Household Chemicals

Household Chemicals

Household chemicals are nonfood chemicals that are commonly found and used in and around the typical household and are designed particularly to assist cleaning, pest control, and for general hygiene purposes. The everyday household chemicals we use mainly refer to:

  • cosmetics and toiletries, for example, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, shaving products, insect repellents, sunscreen and make-up
  • face paint, crayons and children's art supplies
  • gardening products, such as weed sprays and pesticides
  • household cleaners such as sprays, detergent and washing powder
  • paint, paint thinners and solvents
  • pet products, for example, flea and worm treatments and pet shampoo
  • spa and swimming pool cleaners

Surfactants in Household Chemicals

Household ChemicalsFig. 1 Schematic of surface tension versus
surfactant bulk concentration

Surfactants are among the main ingredients encountered in household products acting as detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, or dispersants, etc. The basic principle is that surfactants can reduce the surface tension of a liquid and decrease the interfacial or surface tension between two phases.

Interfacial or surface tension exists when two phases are present. While surfactants are usually organic compounds with both a hydrophilic "water-seeking" group (the head), and a hydrophobic "water-avoiding" group (the tail) in the same molecule which allows them to self-organize at interfaces that make the surface active, thus the household chemicals are both hydrophilic and oleophilic. The larger the amount of surfactant used, the finer is the emulsion. Figure 1 shows that as the bulk concentration of the amphiphile is increased, surface tension decreases and reaches a minimum (critical micellar concentration, CMC) beyond which it remains almost constant.

Common Household Surfactants

  • Categorized by product types

There are different types of surfactants with different properties. These properties decide which surfaces the household product is best used on. Here are some commonly used household surfactants.

Anionic Surfactants

Anionic Surfactants
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
  • Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS)
  • Ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES)
  • Sodium stearate

As the most popular and widely used surfactants, anionic surfactants can be found in almost every cleaning product. It’s estimated that 45% of the $46 billion global surfactant market is made from anionic alone.


Cationic Surfactants

Cationic Surfactants
  • Polyquaternium-16
  • Lauryl benzalkonium (chloride) (1227)
  • Benzethonium chloride (1622)
  • Trimethylstearylammonium chloride (1831)
  • Cetylpyridinium chloride

As with a positive charge on their hydrophilic end which makes them useful in removal of static electricity, cationic surfactants can be used in anti-static products, like fabric softeners. Cationic surfactants can also serve as antimicrobial agents, so they are often used in disinfectants.


Amphoteric Surfactants

Amphoteric Surfactants
  • Lauryl betaine
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Lauryldimethylamine oxide
  • Myristamine oxide
  • Sodium lauroamphoacetate

Since most amphoteric surfactants are mild and easy on the skin, they are widely used in baby products, shampoo, cosmetics and disinfectants, and as their strong foaming properties, they can be used in dish soap.


Nonionic Surfactants

Nonionic Surfactants
  • Cocofatty acid monoethanol amide (CMEA)
  • fatty acid alkanol amide (6501)
  • Alkyl polyglucosides (APG)
  • Fatty alcohol polyoxyethylene ether (AEO)
  • Fatty Alcohol Ethoxylates (FAE)

Nonionic surfactants are surfactants that have polar head groups that are not electrically charged, which makes them resistant to water hardness deactivation. Thus, they can be widely used in laundry detergents, toilet bowl cleaners and dishwashing detergents.

  • Categorized by functions

Surfactants play a significant role in the household chemicals. According to their functions, surfactants can be categorized as the follows:

* Actually, there is no strict distinguish of the functions of surfactants. For example, in one emulsion alkylbenzene sulfonic acid is with multiple properties at the same time, such as decontamination, foaming, emulsification, and dispersion. Here we list the typical ones. Click the buttons to learn more.

Alfa Chemistry is a reliable surfactants supplier that has served the household products for years. We are dedicated to bringing quality surfactants, custom solutions, and additional services to our customers. For more information, please don't hesitate to contact us.