Detergents: Advantages and Disadvantages | Laundry Work | Home Science

After reading this article you will learn about:- 1. Meaning of Detergents 2. Advantages of Detergents 3. Disadvantages.

Meaning of Detergents:

Detergent is “a product which is capable of cleansing” as per Dictionary. So any substance which has cleansing action is known as detergent. Soap is also a type of detergent. Today the synthetic detergents comprise thousands of different compounds with new ones, discovered everyday. Soap less or synthetic detergents are available in liquid, powder, paste and tablet form. Mixed with foaming agents, they form different types of shampooing materials.

Synthetic detergents are sodium salts of sulphated long chain alcohol or alkali benzene sulfonates. The action of these detergents are same with soap. The commonly used detergent is a sodium alkyl benzene sulfonate. The raw materials required for the preparation of this detergent are propylene, benzene, and sulfur trioxide or sulfuric acid.

In addition to the cleansing agents, whiteners, perfumes, colouring matter and other materials required for the removal of dirt and grease are also included in most of the detergents. Most of the detergent powders also contain optical white or blueing agent which helps in cleaning white cotton and linen fabrics and make them more white.


Now -a-days low lather detergents are produced which are a mixture of soap and soapless detergent powders. These detergents are usually recommended for use with automatic washing machine where it is important to avoid excess amount of foam. All types of detergents can be used well both in soft washing of coloured articles and expensive fabrics also.

What is in a Detergent?

The detergents which are available in the market today contain not only soil removal ingredients but protective ingredients as well.

The following are some of the major components in detergents:


1. Active ingredients to remove soil and to produce foam along with the Builders are added to detergents.

2. Both inorganic and organic builders are taken. The inorganic builders are primarily phosphates but they do not produce foam or lather. They increase detergent properties. Organic builders stabilize the foam of the active ingredients. Builders also act as water softeners.

3. Anti deposition agent is added. It helps in keeping soil not to be deposited again on the fabric.

4. Sodium Silicate is used to protect aluminum pots and pans and aluminum washer parts such as agitators, fans, tubs etc. from pitting or attack by inorganic builders.


5. Brightener or optical bleach is mixed for giving the fabric white effect.

6. Corrosion inhibitor is added to prevent silver ware from becoming stained in use for dish washing by hand.

Advantages of Detergents:

1. Greater cleansing efficiency is achieved with modem detergents. They do not combine with the calcium, magnesium, and other salts present in varying degrees in any water, and thus are not wasted.

2. If soap deposits have left clothes stiff and gray, a soap less detergent will remove the soapy deposits. As a result clothes feel soft and fluffy-look new again.

3. Detergents have greater efficiency against acids. They wash effectively even in an acid medium.

4. Detergents are soluble in cold water. Though family laundry is usually done in hot water. Sometimes it is desirable or necessary to wash in cool or cold water. Modem detergents dissolve the fabric rapidly and clean the clothes immediately. Detergents work effectively even in hard or cold water.

5. Rinsing may be omitted when water supply is limited if one prefers not to rinse. More than one deep, clear water rinse is unnecessary. If some amount of detergent is left on the fabric, it causes no harm to the fabric. In some detergents less amount of water is required for rinsing.

6. Detergents sometimes form a small amount of foam on the rinse water. This does no harm. Lather can be formed easily from most detergents at very low concentrations. They are easy to rinse out.

7. Present day detergent solutions have high penetration action. They penetrate right into the fibers of a garment and effectively remove soil. Because the detergent solution has a lower surface tension, it penetrates into places that have become coated with oils and greasy oil.

8. Rapid removal of grease is a very desirable characteristic because much of the dirt on clothes is of greasy nature. Detergents, being highly efficient wetting agents, disperse the oil so that it does not form granules on top of the wash solution. Detergents lower the surface tension of water and remove grease more readily.

9. Modern soap less detergents are sweet smelling. They leave the wash clean and sweet smell with no heavy or chemical odour. A very slight, pleasant odour is noticeable when the clothes are ironed or after they are dried.

10. Detergents are better for special washing like blankets and fine fabrics. They dissolve readily even in cool water and start removing dirt immediately. So one need not take the risk of washing the delicate fabrics in hot water which may have harmful effect on fabric.

11. Detergents dissolve instantly in all degrees of temperature and hardness. Most modern detergents give instant rich from even in hard and cold water. The wash solution does not feel grainy when modern detergent is used. There are no dissolved beads to stick to the clothes.

12. Detergents do not react with hard water to from the insoluble compounds which often cause graying, stiffening of clothes and household linens.

13. Detergents do not clog the pumps, drains and pipes of washing machines with deposits of lime soap, nor do they build up such deposits on meted surfaces of tubes.

14. When washing dishes in detergents rinse them quickly to get sparkling bright in glasses, steel pots and pans.

Disadvantages of Detergents:

1. Excessive alkalies used in some detergents can damage the fabric.

2. Colour may run out while using cheaper variety of detergents.

3. More amount of water is required for rinsing to remove foam, otherwise it will damage the fabric.

4. Sometimes some detergents react in hard water with calcium, or magnesium compounds to form curds that can be re-deposited on fabric.

Detergents are better than soaps because they:

(a) Can be used in hard and soft water.

(b) Leave no soap scum on tub or clothes.

(c) Dissolve freely even in cool water, rinse freely even in hard water.

(d) Greatly increase soil removal.

(e) Contain superior built-in optical bleach or brightener which eliminates the need for excessive use of chlorine bleach or for blueing.

(f) Are active emulsifiers of motor grease.

(g) Do an effective and safe job keeping even synthetic fabrics, brighter and whiter.

(h) Are ‘on package’ products containing not only detergent but also builders, optical bleach and water softener all ‘built in’ to do a superior soil-removal job.

In order to get best results without damage to fabric or color it is wise to buy detergents of good variety and required for specific cleaning. The rules of using and cleaning process must be strictly obeyed while washing expensive fabrics. For woolens and other delicate fabrics mild neutral cream coloured and liquid detergents should be used for cleaning carpets.

Liquid face wash can be used for cleaning of face and hands. Specific use of all the detergent make a good result. Now-a-days in almost all homes detergents are widely used. They are available under various Brand names like Surf, Lux, Det, Henko, Mr. White, Rin, Nirma, etc..

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