The main ingredients found in detergents include surfactants, bleaches, builders, colorants, solvents, optical brighteners, resource efficiency, wash water and packaging. Each detergent manufacturer uses a combination of mixtures and secret ingredients to produce a specific brand.
In nearly every detergent the main components make up surfactants, functional materials, catalytic enzymes and fragrances. Surfactants are ingredients in detergents that cause water-insoluble materials such as oil or grease to become soluble. This process makes removing soluble materials easier from fabrics. Surfactants include formulas such as alkyl sulfates and methyl ester sulfonates.
Functional materials are pH modifiers that are used to balance bases and acids in water. Other functional materials include optical brighteners, a bleach alternative and water conditioners used to stop dye transfer and balance hard water. There are various catalytic enzymes used in detergents to target different types of soils that cause a catalytic action that breaks down soil particles into smaller sized molecules. Some of these catalytic enzymes include proteases, amylases, cellulases, lipases, mannanase and pectinase.
Fragrances used in detergents are either manufactured from synthetics or plants. The percentage of these ingredients and the method in which they have been combined has an effect on the cleaning capabilities of detergents. In laundry detergents a three phase process involving mechanical energy, thermal energy and chemical energy is essential in washing clothing effectively.