Laundry Detergent Ingredients

Some of the key ingredients in a laundry detergent are optical brighteners, polyphosphates, sodium silicate, etc. These ingredients are added in specific amounts based on a formula. Here is more information about the same.
We all are familiar with laundry detergents that help us to get rid of the spots and stains from our clothes. Though we don't know much about their chemical composition, we prefer the leading brands that give maximum performance. Have you ever wondered what makes these laundry detergents such a useful household product? It is their components that give these detergents the unique quality of removing tough stains. Owing to the phenomenal growth in chemical research, there have been diverse laundry detergent formulas. Even a slight change in the chemical composition effects the quality of the brand. Generally, the ingredients are more or less the same; however, the varying mixture of these ingredients sets every brand apart.

The word surfactants stands for 'surface active agent' and is one of the most important ingredients in the entire chemical composition. They are basically composed of two parts: a hydrophilic part and hydrophobic part. Both the hydrophilic and hydrophobic part work in tandem to eliminate the stains from the clothing and utensils. The water hating surfactant molecules break the soil particles on the fabric, and the water loving molecules suspend these soil particles and other impurities in wash water, thereby removing them. Basically, the surfactants have ionic (electrical charge) properties in the water and based on these, they are categorized in three types of surfactants viz:
  • Cationic Surfactants: As the name suggests, these surfactants contain positive charge in water and so, do not react with the ions that are positively charged hardness ions. They are primarily used in fabric conditioning detergents and are effective when combined with proper ratio of non-ionic surfactants.
  • Anionic Surfactants: Anionic surfactants carry negative charge and so, they react with the positively charged hardness ions. We must be aware of the hard water chemicals, compounds of magnesium and calcium; the anionic surfactants react with these oppositely charge hardness ions and neutralize them.
  • Nonionic Surfactants: Since, the nonionic surfactants are devoid of charges, they do not ionize in the solutions. These surfactants help in the removal of oily-type soils. By the process of emulsification, nonionic surfactants remove tough oily-type soils.
Some Other Laundry Detergent Ingredients
Besides the surfactants, there are various other ingredients that are as follows.
  • Builders are chemicals, like polyphospate, sodium carbonate or sodium silicate, and aluminosilicate that are helpful in improving the quality of the chemical ingredients. Besides these benefits, they impart alkalinity to the solution that helps in the cleaning purposes.
  • Sodium silicate acts as a corrosion inhibitor and prevents washer parts from corrosion.
  • Optical brighteners are chemical compounds that convert ultra violet light wavelengths to visible light, and this gives us the impression that washed clothes appear whiter.
  • Fragrances provide unique odor to the laundry detergents, besides subsiding the hard smell of the chemicals used in the detergents.
  • Colorants are the chemicals that act as a special additive to the laundry detergents.
  • Sodium sulfate provides the crisp flowing nature to the powdered form of detergents.
  • Enzymes help in breaking complex soils, and this helps in the removal of blood stains and other complex stains.
  • Few additives, like Monoethanolamine (alcohol) lower the freezing point of detergents and makes them easier to be used in low temperatures areas.
These were some of the commonly used laundry detergent ingredients. We hope you must have got some idea about what makes these detergents lethal for stains.