Power Player: Lutensol® nonionic surfactants blend sustainability and efficacy to raise the bar on smarter cleaning


November 18, 2021

Over the last few years, there has been a significant rise in the demand for sustainable, safe cleaning products. In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed the globe, and everyone’s attentions turned to efficacy. But savvy brands recognize that attention hasn’t turned to efficacy entirely at the expense of sustainability and safety. We can expect to see a strong and increasing trend toward embracing science-based green chemistries – offering sustainability and safety without compromising efficacy. While some manufacturers are scrambling to formulate ingredients that meet this growing paradigm shift, others have been quietly perfecting the solution for years. The Lutensol® line of nonionic surfactants is a reflection of that forward-thinking effort, and it’s already here.

Remind me what a “nonionic surfactant” means?

Nonionic surfactants are a class of surfactants that don’t carry a charge on their hydrophilic head groups.

Examples of nonionic surfactants include alcohol ethoxylates, alkylphenol ethoxylates, alkyl polyglucosides, and amine oxides. This neutrality mitigates the harshness of the surfactant, but it doesn’t have to reduce its efficacy. Case in point: Lutensol, a line of surfactants that boast several advantages, including:

  • Low skin irritation
  • Low critical micelle concentration
  • Low foam
  • Low sensitivity to water hardness

And, critical to Lutensol’s value: excellent soil removal and sustainable.

All of the surfactants in the Lutensol line are alcohol ethoxylates or alkoxylates, and the line includes both synthetic and naturally-derived alcohols.

What type of applications are included in the Lutensol line?

The Lutensol line is extremely versatile, with wide-ranging applications. All nine product categories in the Lutensol surfactant line can be used for fabric care in the home care/commercial laundry detergent category.Other applications are product-specific and include:

  • Automatic dish detergent
  • Hard surface cleaner
  • Cleaner wipes
  • Institutional cleaner/sanitizer
  • Industrial cleaner

What if we need something specialized, like a product that’s more biodegradable or one that works well under cold water conditions?

The Lutensol line of surfactants includes several product categories with various applications. The line features both linear alcohol ethoxylates (where all the carbons are arranged in a single chain) and branched alcohol ethoxylates (where one or more carbons are bonded to three other carbon atoms creating a “branched” or non-linear structure). This is important because branched and linear alcohol ethoxylates can provide different features and benefits. For example:

Features of branched alcohol ethoxylates:

  • Lower gelling
  • Lower odor
  • Lower foam
  • Better wetting
  • More dynamic
  • Better emulsifiers
  • Improved properties under cold conditions

Features of linear alcohol ethoxylates:

  • Usually slightly faster biodegradability
  • Higher foam

We use standard ethoxylates and NPE. Why would we switch to Lutensol?

Compared to standard ethoxylates and NPE, Lutensol surfactants offer distinct advantages such as excellent emulsification plus proven faster wetting on both hard surfaces (e.g. glass) and soft surfaces (e.g. cotton). Plus, Lutensol boasts a sustainable ingredient list and, crucially, is listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safer Chemical Ingredients list.

What are the nine product categories in the line, and what’s the best use or benefit of each?

Each of the product categories in the Lutensol line are designed for more effective cleaning while maintaining safety and sustainability. Differentiators between the products include wetting, gelling behavior, foaming level, and solubility. Lutensol® A..N 100% active nonionic surfactant that features excellent detergency, high wetting power and high biodegradability. These products are ideal for light-duty and heavy-duty laundry powders and liquids, as well as industrial and household cleaners.  Lutensol® LA 100% active lauryl alcohol ethoxylate featuring excellent detergency, high wetting power and high biodegradability. These products are highly compatible with other nonionic, cationic and anionic surfactants and are ideal for light duty liquids, heavy duty powders and liquids, and industrial and household cleaners. Lutensol® AT These exceptional dispersants are highly effective in oil emulsifying and are a carrier/binder for solid formulations. Lutensol® CS 6250 Active ethoxylate; a good solubilizer and penetrating agent that has low foam detergency and can act as a co-solvent and co-surfactant. These products are ideal for hard surface cleaning, washing, carpet cleaning, open plant cleaning, and floor cleaning and care. Lutensol® AO These products offer strong detergency in laundry. Lutensol® TDA Based on a highly branched tridecyl alcohol and features excellent, rapid wetting properties with good detergency and relatively low foaming levels. TDA products boast good emulsification and oily soil removal and are ideal for textile scouring and dyeing; industrial and institutional and specialties; and chemical intermediates for conversion to anionic phosphate, sulfate and carboxylate surfactants. Lutensol® TO Moderately branched synthetic ethoxylates that feature excellent wetting properties, low foam detergency, faster spreading in spray application, high formulation stability and effective degreasing power at low concentrations. These products offer good emulsification and oily soil removal and are ideal for carpet cleaning, open plant cleaning and floor cleaning and care. Lutensol® XP Alcohol ethoxylates that offer low foaming and superior cleaning benefits. Lutensol® XL These products include a small amount of propylene oxide to create a slightly extended hydrophobe for improved wetting and emulsification properties. These products offer a quicker manufacturing process due to low gelling versus standard ethoxylates and are ideal for industrial and institutional cleaning, home care, and formulation technologies.

What does sustainability really mean when it comes to Lutensol products?

A world with more efficient and safer chemicals is a better world for all. The Lutensol product line is geared toward products that are:

  • Safer-Choice: Meeting the requirements created by the EPA based on performance, packaging, pH, and VOCs.
  • Biobased: Featuring biologically-based carbon molecules.
  • Biodegradable: Naturally decaying at a certain ratio.

The Lutensol line continues to grow, and BASF is constantly adding more sustainable ingredients. Demand for science-based green ingredients will continue to increase as we navigate the mid- and post-pandemic “new normal,” and the Lutensol line of products is poised to meet the need.In addition to Lutensol’s inclusion on the EPA’s Safer Chemical Ingredients list, BASF is proud to have been named a 2020 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Award Winner by the EPA. This recognition is a reflection of our strong commitment to sustainability within the Home Care and I&I space.

Now what?

Consider this a starter kit: We have detailed information on the formulations and capabilities of each product category in the Lutensol® Surfactants Product Guide and would be happy to speak with you about which options are right for your application.

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