Laundry Detergent Ingredients

Laundry Detergent Ingredients

Do you know the list of laundry detergent ingredients in your favorite brand? The answer might surprise you. Washing clothes actually requires a lot of chemistry.


Surfactants lower the surface tension of water. Synthetic surfactants work in two ways--both to lift stains and to suspend them in the water until they can be rinsed away. A lot of research has gone into developing surfactants that work in both hard and soft water.

Buffering Agents

Buffering agents are added to water to change the overall pH balance. This is done to help get the clothing cleaner and to improve the consistency of the performance of the detergent.


In chemistry, a stabilizer is the opposite of a catalyst. Instead of causing chemical reactions, a stabilizer inhibits them. This is a means to control the reactions of the product and to consistently yield the most consistent product (in this case clean clothes) as possible.

Lather Enhancers

Newer HE detergents for front loaders do not contain lather enhancers, but regular detergent generally does. There is not a real purpose to these other than more bubbles make people think that their clothes are getting cleaner.

Perfume is added to many detergents although you can buy detergent that is perfume free.


Brighteners are generally added to laundry detergent so that your colored clothes retain their original color as much as possible. They also help keep white laundry gleaming white.

Laundry Chemistry Is Complicated

The chemistry behind a simple load of laundry is complicated. Even homemade laundry detergents will have to have at least some of the ingredients although homemade laundry will not contain perfumes or dyes. Now that you understand how clothing gets clean, it's time to understand how to organize your clothes!

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Laundry Detergent Ingredients