What is a surfactant?
Surfactant is short for “surface active agent,” it is an organic molecule with a hydrophobic (water-hating/oil-loving) end and a hydrophilic (water-loving) end. Surfactants are often emulsifiers, wetting agents, and dispersants (see other definitions).
The most common surfactant is sodium Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate (called LAS for short). The alkylbenzene portion of the molecule is the hydrophobic/oleophilic end of this surfactant and the negatively charged sulfonate molecule is the hydrophilic end of the molecule. Surfactants are typically classified as anionic, nonionic, and cationic. The class of surfactant determines the class of the cleaner.