystem. Spraying the disinfectant at close range has been shown to cause rapid death to toads. It is not known whether the toxins are persistent or whether they harm other Australian flora and fauna.
Owing to concerns over potential harm to other Australian wildlife species, the use of Dettol as an agent for pest control was banned in Western Australia by the Department of Environment and Conservation in 2011.
Dettol is toxic to many animals, especially cats. Dettol contains phenols. Phenols are of particular concern because cats are unable to eliminate the toxins following ingestion. A cat may swallow the product by licking his paws after they have come into contact with it.
- "Product Safety Data Sheet". Reckitt Benkiser. 23 June 2006. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
- Narelle Towie (May 23, 2009). "Cane toad poison banned". Perth Now. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
- Lester Haines (29 May 2007). "'Dettol Man' cleans himself to death". The Register. Retrieved 2 February 2013.