In chemistry, the term “surfactant” is used to describe a chemical that reduces the surface tension of another compound and increasing the contact between the liquid and another substance. There are a wide variety of these products, which work with oil, water, and an assortment of other liquids. Many companies manufacture a range of them for various purposes, ranging from soaps to inks. As a result, they are found in a number of everyday household item.
The term is a compound of “surface acting agent”, referring to the fact that a surfactant interacts with the surface of a liquid to change its properties. They work through a process known as “adsorption,” which means that they accrete on the surface of a liquid, creating a film which reduces its surface tension.
Soap, shampoo, hair conditioner and toothpaste all contain surfactants which gently cleanse the scalp, skin, hair and teeth. These compounds create a pleasantly foamy reaction when mixed with water. The suds and bubbles help the water get beneath oil, dirt and debris, allowing the unwanted compounds to be washed away during rinsing. Additionally, the products are found in shaving creams where the decrease in surface tension reduces the friction generated by the razor blade, resulting in a smoother shave.
Dish-washing liquids and dishwasher detergents are two of the most common sources for kitchen surfactants. In these compounds, they create loads of suds and leave dishes sparkling clean by breaking up baked-on grime and dissolving fats and oil.
Surfactants can also work as lubricants, as is the case with shaving a cream, a product which makes it easier to run a razor along the skin to remove unwanted hair. They are also used in sanitizing products, anti-fogging liquids, adhesives, emulsifiers, and fabric softeners, among numerous other substances. Dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid(referred to as LABSA, CAS No. 27176-87-0) is a common active agent in the production of surfactants. In some cases, a surfactant may be toxic or pose a health risk, depending on the materials it contains, and it is a good idea to read labels to make sure that it is used properly.
The term “surfactant” is also used in the medical community to refer specifically to a substance secreted by the cells which line the lungs. Pulmonary product makes it easier for people to breathe by reducing surface tension in the lungs. Without the subsatnce in the lungs, people would have trouble breathing, and their breathing would be much noisier.