Care Chemical Products Innovation

Chemistry Corner: Detergency

Detergency is defined as the ‘cleansing quality/power’ in a process that involves water and energy (mechanical or thermal). Detergent surfactants are water-soluble cleansing assistants that combine with impurities and dirt to make them more soluble and differs from soap in not forming a scum with the salts in hard water. Energy is required to facilitate the removal of dirt from a surface, therefore the role of surfactants is to reduce the energy required to achieve cleaning.

They do so by acting as the interface to reduce the force required to remove soil and by speeding up the overall process. As a consequence less thermal or mechanical energy is needed to clean.

Surfactants deliver two principal effects in the detergency process:

  1. Improved Wetting

They improve the effectiveness of the process by both speeding up the wetting and by wetting better. Wetting means more cleaner in contact with the surface.

Improved wetting speeds up the process by ensuring that the surface to be cleaned is covered quickly and effectively by the cleaning solution, which in most cases is water.

  1. Removal and Dispersion of Dirt

They make the removal and dispersion of dirt easier.

This is demonstrated in the image, which shows the removal of oils, greases or fats by a non-ionic surfactant. The hydrophobic component of the surfactant is attracted to the oily soil and aligns at the interface so that it is in contact with it, and the hydrophilic part is in contact with the water.

If the surfactant has the appropriate properties, the hydrophilic part will be pulled into the water phase. Consequently, the oily droplet will be pulled away from the surface. Eventually the droplet will be completely dislodged from the surface. Once this has occurred the surfactant helps with the dispersion of the oil droplet and prevents it redepositing on the surface.

Detergency – Complementary Ingredients

Libra Speciality Chemicals have been the proud distributor of Kolb’s range of non-ionic ethoxylates in the UK for an impressive 35 years. With a wide range of products that complement Libra’s own range of manufactured surfactants, our enduring partnership with Kolb is one which brings tremendous value to our customers.

Kolb manufactures a number of non-ionic surfactants based on both natural and synthetic alcohols, as well as other specialty non-ionic surfactants. Their newest product range, Greenbentin™, features an excellent range of non-ionic surfactants based on natural alcohols. Their most popular range, however, is their Imbentin series of non-ionic surfactants based on synthetic alcohols. These products are formulated by customers in final products, like detergents and shampoos, agricultural and construction chemicals, textile, pulp and paper products, lubricants, and metal working fluids.


For more information about Libra Speciality Chemicals and the quality products that we offer please visit our website or get in touch with a member of our team.

Tel: +44 161 775 1888


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