MUCK DADDY SHOP WIPES
Bioengineered bacteria is the key to clean hands. Who knew?
TWO THINGS I Enjoy—wrenching and having clean hands—are at odds with each other. Lucky for me, Muck Daddy is around to act as conciliator. I’ve had this tub of cleaning wipes in my shop for more than a year now, and in that time I’ve never feared a filthy chain or wanted for spotless fingers.
I have tried plenty of orange-scented hand cleaners and various wipes, but these Muck Daddy towels take the cake. Even the most stubborn grime is easily wiped away, and there’s often enough cleaning capability left over to swab down my tools and workbench. I always throw a few in a Ziploc bag when I head to the track, and unlike other cleaners I’ve tried, Muck Daddy wipes don’t dry out my skin.
Curious to know why these particular wipes work so well, I made some phone calls and got connected with Derek Mcphee, senior technical director at Amyris Inc., Muck Daddy’s parent company. “The wipes use hydrogenated farnesene,” Mcphee says, “which is a natural product found in apple skins and other fruit skins.” Farnesene is a powerful solvent and a popular alternative to citrus-based limonene, which is facing criticism and regulation due to its volatility and subsequent impact on air quality. Here’s where things get interesting though: Rather than harvesting farnesene from plants, Amyris has found a way to coax single-cell bacteria into producing it from sugar. “We’re a biotech company that engineers microbes,” Mcphee says. “That’s our core technology.”
So what’s a biotech lab adjacent to Silicon Valley doing making hand wipes for grease monkeys? “We only made the hand cleaners as a means to demonstrate farnesene’s capabilities to potential clients,” Mcphee says. The bacterium’s byproduct is already used in truck and jet fuel, tires, cosmetics, and building materials, and Amyris is looking to find more outlets for farnesene. So far, several major auto-parts chains carry Muck Daddy wipes and hand soap, but nobody has ponied up to buy the brand outright, which is what Amyris is waiting for.
Because Amyris is a chemical wholesaler, Muck Daddy doesn’t have much of a web presence, and tracking down a tub of wipes locally can take some doing. It’s worth it, however, because these things work wonders.