A general class of materials that, when dispersed in a liquid such as water, aid in the removal of dirt, oil, stains, and contaminants from a surface. Detergents contain a surface-active compound (surfactant) that has hydrophilic and hydrophobic groups, thus allowing the surfactant to contact a contaminant, then reduce its surface tension and wet it. The contaminant can then be displaced, solubilized, or emulsified. Synthetic detergents are generally classified as
- cationic surfactants, or
In addition to surfactants, detergents may contain other additives such as bleaches, whitening agents and sudsing agents. Some detergents are designed to work in nonaqueous solutions such as gasoline and dry cleaning solvents. See also cleanser and soap.
Synonyms and Related Terms
detergents; surfactant; soap; cleanser; surface active agent
Hazards and Safety
Ethoxylated surfactants are potentially toxic. Anionic detergent can damage wool.
Sources Checked for Data in Record
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- Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
- Rosalie Rosso King, Textile Identification, Conservation, and Preservation, Noyes Publications, Park Ridge, NJ, 1985
- Richard C. Wolbers, Nanette T. Sterman, Chris Stavroudis, Notes for Workshop on New Methods in the Cleaning of Paintings, J.Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles, 1990
- Fairchild's Dictionary of Textiles, Phyllis G.Tortora, Robert S. Merkel (eds.), Fairchild Publications, New York City, 7th edition, 1996
- Encyclopedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com Comment: "Detergent." Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 July 2004 .
- Art and Architecture Thesaurus Online, http://www.getty.edu/research/tools/vocabulary/aat/, J. Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles, 2000