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What are surfactants

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Surfactants are additives for certain products to lower the surface tension of a liquid. This helps the liquid to mix and combine with another substance, making it easier to combine a mixture of several (types of) substances. This acts as an emulsion, wetting-agent, detergent, foaming agent and/or dispersants. Surfactants combine hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties, which allows them to interact with both types.

Why the need for surfactants

There are several reasons why surfactants have a definitive place in detailing. Lets say you want to combine 2 liquids, but they don’t mix very well – such as water and oil. A surfactant can act as an emulsifier, and make it possible to mix oil and water, to form one emulsion. This is often used to create QD’s.
The same principle applies for cleaning. When you wash your car, the shampoo/water mixture comes into contact with dust, dirt and other contaminants. The surfactants make it possible for the water to mix with these contaminants. This forms a water/shampoo/dirt mixture. Seeing as the water is more easy to safely remove (just rinsing is enough), the dirt is “washed” away along with the rest of the water. Without a surfactant, the water wouldn’t mix with the contaminant, and it would be very difficult to remove it safely and easily.

Are surfactants dangerous or bad

Surfactants are needed in many products. In wax it can help to combine oils that might be difficult to combine, in shampoo it helps to increase the cleaning power, foam and water solubility, in snowfoam it helps to foam, in polish it helps to mix different ingredients to a stable mixture. In fact, surfactants are very common in everyday life as well. Many cleaning products make use of surfactants to perform better at cleaning. A surfactant should not have a negative effect on a protective product, but it does have an effect on products like glazes and polishes.

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