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• Some basic knowledges of formulating synthetic

detergent powder.
• Published on August 12, 2016

Bryant Chen
Head of International Marketing and Communications at STPP Group Co.,

First of all, here below please see the list of common ingredients for synthetic detergent

1. LABSA 96% MIN

2. STPP 94% Min
13. AEO-9

All these ingredients could be divided into 5 sorts.

1. Active material, also called Surfactant. This material is to help to reduce the surface tension
of the washing solution and reduce the adhesive force of the stains to the clothes. In a word,
it is to help to make it easier to remove the stains from the clothes when rubbing with hands
or washing machine. This is the main ingredient for the synthetic detergent powder, and a
key index for the quality of the synthetic detergent powder.

There are two sorts of surfactants used in detergent. Actually there are 4 sorts of
Surfactant, Anionic surfactant, Non-ionic surfactant, positive-ion surfactant and
Amphoteric surfactant. The last two are seldom used in detergent.
1. Anionic surfactant, this is the most common surfactant used in detergent. LABSA, AES,
AOS,SAS are some common examples for this sort. Till now, LABSA has been the most
common anionic surfactant for synthetic detergent powder, because of its good solubility in
water, high detergency and foaming, and importantly, its lower cost. Commonly, the
percentage range of LABSA in detergent powder is 5%-28%. 5%-12% is usually
called low-class quality, 12%-16% is called mid-class quality, and 16%-28% called high-
class quality.
2. Non-ionic surfactant, this is a used as a kind of additive in detergent, for its high foaming,
high emulsibility and high permeability. The cost of it is relatively high. APEO, AEO, AE are
some common examples for this sort. And among these, AEO-9 is the most common one for
synthetic detergent powder. Normally, the percentage range is 1-2%. Recent years, the
cost of Non-ionic surfactant is reducing slowly and the use of it is becoming more and more

1. Builder, known as washing auxiliaries. It is the ingredient to soften the water and protect the
active material to give it better detergency. These ingredients dissolve in the water and
dissociate to anion, which can combine with the positive ion in the hard water, like Ca+, Mg+.
Hence, these positive ions do not combine with the Anionic surfactant (LABSA). In this way,
it protects the Anionic surfactant and leave the Anionic surfactant to the stains on the

There are two main ingredients for Builder. Sodium Tripolyphosphate(STPP) and 4A

1. STPP has been the most common and powerful builder for synthetic detergent powder. It is
a very powerful and efficient water softener. But it is very harmful to the environment,
especially to the water. The use of washing powder with STPP causes eutrophication in
rivers and lakes. So now in many areas, this ingredient has been abandoned by low.
2. 4A zeolite is a replacement for STPP, because of its environment-friendliness. It could be as
efficient as STPP and environment-friendly. In this case, this could be a Selling point for the
product. Usually, on the packing of the washing powder with 4A Zeolite , as replacement of
STPP, there is the wording like “Phosphorus Free”, to state it is friendly to the environment.

3. Buffering agent. These ingredients are to help to adjust the PH level of the washing
solution, to make it alkaline(normally 9.5-10.5), because most of the stains are acid. The
most common buffering agents are SODIUM SILICATE and SODA ASH LIGHT.Both of
these two ingredients are mainly to maintain the PH level of the washing solution while
washing, to make it easier to remove the stains. But we must control the percentage of
these ingredients because too much of these could harm skin. In the meantime, too
much of these would combine with Mg+ and Ca+ and form sediments. And the
sediments stays on the clothes to become new stains.

4. Synergistic agents, means those additives to provide special power of washing and
protection. All these additives are usually added at very small quantity. Here below are
some common samples.
1. Enzymes, this is a very common additive for detergent. Most of the enzymes for
detergent are manufactured by Novozymes, a Denmark We can learn more
information about enzymes at www.novozymes.com.
2. Anti-redeposition agent, this is a material that carries much negative charge, hence
could attach to stains and dissolve in the water after being removed from the clothes.
Without this ingredient, the stains are likely to attach back again to the clothes after
being removed. In some cases, the clothes become very hard, when dry after
washing. This is because the detergent does not contain anti-redeposition agent. The
most common anti-redeposition agent for detergent is SODIUM CARBOXY METHYL
3. Bleaching agent, obviously this is an additive to bleach the clothes when washing,
especially for those white clothes. The most common bleaches for detergent are
do not work in the cold water, only in warm water above 60℃. And these bleaching
agents decompose and produce oxygen gas when the temperature is high. So
usually the packing bag of powder with bleaching agent need to bore with small
holes. Broadly, at this moment, bleaching agents are not a necessary additive for
normal synthetic detergent powder.
4. OPTICAL BRIGHTENER, this is an additive to provide bright-coloured looks of the
clothes after washing and dry. In some area, this has been forbidden because of
potential cause of cancer.
5. Fabric softener, this is an additive normally for those high-class brands and
formulation, not so common.
2. Auxiliary elements, these ingredients don’t help to wash, just to provide special effects for the
production process and sales.
1. SODIUM SULPHATE, this is the base ingredient of washing powder, just like the
sands in concrete. Normally, the percentage of this ingredient is about 40-60%.
SODIUM SULPHATE is unharmful to the environment and very cheap, and can help
to prevent the washing powder from caking.
2. Perfume& color specks, very easy to understand, no need to explain more here. It is
mainly for the purpose of promotion.

So, here above, it is a brief introduction of all those common ingredients for washing
powder. Here below are some basic rules to follow when forming the formulation.

1. LABSA. It depends on the consumption level of the target consumers, 5%-12% is usually
called low-class quality, 12%-16% is called mid-class quality, and 16%-28% called high-class
2. CAUSTIC SODA LIQUID 32%. To make it fully react with LABSA, the adding quantity should
be 13% of the LABSA added.
3. SODIUM SILICATE, normally to add around 11%.
4. SODA ASH LIGHT, normally to add 5-12%.
5. STPP or 4A Zeolite, to choose of them. And the percentage should be according to the water
condition of the target market.
6. CMC, normally to add 1%.
7. Enzymes, depends on target consumers’ consumption level to add or not. If decided to add,
normally should be 0.1-0.3%.
8. Perfume, normally to add 0.1-0.3%.
9. Color specks, Green, Blue, and Red, normally to add 0.5-1% of each.
10. OPTICAL BRIGHTENER, if to add, normally to add 0.015%-0.017%.

Here below is a typical formulation for areas with hard-water condition,like west-africa