How Does Detergent Remove Dirt?

We almost use household cleaning products such as detergents everyday, washing clothes, dishes and so on. Despite of detergents wide uses, we may know noting about them except realize that they can break down dirt. Now, let’s have a quick glance at how do they work.

Reduces Tension
Detergent reduces the surface tension of water, allowing the water to penetrate and completely wet the fabrics that need to be cleaned. The laundry detergent lowers the interfacial tension between the fabric and the laundry detergent and water solution. At the same time, it also lowers the interfacial tension between the oil and the laundry detergent and water solution, allowing stains on the fabric to be lifted. The surfactant molecules in the laundry detergent are strongly attracted to the water and lift the soil from the fabric that normally would not dissolve in water alone.

Ehances Repulsion
Once the dirt is dispersed into the solution, the anionic surfactants found in the laundry detergent actually adhere to the surface of the dirt as well as the surface of the fabric being laundered. The result is a negative charge on the surface of the dirt and the fabric, which causes electrostatic repulsion. It is the electrostatic repulsion that actually prevents the dirt and grime from landing back onto the fabric and staying immersed in the water.

Main Component
Detergents use acids to break down dirt, grime and tarnish. Among these acids is sulfonic acid, an organosulfur compound, or a compound that contains sulfur. A quick glance at the label of numerous cleaners and detergents will show that there are various types of sulfonic acids, including methane sulfonic acid, arylalkyl sufonic acid and dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid(commonly known as sodium salt or LAS), among others. Although they differ in composition, each of these sulfonic acids serves as a chemical catalyst.

Dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid(CAS: 27176-87-0) — commonly appears as an ingredient in laundry detergent. In addition to detergents, sulfonic acid compounds often lend themselves to stripping and cleaning agents such as floor cleaners, hard surface cleaners, metal polishes and grout, tile and bathroom cleaners. Methanesulfonic acid often appears in all-purpose liquid spray cleaners. Sometimes called “green acid,” this type of organic sulfonic acid produces no odors or toxic fumes, contains no nitrogen or halogens and is easily biodegradable.