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What is an Anionic Surfactant?

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  • What is an Anionic Surfactant?

Anionic active substances are chemical substances, also known as surfactants, that are often used in cleaning products. These substances facilitate the cleaning process by dissolving dirt on various surfaces. Anionic active substances reduce the surface tension of water, allowing it to spread on the surface of the liquid and making it easier for dirt to be removed from water thanks to their ability to dissolve dirt.

What is an Anionic Surfactant

Anionic active substances have a structure with a hydrophobic (water-resistant) and a hydrophilic (water-soluble) end. This structure helps dissolve dirt on surfaces by acting as an intermediary between different components such as water and oil. Most such surfactants are organic compounds and are often added to detergents, soaps, shampoos and cleaning products.

When used in cleaning products, anionic active ingredients make surfaces easier to clean thanks to their ability to dissolve dirt. Additionally, they help disperse cleaning products effectively with their foaming ability. However, excessive use of anionic active substances can cause environmental effects. They can negatively affect aquatic life, especially when dissolved and dispersed in water. Therefore, it is important to use such substances carefully to avoid harming the environment.

Anionic and Nonionic Surfactants

Anionic and non-ionic active substances are often also known as surfactants and have various functions such as dissolving impurities, emulsifying oils, and creating foam.

Non-ionic active substances contain polar groups in their molecules that do not carry a charge. These substances often contain hydrophilic and hydrophobic ends, so they can mediate between different components such as water and oil. These features facilitate the cleaning process by dissolving dirt from the surface.

Non-ionic active ingredients are a preferred option in environmentally friendly cleaning products because they are often biodegradable and do not harm the environment. They may also be more suitable for people with sensitive skin. Anionic active substances contain polar groups with a negative charge in their molecules. These groups are generally found as salts that dissolve well in water. These substances are also commonly used in cleaning products and have the ability to dissolve dirt. However, they should be used carefully, considering their environmental impacts.

How to Analyze Anionic Surfactants?

Detergents are cleaning tools that contain synthetic surfactants as the main ingredient. It is of great importance that detergents are present in natural water due to their foaming properties. This is especially true when branched alkyl benzene sulfonate (ABS) is used. In many countries of the world, in mid-1965, detergent industries converted from the production of Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate (ABS) to the production of biodegradable Linear Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate (LAS).

Linear Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate (LAS) consists of a straight chain alkyl group, benzene ring and sulfonate. The straight chain alkyl group is condensed with benzene to obtain the linear alkylate, and then the alkylate is sulfonated to obtain LAS.

Since the most widely used detergent surfactant today is LAS, LAS residues are often present in receiving waters. Therefore, LAS is chosen as the standard compound for the analytical method presented in this section. The sample must first be analyzed with the methylene blue method. The methylene blue method is a relatively simple and sensitive method. Methylene blue active compounds, referred to as MBAS, primarily indicate LAS and other anionic surfactants. The carbon adsorption infrared method requires a multi-step, time-consuming preliminary process followed by infrared spectroscopy. The carbon adsorption infrared method is especially suitable for LAS. In general, it can also be applied to alkyl benzene sulfonates and other amphilic sulfonates.

Are Anionic Surfactants Harmful?

Anionic active ingredients are chemicals commonly used in cleaning products and personal care products. However, they may cause some negative effects in cases of excessive use or improper use.

Are Anionic Surfactants Harmful?

Anionic active ingredients are chemicals commonly used in cleaning products and personal care products. However, they may cause some negative effects in cases of excessive use or improper use. Some of these harmful effects are as follows:

Environmental Effects: Anionic active ingredients may adversely affect aquatic organisms. They can be toxic to fish and other aquatic creatures, especially when dissolved and dispersed in water. Therefore, wastes of anionic active substances should not be discharged directly into waters and should be disposed of carefully to avoid harming the environment.

Skin and Eye Irritation: Anionic active ingredients may cause irritation to the skin and eyes. Especially in concentrated form and upon prolonged contact, they may cause skin reactions such as redness, itching or burning. Therefore, when working with such substances, appropriate protective equipment should be used and care should be taken to prevent contact.

Respiratory Tract Irritation: Anionic active substances can cause respiratory irritation if they evaporate or are sprayed. Exposure to these substances, especially if their concentrations in the air are high, can cause respiratory problems. Therefore, such agents should be used in well-ventilated areas and appropriate respiratory protection should be worn.

Allergic Reactions: Some people may have allergic reactions to anionic active ingredients. These reactions usually occur as skin redness, itching, rash or skin flaking. 

If symptoms of an allergic reaction are observed in people who come into contact with products containing anionic active ingredients, product use should be stopped immediately and a healthcare professional should be consulted.

Dangerous for Children and Pets: Cleaning products containing anionic active ingredients may pose a risk to children and pets when stored at home. They can cause poisoning if accidentally swallowed. Therefore, such products should be stored in safe places out of reach of children and pets.

It should not be forgotten that when anionic active substances are not used correctly, they may cause environmental effects, skin and eye irritation, respiratory irritation, allergic reactions and dangers for children and pets. Therefore, necessary precautions must be taken and instructions must be followed for the safe use of such substances.

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