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The Times of India reports:

Union minister Maneka Gandhi has asked her ministerial colleagues to opt for a "natural disinfectant'' made from extracts of cow urine instead of the "chemically bad'' one in government offices.

In a letter to her colleagues in the council of ministers Gandhi has proposed a switch to 'gaunyle' - cleaning liquid made from cow urine extracts, arguing that it "environment-friendly".

So I am really curious about whether this is effective as a disinfectant.

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    Don't know how effective it may or may not be, but phrases like "natural disinfectant" and "chemically bad" make my snake-oil sensors twitch... Mar 26, 2015 at 10:39
  • I find it interesting that I can't find any sources for what "gaunyle" even is
    – warren
    Apr 1, 2015 at 13:22

1 Answer 1

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"Gaunyle" is advertised as "organic phenyle" and "organic phenyl" and as a general disinfectant for floors - thus i believe the idea is that is an 'organic' alternative to Phenol, which is phenyle+OH.

media coverage:

Anuradha Modi from the Holy Cow Foundation [...] said she was working on a deal to get the company that supplies housekeeping items to government offices to use the product — which is called "Gaunyle", with gau the Hindi word for cow.

"We have tested the product in labs and we can say that it is much better than the phenyl that you get in the market which is so full of chemicals," she told AFP.

the HolyCow Foundation (HCF) spells it 'Gonyle' on a graphic, and 'Phenyle' on its shop. (Aside: The HCF uses Gau-X monikers for all kinds of products won from waste products of old cows ostensibly to finance the wellbeing of said old cows, for religious reasons) - The shop acknowledges that the pine and neem are not only for smell : "Based on the antimicrobial properties of Cow Urine, Neem, and Pine oil"

The ingredients of gaunyle are listed as "Gau Ark, Pine Oil, Neem Oil,permitted organic Emulsifier, RO Water", while a manual(p.347) says:

Ingredients

  1. l litre gaumutra
  2. 200 g neem leaves
  3. l litre pine oil
  4. 100 g emulsifier Procedure First, boil 1 litre of gaumutra with 200 g of neem leaves till it becomes 250 ml. This solution has to be kept for 6 hours and turns into Neem kadha. Mix 100 ml of pine oil solution and add 875 ml of distilled water is added. Next, put 25 ml of neem kada in it and mix well after adding emulsifier
  • Pine Oil is the higher boiling fraction of turpentine; It is a bactericide, fungicide and herbicide
  • Neem Oil is far more toxic than pine oil, but also offers insect repellent qualities - note that the manual specifies leaves and lets them boil down instead of distilling them, resulting basically in neem broth
  • organic emulsifiers (permitted?) can be many things, it is basically just a descriptor of being able to blend oil and water. Could be anything including highly toxic or completely benign.
  • RO water probably just means 'reverse osmosis' water, i.e water pressed through a semi permeable membrane, thus free of solid matter and free of many dissolved molecules, though not all.
  • the Gau Ark probably denotes Gaumutra Ark, i.e. distilled cow urine; A search on Google Scholar finds that it is anti-everything-bad (fungi, bacteria, diabetes, insects, snails ...) and pro-everything-good (plant growth, health, wound healing, ...), though there is a dearth of papers comparing this to any other urine, which keeps the knowledge gain manageable. - note that the manual takes cow urine and boils it down, instead of distilling, thereby retaining all mineral content which is inadvisable for a cleaning product.

Using cow-urine with neem oil and pine oil in a floor disinfectant seems like an idea, as long as you keep the bottle away from children and pregnant women, which is good advice for cleaning agents anyways.

The manual sees 250ml of boiled down cow urine (1l CU with 200g Neem leaves, which are probably extracted, then discarded, as there is no blending step), mixed with 1kg Pine oil and 100g emulsifier, so the resulting cleaning agent (meant to be diluted in water about 1:40) is mostly Pine Oil. Pine Oil is a recognized floor cleaning and disinfecting agent.

As the claim asserts that is is better than a "chemically bad" alternative, this seems to pan out (no indication that cow urine is "chemically bad/worse/worst", which would be the only way that claim could be busted).

The claim about Gaunyle being environmentally friendly ... It's a race between 'essential oils' vs 'essentially oil', essentially.

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    This seems a little theoretical. It should work given a very broad description of what it should contain. But does it work?
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 30, 2023 at 18:23
  • Pine-sol is 10% pine oil so that's a recipe for pine-sol mixed with cow urine. Why not just use the pine-sol?
    – CJR
    Jul 1, 2023 at 1:08
  • @CJR because then there would be no cow involved, and they would compete for the same customers as every other cleaner - the express goal here is to provide a cleaner that is catnip to the subgroup of Hindus that need more cow-based product (beef is anathema, but milk, dung, urine etc are godly). Also, 10% pine oil is rookie numbers. The manual i cite leads to 74% pine oil in Gaunyle
    – bukwyrm
    Jul 1, 2023 at 9:36
  • Buried in the middle here is what should probably be the most important part of an answer on this site: "A search on Google Scholar finds..." Details of what that search turned up, whether the research is high-quality, etc, are key to examining the claim that cow urine is a key ingredient in this cleaner.
    – IMSoP
    Jul 1, 2023 at 11:07
  • @IMSoP I wrote "t is anti-everything-bad (fungi, bacteria, diabetes, insects, snails ...) and pro-everything-good (plant growth, health, wound healing, ...), though there is a dearth of papers comparing this to any other urine, which keeps the knowledge gain manageable. " what would you need more info on? should i write more explicitly that it's all drivel? i wanted to be considerate - note that the Claim at it's core is very sparse. Basically 'it's natural and less evil' which is kinda not open to experimental debunking
    – bukwyrm
    Jul 1, 2023 at 15:40

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