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Anna MillerScience Research PaperWhen people think of laundry detergents, many will think of the fresh smell of clean clothes or the harmful chemicals that could be lurking inside. But many don’t consider to think of the chemical that is the reason our clothes get so clean in the first place. These are surfactants, a chemical that is the reason clothing has been so clean for many years. Surfactants are the most reliable chemical in laundry detergent for cleaning, because they are naturally made to combine liquids and separate them from solids.What is the molecule that is responsible for laundry detergent cleaning powers? That’s right, those are Surfactants. Despite being known for their cleaning in detergents, surfactants can be found in other household items. Toothpaste, foam baths, shaving cream, and sun cream all contain surfactants. This is because of their superior cleaning technique, right down to their shape. Each end is designed to be different, with one being a circular head and the other a thin tail.The properties of the molecule are what truly cause it to be so effective. The larger, wider part of the molecule, or the head, is hydrophilic. This means that the head is constantly attracted to water. The other end, the sleek and narrow tail, is hydrophobic. This means that the tail is not attracted to water, and will instead attach to other natural materials, such as dirt or oils. This contrast between the molecule’s ends is what allows the surfactant to act the way it does. We have one end pulling toward the water, while the other is attaching to the stains of the clothing. This is the reason why surfactants are so effective in cleaning.But let’s go further into detail about the actions that take place. Because of the constant conflict between the ends, the stains are forced to separate from the clothing. Once the tail is attached to the stain of the clothes, the hydrophilic head takes control of direction. The head drags the tail into the water and the stain along with it. No part of the molecule is attracted to clothing fibers, so this aids in the separation from the stain. As the tails of more and more surfactants are attracted to the stains of clothing, the stain becomes isolated from the clothing due to the surfactants surrounding it. The stain no longer comes in contact with the clothing. So once the clothes are removed and dried, there is a greatly reduced marking in the clothing.Surfactants are an excellent cleaning chemical and one of the reasons why laundry detergent is so effective. From the properties to the specific actions that take place, right down to the molecular shape, Surfactants were built to handle and combine water and opposing materials. This carefully crafted chemical is useful beyond the other ingredients of laundry detergent. Although fragrance makes your clothes smell fresh and enzymes break up stains into little bits, Surfactants are, in their many forms, the most important ingredient in laundry detergent.