Ethoxylated fatty alcohols (EFA) are used as surfactants in liquid detergents. As their name suggests, they are comprised of a hydrophobic carbon chain that is attracted to dirt, and a hydrophilic ethoxyl group that pulls everything into the water and out of the laundry. Because they are electrically neutral, EFAs are exceptionally gentle cleaners. The combination of hydrophobic and hydrophilic ends means they have a number of additional applications as well. They work well as emulsifying agents, preventing colorants and perfumes from separating, for instance. Their surfactant properties make them useful in household cleaning agents, as well as in moisturizing products for skin and hair, where water must adhere to the skin.
As with most surfactants, this hydrophobic-hydrophilic structure means that EFAs form micelles in aqueous solutions; the hydrophobic carbon chains do not dissolve in water and flock together. This way, the EFA molecules direct themselves with their carbon chains inward and their hydrophilic, water soluble heads outward. Fat and other dirt, also badly water soluble, dissolve in the inner hydrophobic region. It are the micelles which do the heavy lifting when it comes to solubilizing oils and dirt.
The cloud point, the temperature at which an aqueous solution of a water-soluble surfactant becomes turbid, is also the point at which the carbon chains acquire so much energy that they let go of each other. The detergent separates into its own phase, destroying the micelles. For maximum efficacy detergents should be used at temperatures at or just below their cloud point. Optimizing micelle formation can limit the chain lengths of EFAs that are available for your application. Sirius’s Ethoxybrite line has a number of chain lengths available so that you can tailor the detergent to do what you need.
Using EFAs is safer for the environment, as well. Nitrogen and phosphate are major contributors to the eutrophication (overdosing of algae feed) of water systems, to the cost of millions per year in terms of lost revenue from loss of fishing, damage to tourism, and extra water treatment. Anionic and cationic detergents tend to use ammonia, phosphate, or sulfur groups, which are not only harsher, but poorly biodegradable. All of the EFAs in Sirius’s Ethoxybrite lineup are linear, so they can be readily attacked by bacteria and degraded in the environment. Furthermore, all of the carbon chains are sustainably produced: odd chained fatty acids are derived from natural oils, while even-chained fatty acids are derived from palm trees. Unfortunately, the ethoxy heads can only be derived from petrochemical products.
Sirius Britens APG line of products, however, features a hydrophilic head that is derived from sugar and carbon chains derived from palm oil.
The Sirius effect:
Sirius works with a manufacturer that sources their own oils and ethylene oxide, and does the ethoxylation in-house. Minimizing the number of manufacturers in the eFA-chain means better accountability for product quality, and fewer costs to the manufacturer means lower prices for you.