What Types of Detergent Are There?


Of the many types of detergents, some are more effective than others at cleaning. Other detergents may be less effective at cleaning but far more environmentally friendly. Detergents are also used in industrial manufacturing and scientific research. Other detergents have different uses, such as for cleaning and car maintenance and performance.

Nonionic Detergents

  • Nonionic detergents are synthesized using a number of different chemicals. For the most part, nonionic detergents are made with polyoxyethylene glycol. These are considered to be the safest of the nonionic detergents. Other chemicals used to create nonionic detergents include glycosides and phosphine oxides. The IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemists) Gold Book recommends that none of the previous surfactants be mixed. Nonionic detergents are primarily used in laboratory settings to ensure complete removal of dirt and other contaminants from objects of research.

Cationic Detergents

  • Cationic detergents have a positively charged center composed primarily of ammonium. Also unlike other detergents, the ammonium in cationic detergents is located at the polar end of the molecule. Cationic detergents are hydrophobic, meaning they react poorly with water. So you would not want to use a cationic detergent to wash your dirty jeans. But in scientific settings, cationic detergents can get gel-like substances as clean as possible.

Vehicle Injection Detergents

  • Vehicle injection detergents are usually made up of two or three different types of chemical detergents. According to Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, vehicle detergents are usually made of polyisobuteneamine, among other chemicals.

Laundry Detergents

  • Commercially sold laundry detergents are not entirely made up of the chemicals that industrial and scientific detergents are made of, according to Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Because these detergents are often used with water, they cannot have hydrophobic qualities. Hydrophobic means that the detergent will react poorly and possibly dangerously with water.

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  • "Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry"; Eduard Smulders, Wolfgang Rybinski, Eric Sung, Wilfried Rähse, Josef Steber, Frederike Wiebel and Anette Nordskog; 2002,
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