Detergents are organic compounds which have both polar and non polar nature. Detergents are more effective than soaps because they donot form insoluble compounds. There are two kinds of detergents: phosphate detergents and surfactant detergents. Phosphates detergents are highly caustic, and surfactant detergents are very toxic. The differences are that surfactant detergents are used to enhance the wetting, foaming, dispersing and emulsifying properties of detergents, while the phosphate detergents are used in detergents to soften hard water and help suspend dirt in water.
Uses of detergents
1. Detergents are used in both industrial and domestic premises. For example, use of soaps and detergents to wash vehicles.
2. They are also used for pesticide formulation.
3. They are used to disperse oil spills.
4. Regular cleaning with high phosphate detergents has proved be an effective way of reducing lead dust, which accumulates in window wells and around doors or any other high friction surfaces.
Environmental impact of detergents
Sewage water is the main source of entering detergents into water. If present in sufficient quantities, all detergents can act as pollutants. Detergents can have the following effects in and on water bodies:
1. Detergents can destroy the external muscuar layer that protects fishes from bacteria.
2. They can aso do damage to the gills of fishes.
3. Most fishes will die if the detergent concentrations approaches 15 parts per million.
4. Concentration of detergents that is as low as 5 ppm will kill fish eggs.
5. Surfactant detergents are implicated in decreasing the breeding ability of aquatic organisms.
6. They can also cause problems by lowereing the surface tension of water.
7. Phosphates in detergents can lead to the formation of freshwater algal blooms that release toxins and deplete oxygen in water. When these algae decompose, they utilize the oxygen available for aquatic life. Water ecosystems with reduced oxygen will support fewer individuals and less variety of organisms.
Detergents occuring in freshwater. (n.d).Retrived from