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Wetting agents

Wetting agents increase the spreading and penetrating properties of a liquid by lowering its surface tension. The surface tension of a liquid is the tendency of the molecules to adhere to each other at the surface, and is determined by the strength of the bonds or attraction between the liquid molecules. A wetting agent stretches these bonds and decreases the tendency of molecules to bond together, which allows the liquid to spread more easily across any solid surface. Wetting agents can be made up of a variety of chemicals, all of which have this tension-lowering effect and are often known as surfactants.

When a wetting agent is used, it causes the liquid to create particles called “micelles”, which allows the penetration of the solid by the liquid. Micelles are made up of molecules that attract water (hydrophilic) and molecules that repel water (hydrophobic). In water, the micelles assemble in a large cluster where the water-attracting molecules form a ring with the water-repelling molecules in the centre. When the wetting agent is used in oily liquids, the structure of this micelle is reversed as the water-repelling molecules are on the outside of the ring because they are attracted to the oily liquid and the water-attracting molecules are repelled by the oily liquid.

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At Croda, we have developed a range of wetting agents, in addition to our oil wetting agents that significantly reduce the surface tension of liquids allowing effortless spreading and superior wetting. Our novel products can significantly alter the wettability of solids, aiding in the removal of both household and industrial soils from a range of surface types.

Like our customers, we are focussed on producing high performance technologies with minimised environmental impact. Our wetting agents are highly effective, whilst remaining safe for the environment.

Wetting agents in cleaning products

Soil wetting agents are designed to overcome water repellence in soils. They work by making water wetter. Soil wetting agents are essentially the same as detergents, reducing the surface tension of water and allowing it to wet the waxy surface of the soil particles, allowing water to move into the soil through pores. Soil wetting agents belong to the class of surfactants.

Wetting agents are used in a number of household and industrial cleaning applications, such as detergents, surface cleaners, skin cleaning and laundry care products that are typically used with water. These chemical compounds are very useful in decreasing surface tension of water over the solid surfaces that it comes in contact with, such as clothing, hard surfaces and skin.

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