From ancient times, chemical additives were recognized for their ability to facilitate the mechanical
with water. The Italians used a mix of sulfur and water with charcoal to clean
Egyptians added ashes and silicates to soften water. Only in the latterpart of the century with the availability
thermally robust bacterial enzymes did this
technology become mainstream.
At the present time, soap has largely been displaced as the main cleaning agent in developed
Soap is, by weight, relatively ineffective, and it is highly sensitive to deactivation
by hard water.
LABs remain the main detergents used domestically. Other detergents that have been developed
linear alkylsulfonates and olefinsulfonates, which also resist deactivation by hard
water. Both remain
specialty products, for example only an estimated 60 million kilograms
of the sodium alkylsulfonates are
During the early development of non soap
surfactants as commercial cleaning products, the
term syndet, short for synthetic detergent, was
promoted to indicate the distinction from so-called natural soaps.