What Are the Characteristics of Soapless Detergents?

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Soapy and soapless detergents come in liquid and powder forms, and are used to clean and disinfect objects and surfaces, as well as clothing and skin. Soapless detergents are ideal for use with hard water, as they do not produce soap scum the way that soapy detergents do. Soapless detergents are usually made from crude oil, and are mixed with high amounts of sulfuric acid, as well as sodium hydroxide.

What Is Soap?

To understand what a soapless detergent is, as opposed to one with soap, it is important to note that soapy detergents are derived from natural fats and acids, and soapless detergents are made from crude oil or synthetic materials. Soap has the ability to dissolve grease and kill germs. Soapless detergent can do the same without having the same natural properties as soap.

Advantages

Soapless detergent is most effective when used in situations where soap scum is not desired. Hard water, which has higher concentrations of dissolved minerals than softer water, reacts with the natural fats and acids of soap and creates soap scum. Soapless detergents do not have the properties that cause soap to do this, so they are perfect for hard water situations. They also function very well when mixed with solutions that have a high sulfuric acid content.

Downsides

Some soapless detergents are non-biodegradeable, making them more dangerous to the environment. Most soapy, and many soapless, detergents can be gradually dissolved by bacteria, making them safer for the environment. Because soapless detergents contain a high pH balance, they can react poorly with skin, causing irritations or allergies. When biodegradeable soapless detergents degrade, they consume much of the oxygen in the water, which can be harmful to the surrounding life supported by the water.

How It Is Made

Soapless detergent is made from the aromatic hydrocarbons found in crude oil. These hydrocarbons are mixed with acid with a high sulfuric content and then the solution is neutralized and stabilized with sodium hydroxide to make it functioning and usable. When combined with water, soapless detergent becomes a cleaning agent, capable of dissolving grease, disinfecting and removing particles from the surface it is cleaning.

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