Detergents – what are they and how to use them correctly?

Detergents are a variety of chemical compounds that are a key component of cleaning products that are designed to remove contaminants from surfaces. The mechanism of action of detergents is complicated and depends on the specifics of the product and the type of dirt. In colloquial use, the term “detergents” is used to refer to agents intended for cleaning sanitary facilities, cleaning windows, floors, as well as dishwashing liquids, or cleaning agents in general. In this article, in addition to important terminology, we will also cover topics related to the properties of detergents, matching detergents to surfaces, the environmental impact of detergents, and the difference between standard detergents and green detergents.

Table of Contents:

  • What are detergents?
  • Where can detergents be used?
  • How to match the detergent to the surface?
  • Impact of detergents on the environment and surroundings
  • The difference between standard and eco-friendly detergents
  • Summary

What are detergents?

Detergents are chemical compounds used as key ingredients in cleaning products designed to remove contaminants from a variety of surfaces. They consist mainly of surfactants that lower the surface tension of water, allowing better wetting and dissolving of dirt. Detergents may also contain additives such as enzymes, bleaching agents, fragrances and preservatives that improve the effectiveness and functionality of the product. The mechanism of action of detergents varies depending on their composition and application, including. processes of emulsifying fats, dispersing dirt particles and neutralizing stains. In practice, detergents are widely used in everyday cleaning, including dishwashing, laundry, cleaning floors, windows and sanitation.

Detergents are mainly synthetic products (although they also occur in natural form), characterized by high washing and cleansing efficiency. Their specific structure includes two parts – hydrophilic and hydrophobic (see figure below for a diagram of how they work).

  • The hydrophobic part targets fatty substances and other water-insoluble contaminants. This allows surfactants to penetrate their layer, making it easier to emulsify in water and thus effectively get rid of dirt.
  • The hydrophilic part allows detergents to dissolve easily in water. It is also responsible for the ability of detergents to form emulsions, that is, to disperse fatty substances and impurities evenly. In this way, dirt particles are surrounded by the hydrophilic part of the surfactant and can be easily rinsed away.


Where can detergents be used?

Detergents are widely used both in everyday life and in various industries. In homes, they are primarily used for washing floors, furniture surfaces, kitchens and other surfaces where dirt is difficult to remove. Dishwashing liquids, laundry powders and liquids, as well as floor, kitchen and bathroom cleaners are commonly used in daily cleaning activities. Specialized window cleaning liquids, working on the basis of foaming cleaning surface, allow to effectively remove dirt, streaks and smudges from glass surfaces.

In industry, detergents are widely used in many sectors of the economy:

  • In the food industry, detergents are primarily used to wash specialty equipment and surfaces in production facilities, which is key to maintaining proper hygiene and product safety.
  • In the textile industry, detergents with skin-friendly properties are used to wash fabrics and clothing on an industrial scale.
  • In the automotive sector, detergents are used to wash cars, degrease parts and wash engines, which is essential for keeping them in good working order.

Public institutions such as hospitals and medical facilities use detergents to disinfect and clean surfaces, medical instruments and hospital clothing. Such action is aimed at adequately preventing the spread of infection and maintaining a high standard of hygiene among staff and patients.

How to match the detergent to the surface?

Matching the detergent to a specific surface is key to effective cleaning and protecting the material. The process of choosing the right detergent should take into account the following factors:

Type of surface

  1. Hard surfaces:
  • To clean ceramic tiles in kitchens and bathrooms, it is best to use detergents with degreasing and disinfecting properties. These agents should be safe for glazed surfaces to avoid scratches.
  • Wood and wood-like panels: Wood surfaces require mild detergents that do not contain strong chemicals that can damage the varnish or wood structure. It is recommended to use specialized liquids for wood, which also moisturize and protect the surface.
  • Natural stone (marble, granite and other types of stone) – detergents for natural stone must be neutral or specially designed for this type of material to prevent corrosion, discoloration and loss of luster.
  1. Soft surfaces:
  • Detergents for washing clothes should be suitable for delicate or all-purpose fabrics that work well with most fabrics.
  • Carpets and upholstery: For cleaning carpets and upholstery, we recommend using special agents that effectively remove stains without damaging the fibers of the carpet or other soft material. These detergents often contain enzymes that break down proteins and fats.Type of dirt
  • To remove greasy stains, such as oil or grease, it is best to use detergents with degreasing properties that contain strong surfactants.
  • Stains from food, blood, or sweat are best removed with detergents containing proteolytic enzymes that break down proteins.
  • Limescale and hard water deposits require the use of acidic detergents that effectively dissolve deposits caused by excessive salinity or high calcium concentration in the water.

