Q: We are running some cleaning trials with several of your detergents in our lab on a difficult to remove resin. There was no indication of solvation with solid flakes and particles of resin, white in color, crashing to bottom. Almost like a snow globe. Can you provide an alternative detergent?
A: Detergents are a synergistic blend of several cleaning ingredients (as opposed to soap). Ways detergents clean therefore include several mechanisms. Emulsifying, wetting and dispersing are amongst the most vital. Emulsifying takes water insoluble oils and other substances into the detergent solution. Wetting lowers the surface tension of the detergent solution to penetrate and lift under and around soil. Dispersants suspend solid particles into the detergent solution.
It sounds like you are doing a traditional cleaning study with a coupon, beaker and a stir bar on a magnetic plate. This is something that many detergent manufacturers do in their labs to screen a detergent and residue combination. Pilot and larger scale trials would then follow this proof of concept work. Your detergent solution is swirling around and simulating a soaking with some mechanical action from the stir bar.
What your observation of solid pieces of your challenging resin falling to the bottom of your beaker shows is that emulsifying is not doing much. It is not a predominant mechanism. The wetting and dispersing ways detergents clean, particularly in concert with ultrasonic or other mechanical agitation, will work here based on the study. The pieces and flakes of the resin (the snow globe) are being lifted via wetting and dispersion in the the soaking/stirring flasks you are using for your cleaning study. It would be even easier to clean if emulsifying also worked well, but the detergents being evaluated can still quite be successful. Further testing and some different concentration and temperatures will give more insight.
It is not unusual that solvents will solvate where detergents cannot emulsify. Solvation is the only “trick” (cleaning mechanism) solvents have. Either they dissolve, or they do not work on a given residue. Detergents have multiple cleaning mechanisms and even when one mechanism is less efficient, others may still succeed.
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