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Surfactant: Working Principle, Usage And Classification

Sep. 01, 2021

Organic emulsifier wholesaler shares with you the working principle and classification and applications of the surfactants.

How they work

Are you wondering how surfactants work and which surfactant is best for your intended use? You should first understand that while there are four different types of surfactants, surfactants as a whole are used to lower the surface tension between liquids to break down and remove impurities. Surfactants, also known as surface active agents, are used as wetting agents, foaming agents, emulsifiers, defoamers and dispersants in a variety of products. Surfactants are able to break down the surface tension that exists between media to produce these effects, making products such as soaps, detergents, paints, adhesives, gels, fabric softeners and other consumer products useful.

In the case of shampoos, for example, surfactants are able to dissolve the barrier between dirt, oil and water. By breaking this barrier, surfactants essentially emulsify dirt and oil from the scalp so that it can be effectively flushed away with water.


Four types

The four different types of surfactants differ in composition and charge, allowing each surfactant to break surface tension in different ways.


Primarily used as wetting agents, nonionic surfactants are found in coatings and liquid products. Common uses are in cleaners, polishes, and fragrances in perfumes and air fresheners. 


Anions are also used as wetting agents. This type of surfactant is often used in detergents, toothpaste, shampoos and soaps. Its primary function is to emulsify dirt and impurities so that contaminants can be easily rinsed off with water.  


Given the current global issues, it is important to understand cationic surfactants because of their ability to interfere with the cell membranes of viruses and bacteria. These surfactants have a positive charge and are used in antibacterial and antifungal products to deliver active agents into cells. 


These surfactants have fast-drying properties and are commonly used in paints, plastics and latex products to aid in quick drying and coagulation. 

Common Uses


Surfactants are typically used for their ability to foam and emulsify impurities so that they can be rinsed away by water. As a result, surfactants are commonly used in the production of hand soaps, dishwashing detergents, shampoos, laundry detergents and other cleaning products. 


Surfactants are also commonly used in the production of cosmetics as wetting agents, foaming agents and thickening agents. Some common cosmetic products that use surfactants are hair conditioners, facial cleansing products and moisturizers.


Some surfactants are used in the production of food products, including creams, salad dressings, mayonnaise and various desserts to keep products moist. 

Where to buy online

Surfactants are widely used in the production of cleaning products because of their ability to reduce surface tension, but can you buy surfactants online? The answer is yes, and SANCOLO not only makes it easy to buy surfactants online, but you can rest easy knowing you're receiving a quality product at a competitive price. Surfactants are used to reduce the surface tension of water, making it less likely that water molecules will stick together. In turn, this makes it easier for the molecules to interact with grease, oil and other contaminants, resulting in a more effective cleaning agent. 

If you need surfactants in large quantities, please contact us here.

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