Although invented in the early 20th century by Otto Rohm, detergents gained popularity in the 1950s due to the development of modern technology and washing machines which started replacing scrub boards. The liquid detergent manufacturing process involves three key stages: soap premix manufacture, ingredient mixing and enzyme addition.
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The essential steps in the liquid detergent manufacturing process
In addition to liquid laundry and dish-washing liquid detergents, household cleaners such as floor cleaning liquids or glass cleaners are also classified as liquid detergents. All these detergents can be produced in the same plant. Substantially, liquid detergents are powders mixed with water and chemical solutions called solubilizers, making detergents dissolvable in water. The first stage of the liquid detergent manufacturing process consists of neutralizing fatty acids with either caustic soda or potassium hydroxide.
After the chemical reaction and the premix step, ingredients such as thickeners and pH adjusters are added to a homogeneous mixer. These balancing ingredients are essential to achieve desirable viscosity, stability, and pH value. In the enzyme addition stage, powdered enzymes are added to the cooled mixture due to their delicate nature.
Their role is to break down tough stains and soils. Enzymes like lipase are good for removing grease and oil while amylase, for instance, can remove starch-based or carbohydrate soils. Lastly, liquidized detergents are pumped into bottles by a filling system, weighted on weighing devices and sealed by a capping machine.
What’s the difference between liquid dishwashing detergent and liquid laundry detergent?
The formula of the two liquid detergents is almost very similar even though, if you think about it, they are designed for totally different applications.
Since dishwashing detergents are designed for frequent contact with human skin they contain mildness additives and antibacterial agents. Moisturizing agents, oils and protein compounds are added to protect the skin and prevent tears. They also contain chelating agents and preservatives due to oxidation. Furthermore, dishwashing detergents use sodium Laureth sulfate as a surfactant which acts as a foaming agent.
On the contrary, surfactants used in liquid laundry detergents are alkyl or aryl sulphonates, which restrict suds. The use of enzymes in laundry detergents is essential since they exterminate stains that grip the fabric. Moreover, laundry detergents use ingredients specified for protecting fabric and washing machine parts. Builders improve the effectiveness of the surfactant, polymers help capture soils and prevent dye from coming off and transferring to textile, bleach preserves color while softeners reduce fabric friction. Finally, corrosion inhibitors protect the parts of washing machines from corrosion.
The environmental impact of liquid detergents
In recent years, the detergent industry has faced various environmental challenges, since detergents contain several harmful chemicals. Surfactants damage the protective layers of fish, leaving them vulnerable to parasites, bacteria and other pollutants. Another problem caused by a standard surfactant was foam creation in the nation’s waterways. It was discovered that the problem was caused by ABS (alkyl-benzene sulfonate). Nowadays, manufacturers replaced ABS with LAS (linear alkylate sulfonate), which biodegrades faster than ABS.
Although phosphates were banned for causing eutrophication by inducing algae population explosions, environmental damage is still driven by its alternatives. Chemicals such as nonylphenol ethoxylated, acetaldehyde and benzene further contribute to water and air pollution.
Additionally, liquid detergents are sold in plastic bottles, which end up in oceans, waterways and landfills. However, manufacturers of liquid detergents are looking for solutions to avoid harming the marine environment. Eco-friendly solutions are being developed such as detergents made with plant-based ingredients and biodegradable packaging.