Safety and environment

  • Biodegradability: When choosing detergents, look for biodegradable products that are more environmentally friendly.
  • Hypoallergenic: For those with sensitive skin or allergies, it is advisable to choose hypoallergenic detergents that are free of artificial colors and fragrances.

Special requirements for detergents

  • Disinfection, whose main requirement is to maintain a high level of hygiene, in places such as hospitals and industrial kitchens. Remember that in such places it is necessary to use detergents with disinfecting properties for surfaces.
  • Chemical resistance to certain surfaces, especially in industry, which may require detergents with special chemical properties that resist strong cleaning agents.

Matching a detergent to a surface requires an understanding of the properties of both the detergent and the material to be treated. Careful selection of the right detergent from the nanomax® range of products allows for effective removal of dirt without risking damage to the surface.


Impact of detergents on the environment and surroundings

Detergents and cleaning products are safe as long as they are used and stored according to the instructions on the label. Their impact on their surroundings and the environment therefore depends primarily on ourselves – our attitude toward others and our plans. Due to different applications, such products may contain hazardous ingredients. For this reason, pictograms for safe use are placed on the packaging.

Legal basis:

  • Regulation (EC) No. 648/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of March 31, 2004 on detergents (Official Journal of the EU L No. 104, p. 1, as amended).
  • Regulation (EC) No. 1272/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of December 16, 2008 on classification, labeling and packaging of substances and mixtures, amending and repealing Directives 67/548/EEC and 1999/45/EC, and amending Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 (Official Journal of the EU L No. 353, p. 1, as amended).

Important to the environmental impact of cleaning products is the way they are produced, the use of renewable energy sources, the disposal of raw materials and packaging, etc. This means that in practice, each manufacturer can have a different impact on the environment. At nanomax®, all detergents have the necessary labeling. Some of the markings that products containing detergent must have are shown in the figure below.


By choosing nanomax® products, you are supporting educational programs and efforts to spread awareness of proper waste handling such as segregation and safety.

The difference between standard and eco-friendly detergents

On the market we have both standard detergents, which contain active substances, and eco-detergents, which are based on natural substances, often tested for hypoallergenicity as well. Standard detergents are usually made from synthetic ingredients such as surfactants, phosphates, chlorine and other chemicals that effectively remove dirt, but can be harmful to the environment and health if misused. These products often contain fragrances, dyes and preservatives that can cause allergies or skin irritation.

Organic detergents, on the other hand, are created from natural, biodegradable ingredients such as plant-based surfactants, essential oils and natural enzymes. They contain no phosphates, chlorine, artificial colors or synthetic fragrances, making them more environmentally friendly and safer for health. The production of green detergents usually involves a lower environmental burden, and their biodegradation does not lead to the formation of toxic by-products.

Ecodetergents have special labels that certainly confirm their environmental safety and make them easy to identify on store shelves. One of the most well-known certifications is the EU Ecolabel. Products with this label are designed to have the least possible impact on the environment during the entire production cycle (from sourcing of raw materials, production, packaging, transportation, to use and disposal). Other organic certifications awarded to natural cleaning products include: ICEA, EcoCert.


The properties of detergents and their essence are the main factor we decide on when choosing the right cleaning products for our home or business. The division of detergents, their properties and the types of surfaces for which detergents are used have a real impact on the comfort of cleaning different types of surfaces. Standard detergents, which contain synthetic ingredients such as surfactants, phosphates and chlorine, are effective, but can be harmful to the environment and health. Eco-friendly detergents, on the other hand, are based on natural, biodegradable ingredients. Thus, the choice of the right detergent depends primarily on the type of surface, the type of soiling and the individual needs and priorities of the user. Various types of detergents for use in the kitchen, bathroom and other areas are available on our website Feel free to contact us by email or phone.

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