Surfactant

Role details

Surfactants are used in a range of household cleaners and body care products. They help remove dirt and stains from things like your laundry, your skin and most hard household surfaces by breaking up the stains and keeping them dispersed. Without them, dirt and stains would not dissolve in water and could not effectively be removed. 

In order for stains to be removed, the individual particles that they are made of must be dispersed in a solvent such as water and washed away. The problem is, many of the substances that cause stains - like oils -  don't readily mix with water. This is due to the surface tension (called interfacial tension) between the two different types of substances. Surfactants help to reduce this interfacial tension, allowing the different substances to be mixed together. The name “surfactant” comes from this property, as it is derived from the words “surface active agent”. 

Each surfactant molecule is composed of a hydrophilic head that is attracted to water molecules, and a hydrophobic tail that repels water while being attracted to any oil or grease present in stains. They can then pull the stains away and suspend them in a solution to prevent them from being re-deposited.

The 4 main types of surfactants are categorised according to the + or - charge of the molecule's head.

1. Anionic surfactants: The head of the molecule is negatively charged. This is the most widely used type of surfactant for laundry, dishwashing and shampoo because of their excellent cleaning properties and high sudsing potential. They may require help from builders to work properly, especially if used in hard water. 

2. Cationic surfactants: The head of the surfactant molecule is positively charged. Most commonly used as a conditioning agent in fabric softener, hair conditioner and aiding the performance of anionic surfactants in laundry detergents. 

3. Non-ionic surfactants: The head of the surfactant molecule has no charge. This makes them more resistant to water hardness than anionic and cationic surfactants and means they are used in a variety of detergents because they are great at removing stains. 

4. Amphoteric/zwitterionic surfactants: The names 'amphoteric' and 'zwitterionic' are interchangeable and means that the head can be cationic (positively charged), anionic (negatively charged) or non-ionic (not charged), depending on the pH of the solution. These are a better option for personal care products because of their mildness and dermatological profile.

Role Ingredients

Ingredient Health & Environment Used in EWG Rating
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. extra moisturising hand cream, extra moisturising body lotion, baby moisturiser, lip balm stick, dandruff control conditioner, body butter, volumising conditioner, normal daily moisturising conditioner, dry, damaged & colour care conditioner, ultra sensitive conditioner 1 - 1
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. toilet cleaner, volumising shampoo, ultra sensitive shampoo, dry, damaged & colour care shampoo, glass & surface cleaner, normal daily moisturising shampoo, dandruff control shampoo, wool & delicates, bathroom & shower cleaner, multi-purpose cleaner, bubble bath, multi-purpose concentrate 0 - 0
Low hazard for health. Biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. extra moisturising hand cream, extra moisturising body lotion, liquid scourer, volumising shampoo, ultra sensitive shampoo, dandruff control conditioner, body butter, dry, damaged & colour care shampoo, volumising conditioner, hand wash, normal daily moisturising shampoo, normal daily moisturising conditioner, dandruff control shampoo, dry, damaged & colour care conditioner, wool & delicates, laundry liquid, ultra sensitive conditioner 0 - 0
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. extra moisturising hand cream, extra moisturising body lotion, baby moisturiser, body butter 0 - 0
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. extra moisturising hand cream, extra moisturising body lotion, baby moisturiser, body butter 0 - 0
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. liquid scourer, dish liquid, wool & delicates, laundry liquid 0 - 0
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. liquid scourer, Extra Clean laundry powder, top & front loader, dish liquid, laundry powder, top & front loader, wool & delicates, laundry liquid, laundry powder, front loader 0 - 0
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. volumising shampoo, fabric softener, ultra sensitive shampoo, baby shampoo, dry, damaged & colour care shampoo, body wash, hand wash, normal daily moisturising shampoo, dandruff control shampoo, foaming hand wash, wool & delicates, bubble bath 0 - 0
volumising shampoo, ultra sensitive shampoo, Extra Clean laundry powder, top & front loader, Extra Clean laundry soaker & stain remover, dish liquid, laundry powder, top & front loader, dry, damaged & colour care shampoo, hand wash, normal daily moisturising shampoo, dandruff control shampoo, laundry liquid, laundry soaker & stain remover, laundry powder, front loader 1 - 1
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. coconut soap, grapefruit & mint soap, manuka honey & kelp soap, vanilla soap, baby soap, goat's milk soap, lemongrass soap 0 - 0
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. coconut soap, grapefruit & mint soap, manuka honey & kelp soap, vanilla soap, baby soap, goat's milk soap, lemongrass soap 0 - 0
Low hazard for health. Plant derived. coconut soap, grapefruit & mint soap, manuka honey & kelp soap, vanilla soap, baby soap, goat's milk soap, lemongrass soap 1 - 1
rinse aid, dishwasher powder 3 - 5
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. 1 - 2
Low hazard for health. Mineral derived, does not accumulate and is suitable for greywater and septic tanks. Extra Clean laundry powder, top & front loader, Extra Clean laundry soaker & stain remover, laundry powder, top & front loader, dishwasher powder, laundry soaker & stain remover, laundry powder, front loader 0 - 0
Low hazard for health. Plant derived with a synthetic portion, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. dish liquid 1 - 1
Fractionated Coconut Oil is a low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. extra moisturising hand cream, extra moisturising body lotion, baby moisturiser, body butter 1 - 1
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. baby shampoo, baby body wash, body wash, hand wash, foaming hand wash 0 - 0
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. baby shampoo, baby body wash, body wash 0 - 0
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for Greywater and septic tanks. hand wash, foaming hand wash 0 - 0
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. volumising shampoo, fabric softener, ultra sensitive shampoo, baby shampoo, dry, damaged & colour care shampoo, body wash, hand wash, normal daily moisturising shampoo, dandruff control shampoo, foaming hand wash, wool & delicates, bubble bath 1 - 1
Low hazard for health. Plant derived, biodegradable and suitable for greywater and septic tanks. multi-purpose cleaner 0 - 0
dishwasher tablets 1 - 1
dishwasher tablets 2 - 4
sleepytime bath 0 - 0
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