Know More About Surfactants And How They Work

Know More About Surfactants And How They Work


We use surfactants in our day-to-day life in multiple forms. The surfactants may be found in the dish wash liquids, the glass cleaners, the all-purpose cleaners, bathroom cleaners, and the substances used for caring for automobiles. A surfactant may be the most important component of any cleaning detergent. Typically, a surfactant increases the activity on any surface area to which it is applied. It can trap the dirt on the surface, which can be subsequently removed. The water-repelling tail of the surfactant is hydrophobic. The other end of the surfactant is its water-loving or hydrophilic end. The dirt and soil particles are surrounded by the hydrophobic end of the surfactant, while water surrounds the hydrophilic end.

The Working of a Surfactant

The surfactant molecules that are found in a detergent and a solution combine which each other to form large molecules and are called micelles. The head of the micelles will be exposed to the water particles. The tail end of the smaller molecules will stay away from water and will group with each other within the center of the micelle.

A unit of the micelle can effectively remove dirt or soil from any surface. The hydrophobic or the water-hating end of the micelle molecule will envelop the soil or dirt particles. The hydrophilic or the water-loving end of the micelle molecule will pull the dot or soil particles away from the surface. The soil or dirt particles will be drawn into the solution. Once a micelle molecule effectively removes dirt, it will reform its structure.

The Different Types of Surfactants

There can be different types of industrial surfactants based on the charge on the hydrophilic end of the surfactant molecule. This charge can be positive, negative, or neutral.

Anionic surfactants: when there is a negative charge on the hydrophilic end of a micelle and surfactant molecule, it is called an anionic surfactant. The micelle molecule can lift the dirt particles and suspend them due to the negative charge. The detergent and soaps used commonly in homes consist of anionic surfactants as they can attract and remove a wide range of soil and particles. The surfactants are also called high foam surfactants as they produce lots of foam. However, this kind of surfactant has low emulsification properties.

Non-Ionic Surfactants: because there is no charge on the hydrophilic end of the non-ionic surfactants, they are good emulsifying agents. They may be the best options when you want to remove soil and dirt that is organic. However, the anionic surfactant can be combined with a non-ionic or neutral surfactant to form a multipurpose cleaning agent, due to the dual-action. The surfactant emulsifies oil and soil as easily as it can lift and remove the dirt and soil particles.


Cationic surfactant: when there is a positive charge on the water-loving or hydrophilic end of the surfactant, it is called a cationic surfactant. These surfactants are often used in fabric softeners and other anti-static products. Cationic surfactants can also kill pathogens and are used as antimicrobial agents. However, a cationic surfactant cannot be combined with an anionic surfactant. It can only be combined with the non-ionic surfactant.


Now that you know about the different kinds of ethoxylated surfactants and their properties, you can make the best choice. You need to consider properties including emulsification and the electrical charge on the surfactant and molecules before you purchase a surfactant. It will help you make an effective purchase that can solve your problem.

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