Surface active agent. Natural or synthetic substance that allows or promotes ‘wetting’ of a soiled surface, and dispersion or suspension (emulsification) of greasy soils in a solution. Surfactants achieve this by reducing the surface tension of the solvent (such as water) or the interfacial tension between two non-miscible liquids such as water and oil. Depending on the application, surfactants are mixed with builders or pH boosters (such as carbonates, phosphates, silicates), foam boosters, and suitable solvents (such as alcohols or hydrocarbons) to formulate household, industrial and personal care detergents.

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