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Fabric Stain Removal Guide

Development of the Detergent Industry

Although the start of the synthetic detergent industry is not shrouded in the veils of history as were the beginnings of the soap industry, it is nevertheless not easy to pinpoint exactly when the detergent industry, as such, came into being. The primary problem is to decide exactly what is being referred to as a synthetic detergent. The term itself leads to confusion. In the USA the words surfactant or syndet are being used, whilst in Europe the term 'tenside' (for tensio-active material) is coming into fashion.

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Many definitions of synthetic detergent have been proposed, all of which are very wide. The Comiti International de Dirivis Tensio Actifs has after several years of deliberation agreed on the following definitions:

  • Detergent: Product the formulation of which is specially devised to promote the development of detergency. Note: A detergent is a formulation comprising essential constituents (surface active agents) and subsidiary constituents (builders, boosters, fillers and auxiliaries).
  • Surface Active Agent: Chemical compound which, when dissolved or dispersed in a liquid is preferentially absorbed at an interface, giving rise to a number of physico-chemical or chemical properties of practical interest. The molecule of the compound includes at least one group with an affinity for markedly polar surfaces, ensuring in most cases solubilization in water, and a group which has little affinity for water. Note: Compositions in general are usually mixtures of such compounds.
  • Amphiphilic Product: Product comprising in its molecule, at the same time one or more hydrophilic groups and one or more hydrophobic groups. Note: surface active agents are amphiphilic products.
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