Surfactant 101 – What are Surfactant Systems?

Q. In your email you mentioned that Solujet and Citrajet have more sophisticated surfactant systems than a competitor’s low foaming washer detergent – could you explain a little bit more what ‘surfactant systems’ are?

A. Absolutely! Surfactants, or Surface Active Agents, are compounds that lower surface tension between particles, such as oil and water. In the oil and water example, a surfactant compound will contain hydrophilic and lipophilic molecules, meaning the surfactant has water loving (hydrophilic) and oil loving (hydrophobic/lipophilic) parts.

When an oily residue is present, the surfactant lowers the surface tension in the water and detergent mixture, and attaches itself to both the water and oil molecules in the detergent bath. Agitate the bath and the surfactants start to surround the oil drops and form micelles — essentially trapping the residue in an aqueous suspension. This suspension can be foam, or a low-foam alternative, but during the rinse process the micelles and surfactants rinse away and take the residue with them. This is the heart of aqueous detergent cleaning, Alconox, Inc.’s core business.

A surfactant system is a blend of surfactants with different molecular qualities. Combining surfactants then creates a “system” of molecules that work together synergistically to provide excellent dispersing, rinsing, emulsifying, anti-redeposition and detergency. Not all surfactants or surfactant systems are created equally. Different formulations bond and disperse residues differently. Solujet – Low Foaming Phosphate Free Detergent® and Citrajet – Low Foaming Acid Cleaner® use systems with three different surfactants which helps them tackle certain residues and applications with a superior result to competitor detergents that do not as effectively combine surfactants.

What system an application requires depends on both the residue(s) being cleaning and the method of cleaning (including manual vs. machine, water temperature, detergent concentration and more). Our detergents all contain different surfactant systems, which allow for a range of residues to be removed in various applications such as low foaming, CIP, manual, etc.

Our scientists and chemical engineers have been creating aqueous critical cleaning detergents for over 70 years to tackle the toughest residues and meet the needs of almost any surface, contaminant, and cleaning method. Want to know more? We offer documentation and downloads on validation, whitepapers, technical bulletins and more on our main website to help clients choose the best detergent for their specific application.

To request any Alconox, Inc. detergents for free, please complete the questionnaire at Get Sample. For more information about any one of our Alconox, Inc. detergents, consult the technical bulletin for each product. Or click here to access each of our detergent’s Safety Data Sheets.

Do you have a critical cleaning question for the experts at Alconox, Inc.?  Search TechNotes to see if it’s been answered before or Ask Alconox.

Contact us any time: cleaning@alconox.com



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