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LAS is a universally useful anionic surfactant and constitutes a raw material with multiple application benefits.

Depending on the fields of application, LAS competes with other key surfactants such as alkyl sulphates (AS), alcohol ether sulphates (AES), and alcohol ethoxylates (AE). Each of these surfactants has unique advantages and together they provide the users with a broad choice of raw materials upon which to base their formulations.

The alkylbenzene sulphonates are used in textile processing, as wetting, dispersing and cleaning agents. Also, they are important emulsifiers in industrial processes, in polymerization and in the formulation of crop protection agents.

More than 80% of LAS production is used in laundry detergents and cleaners where alkylbenzene sulphonates are widely used in virtually all product types in the household sector and in the I&I sector. LAS is therefore more flexible than other anionic surfactants and can be used in both acidic and alkaline formulations as well as in liquid and powder detergent types.

In recent years, considering the household market, we have seen a continuous development of formulations and of their preparation technology. In the laundry market, the powder products have developed from the regular ones, Heavy Duty Powders Regular (HDPR, Density < 0.7), which remain a big and living market in Europe, to compacts, Heavy Duty Powders Compact (HDPC, Density > 0.7) and Heavy Duty Detergent Tablets (HDDT).

Heavy Duty Powders Regular: typical formulation
Density 0.5-0.8 g/L
LAS 3-10 wt%
AS 0-4 wt%
Soap 0.5-2 wt%
Nonionics 3-6 wt%
Bleaching (Perborate, percarbonate) 10-20 wt%
Builders (STPP, Zeolite) 15-25 wt%
Fillers 15-30 wt%

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Heavy Duty Powders Compact: typical formulation
Density 0.7-1.0 g/L
LAS 5-10 wt%
AS 2-8 wt%
Soap 1-2 wt%
Nonionics 3-7 wt%
Bleaching (Perborate, percarbonate) 11-15 wt%
Builders (STPP, Zeolite) 25-30 wt%
Fillers 7-13 wt%

As to liquids in the same market, besides the traditional products, Heavy Duty Liquids Regular (HDLR) we find the Concentrated ones (HDLC), "gels" products (HDLG) and now "liquitabs" or "capsules".

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Heavy Duty Liquid Regular: typical formulation
Density 1.00-1.05 g/L
LAS 5-10 wt%
AS 0-5 wt%
Soap 4.5-10.5 wt%
Nonionics 4-14 wt%
Bleaching (Perborate, percarbonate) 0 wt%
Activator 0 wt%
Builders (STPP, Zeolite) 0 wt%
Fillers 0 wt%

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Heavy Duty Liquid Concentrated: typical formulation
Density 1.015-1.30 g/L
LAS 5-10 wt%
AS 2-5 wt%
Soap 0.5-16 wt%
Nonionics 3.0-27.5 wt%
Bleaching (Perborate, percarbonate) 0 wt%
Activator 0 wt%
Builders (STPP, Zeolite) 0 wt%
Fillers 0 wt%

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Heavy Duty Liquid Capsules: typical formulation
Density 1.02 g/L
LAS 20-25 wt%
Soap 20-25 wt%
AES/AS 0 wt%
Nonionics 15-20 wt%
Cationic 0-4 wt%
Builder 0 wt%
Filler 0-0.4 wt%
Total Solvents 25-30 wt%

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In hand dishwashing market (HDWL or HDWP), we have observed a similar development which has brought about the presence, apart from the regular products, of formulations at a high active matter concentration which requires low dosages. In line with this detergent development the surfactant portion has undergone relevant changes either in the total concentration in the detergent or in the composition of the various actives.

LAS is the most important ingredient of the sulphonate group. As shown, its content is more or less in the range of 5- 8% in the European regular products. In other regional area, however, such as northern Africa and China, its content in hand washing detergents can be as high as 20-30%. The situation is different for compacts, which were developed in 1992. At the beginning the total content of the surfactant portion steadily increased with a higher growth of nonionics respect to anionics. LAS, however, kept a relevant position in respect to anionics.

With the introduction of tablets in the marketplace we have another example of a detergent generation where LAS is clearly used as the workhorse surfactant with average concentrations around 10%. The tablets, already known in the automatic dish-washing sector since 1989, were introduced as laundry detergents in spring 1998 in the UK. The advantages are clearly evident: space saving both at home and on the market shelf, correct dosage, cleanness, convenience.

Heavy Duty Detergent Tablets: typical formulation
Density 0.95-1.4 g/L
LAS 7-11 wt%
AS 0-7 wt%
Soap 0.5-2.5 wt%
Nonionics 0.5-5 wt%
Bleaching (Perborate, percarbonate) 10-20 wt%
Activator 2-5 wt%
Builders (STPP, Zeolite) 10-35 wt%
Fillers 0.5-5 wt%

In tablets, another important property is also needed, namely the easiness of the active matter to dissolve rapidly in water. All tablets present on the market in fact are formulated with LAS with contents up to 12%, the quantity of which is also beneficial for the physical consistency of the dry tablet and for its later désintegregation in water. If this is the detergent market trend in the next coming year, LAS will continue to remain the workhorse surfactant in the laundry detergent sector.