Which Detergent Should I Use To Clean Clothes?
A detergent is a foaming agent or a combination of surfactants having cleansing capabilities in liquid or powder form. There are a wide array of detergents available in the market, but the commonest ones are sodium laureth sulfate, a member of the soapsulfate family, and alkyl benzoates, which are also part of the soap family. Other common types of detergents are glycols, which is derived from sugar cane; methanol, which is derived from crude oil or petroleum derivatives and is usually used as an engine degreaser; phosphates, which are derived from phosphate salts of fatty acids and are used as brake cleanser or rust remover; tannic acid, which is a derivative of tannic acid, and carbolic acid, which is derived from carbons, are both used as chemical degreasers. Detergents are used for cleaning, they make dirt and stains disappear and leave them cleaner. They remove grease, dust, stains and grease and organic pollutants like oil, grease, vinegar, grease, urine and other solid wastes.
Detergents are usually available as granular or liquid surfactants in concentrated or powder form. The granular forms contain more surfactant molecules and hence result in foam whereas the liquid forms are less foam and hence easier to mix with water. The detergents with foam-producing properties like sodium laureth sulfate are more popular in areas having dry climates. Powders are more suitable for humid and wet climates. Liquid detergents are available in powder form and can be mixed with water.
The three main detergent molecules are polar and these have a hydrogen bonding with fatty acids at the head group of the molecule. The hydrophobic (water fearing) detergents do not have a hydrogen bonding with fatty acids. Therefore, these are the most commonly used detergents in the market. The detergents which do have a hydrogen bonding with fatty acids at the head group are known as hydrophobic surfactants. These detergents form foam when they are used in an autoclave.
Some detergents like sodium
Laureth sulphate are the only detergents that do not have a hydrophobic tail. The hydrophobic and amphiphilic surfactant molecules are polar and do not have a hydrogen bonding with any of the oxygen molecules at the outer surface of the molecule. The detergents which do have a hydrogen bonding with any of the oxygen molecules at the surface include the surfactants polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polyacrylamide. PEG is a very strong surfactant and was once used to clean oil and gasoline without any negative effect on the surfaces that it touched.
However, recent studies by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have warned against the use of polyacrylamide or PEG as surfactants in laundry detergents. Based on those studies, the EPA said that the use of PEG in laundry detergents poses a number of risks to consumers. One of the risks posed by the use of PEG is that it depletes the soap and water supply of a machine. Another risk is that the PEG molecules, once formed, attach themselves to the outer surface of oil droplets and cause those droplets to stick together and form a film on the surface of the fabric where the detergent residue builds up. Studies have also shown that PEG molecules adhere to oil droplets released from a cooking stove and that those residues can form a film on fabric that can leave clothes looking unattractive and having a bad smell.
We are faced with the difficult choice of choosing a detergent that will not only clean clothes but will also meet our family’s needs and add value to our families’ property. Among the detergents currently available on the market are two detergents that are commonly referred to as “hard water” or “fast water”. These names are often given to products by various manufacturers because they are derived from the same compound. These compounds are one of the main reasons that consumers experience tough cleaning when washing their clothes, particularly in the dryer.
When selecting a detergent
The consumer should take into consideration the primary function of that detergent – to remove surface contaminants and debris. If the detergent is designed to perform well in the washing machine, it will typically have a high level of sodium or calcium which are commonly found in hard water detergents. However, these detergents will not be very effective at removing greasy or saturated stains on fabric and may cause the formation of soap scum on the fabrics being cleaned. For this reason, a detergent that is designed for use in combination with an ionic cleaning system is often more desirable than a detergent that was designed to clean with sodium or calcium alone.
Ionic cleaners provide a rinse process that involves the use of negatively charged and positively charged cleaning agents that work together to clean clothes without using the common chemicals sodium or potassium, which are often found in other commercial cleaning agents. These chemical agents have strong electrical charges which draw dirt and stain molecules away from the clothing while at the same time attracting and holding water molecules. After the water has been attracted and held on to the fabric, the negatively charged ions released through electrostatic action and static electricity react with the positively charged ions of the soil and dirt to form a neutral solution that helps lift stubborn stains and dirt. In addition to providing a safer environment for laundry workers, these ionic systems help to improve the brightness and luster of washed fabrics.