Surfactant vs. Detergent

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Surfactant and Detergent is that the Surfactant is a group of chemical substances and Detergent is a purifying or cleansing agents, usually salts of long-chain aliphatic bases or acids, that exert cleansing (oil-dissolving) and antimicrobial effects through a surface action that depends on possessing both hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties.

  • Surfactant

    Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension (or interfacial tension) between two liquids, between a gas and a liquid, or between a liquid and a solid. Surfactants may act as detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, and dispersants.

  • Detergent

    A detergent is a surfactant or a mixture of surfactants with cleaning properties in dilute solutions. These substances are usually alkylbenzenesulfonates, a family of compounds that are similar to soap but are more soluble in hard water, because the polar sulfonate (of detergents) is less likely than the polar carboxylate (of soap) to bind to calcium and other ions found in hard water.

    In most household contexts, the term detergent by itself refers specifically to laundry detergent or dish detergent, as opposed to hand soap or other types of cleaning agents. Detergents are commonly available as powders or concentrated solutions. Detergents, like soaps, work because they are amphiphilic: partly hydrophilic (polar) and partly hydrophobic (non-polar). Their dual nature facilitates the mixture of hydrophobic compounds (like oil and grease) with water. Because air is not hydrophilic, detergents are also foaming agents to varying degrees.

  • Surfactant (noun)

    A surface active agent, or wetting agent, capable of reducing the surface tension of a liquid; typically organic compounds having a hydrophilic “head” and a hydrophobic “tail”.

  • Surfactant (noun)

    A lipoprotein in the tissues of the lung that reduces surface tension and permits more efficient gas transport.

  • Detergent (noun)

    Any non-soap cleaning agent, especially a synthetic surfactant.

  • Detergent (adjective)

    Having the power to clean.

  • Surfactant (noun)

    a substance which tends to reduce the surface tension of a liquid in which it is dissolved.

  • Detergent (noun)

    a water-soluble cleansing agent which combines with impurities and dirt to make them more soluble, and differs from soap in not forming a scum with the salts in hard water

    “packets of detergent”

    “liquid detergents”

  • Detergent (noun)

    any additive with a similar action to a detergent, e.g. an oil-soluble substance which holds dirt in suspension in lubricating oil.

  • Detergent (adjective)

    relating to detergents or their action

    “staining that resists detergent action”

Oxford Dictionary

Leave a Comment