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Household Detergent Products and Ingredients

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Household Detergent Products and Ingredients

Soaps and detergents are essential to personal and public health. Through their ability to loosen and remove soil from a surface, they contribute to good personal hygiene; reduce the presence of germs that cause infectious diseases; extend the useful life of clothes, tableware, linens, surfaces and furnishings; and make our homes and workplaces more pleasant.


Soaps and detergents found in the home can be grouped into four general categories: personal cleansing, laundry, dishwashing and household cleaning. Within each category are different product types formulated with ingredients selected to perform a broad cleaning function as well as to deliver properties specific to that product. Knowing the different products and their ingredients helps you select the right product for the cleaning job.



Personal Cleansing Products include bar soaps, gels, liquid soaps and heavy duty hand cleaners. These products get their cleaning action from soap, other surfactants or a combination of the two. The choice of cleaning agent helps determine the product's lathering characteristics, feel on the skin and rinsability.


Bar soaps or gels are formulated for cleaning the hands, face and body. Depending on the other ingredients, they may also moisturize the skin and/or kill or inhibit bacteria that can cause odor or disease. Specialty bars include transparent/translucent soaps, luxury soaps and medicated soaps.


Liquid soaps are formulated for cleaning the hands or body, and feature skin conditioners. Some contain antimicrobial agents that kill or inhibit bacteria that can cause odor or disease.


Heavy duty hand cleaners are available as bars, liquids, powders and pastes. Formulated for removing stubborn, greasy dirt, they may include an abrasive.


Laundry Detergents and Laundry Aids are available as liquids, powders, gels, sticks, sprays, pumps, sheets and bars. They are formulated to meet a variety of soil and stain removal, bleaching, fabric softening and conditioning, and disinfectant needs under varying water, temperature and use condiditons.


Laundry detergents are either general purpose or light duty. General purpose detergents are suitable for all washable fabrics. Liquids work best on oily soils and for pretreating soils and stains. Powders are especialy effective in lifting out clay and ground-in dirt. Light duty detergents are used for hand or machine washing lightly soiled items and delicate fabrics.


Laundry aids contribute to the effectiveness of laundry detergents and provide special functions.


Bleaches (chlorine and oxygen) whiten and brighten fabrics and help remove stubborn stains. They convert soils into colorless, soluble particles that can be removed by detergents and carried away in the wash water. Liquid chlorine bleach (usually in a sodium hypochlorite solution) can also disinfect and deodorize fabrics. Oxygen (color-safe) bleach is more gentle and works safely on almost all washable fabrics.


Bluings contain a blue dye or pigment taken up by fabrics in the wash or rinse. Bluing absorbs the yellow part of the light spectrum, counteracting the natural yellowing of many fabrics.


Boosters enhance the soil and stain removal, brightening, buffering and water softening performance of detergents. They are used in the wash in addition to the detergent.


Enzyme presoaks are used for soaking items before washing to remove difficult stains and soils. When added to the wash water, they increase cleaning power.


Fabric softeners, added to the final rinse or dryer, make fabrics softer and fluffier; decrease static cling, wrinkling and drying time; impart a pleasing fragrance and make ironing easier.


Prewash soil and stain removers are used to pretreat heavily soiled and stained garments, especially those made from synthetic fibers.


Starches, fabric finishes and sizings, used in the final rinse or after drying, give body to fabrics, make them more soil-resistant and make ironing easier.


Water softeners, added to the wash or rinse, inactivate hard water minerals. Since detergents are more effective in soft water, these products increase cleaning power.


Dishwashing Products include detergents for hand and machine dishwashing as well as some specialty products. They are available as liquids, gels, powders and solids.


Hand dishwashing detergents remove food soils, hold soil in suspension and provide long-lasting suds that indicate how much cleaning power is left in the wash water.


Automatic dishwasher detergents, in addition to removing food soils and holding them in suspension, tie up hardness minerals, emulsify grease and oil, suppress foam caused by protein soil and help water sheet off dish surfaces. They produce little or no suds that would interfere with the washing action of the machine.


Rinse agents are used in addition to the automatic dishwasher detergent to lower surface tension, thus improving draining of the water from dishes and utensils. Better draining minimizes spotting and filming and enhances drying.


Film removers remove build-up of hard water film and cloudiness from dishes and the interior of the dishwasher. They are used instead of an automatic dishwasher detergent in a separate cycle or together with the detergent.


Lime and rust removers remove deposits of lime and/or rust from the interior of the dishwasher. They are used when no dishes or other dishwasher products are present.


Household Cleaners are available as liquids, gels, powders, solids, sheets and pads for use on painted, plastic, metal, porcelain, glass and other surfaces, and on washable floor coverings. Because no single product can provide optimum performance on all surfaces and soils, a broad range of products has been formulated to clean efficiently and easily. While all-purpose cleaners are intended for more general use, others work best under highly specialized conditions.


All-purpose cleaners penetrate and loosen soil, soften water and prevent soil from redepositing on the cleaned surface. Some also disinfect.


Abrasive cleansers remove heavy accumulations of soil often found in small areas. The abrasive action is provided by small mineral or metal particles, fine steel wool, copper or nylon particles. Some also disinfect.


Specialty cleaners are designed for the soil conditions found on specific surfaces, such as glass, tile, metal, ovens, carpets and upholstery, toilet bowls and in drains.


Glass cleaners loosen and dissolve oily soils found on glass, and dry quickly without streaking.


Glass and multi-surface cleaners remove soils from a variety of smooth surfaces. They shine surfaces without streaking.


Tub, tile and sink cleaners remove normal soils found on bathroom surfaces as well as hard water deposits, soap scum, rust stains, and/or mildew and mold. Some also treat surfaces to retard soiling; some also disinfect.


Metal cleaners remove soils and polish metalware. Tarnish, the oxidation of metal, is the principal soil found on metalware. Some products also protect cleaned metalware against rapid retarnishing.


Oven cleaners remove burned-on grease and other food soils from oven walls. These cleaners are thick so the product will cling to vertical oven surfaces.


Rug shampoos and upholstery cleaners dissolve oily and greasy soils and hold them in suspension for removal. Some also treat surfaces to repel soil.


Toilet bowl cleaners prevent or remove stains caused by hard water and rust deposits, and maintain a clean and pleasant-smelling bowl. Some products also disinfect.


Drain openers unclog kitchen and bathroom drains. They work by producing heat to melt fats, breaking them down into simpler substances that can be rinsed away, or by oxidizing hair and other materials. Some use bacteria to prevent grease build-up which leads to drain clogging.