Other Free Encyclopedias » 21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia » 21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Davis, Henry Gassaway to Diamond

Detergent

detergents water cleaning stains

Detergent, synthetic chemical that has the same cleaning action as soap but does not form a scum when used in hard water. Most stains are caused by oily films holding dirt particles. Detergent molecules surround a particle of dirt and carry it into suspension in the water. Detergents are made with chemicals obtained from petroleum. Biological or enzyme detergents contain enzymes that digest organic matter and are very good at removing marks such as coffee stains, but they have been known to cause skin problems. Detergents are mostly used in water, but they may also be dissolved in other liquids. Hydrocarbons containing detergents are used in dry cleaning, and automobile engine lubricants use detergents to reduce buildup of carbon deposits.

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