What is a Surfactant?

At Zen Earth, our products use surfactant-based technology to clean and eliminate dirt and oil for a wide variety of industry purposes. Now, you may be wondering, what exactly is a surfactant? What do surfactants do and why are they important?

Surfactants have been utilized for cleaning purposes for centuries- in fact, the earliest documented surfactant was used as a trade commodity by the Phoenicians in 600 BC (1)! In fact, surfactants are a key component in some of the most commonly used cleaners today- including soaps, dish and laundry detergent, shampoo, conditioner, and even toothpaste.

So what is a surfactant? A surfactant, also known as a surface-active agent, is a compound that when added to a liquid, enhances it’s spreading and wetting properties through the reduction of surface tension (2). In order to achieve this, it is essential for the surfactant to have both a water loving head (hydrophilic) component and fat loving (hydrophobic/lipophilic) tail component. When many of these surfactants are dispersed in water, the hydrophilic heads spread out towards the water, and the water hating tails retreat inwards. This creates a structure known as a micelle (3). Dirt and oil are trapped in the fat loving tails and can be removed along with the water. This is how our Zen Earth products work to eliminate dirt and oil.

Our surfactants at Zen Earth are a biodegradable alternative to toxic chemicals used in widespread cleaning today. Our products are bio-based, and designed to reduce contamination of our waterways and our Earth.

The image below shows how surfactants in shampoo work to eliminate oil and dirt oil from hair (4).


To learn more about surfactants, don’t hesitate to visit:


To watch a fun animation on how surfactants work, check out:


For more information on Zen Earth Corp and Zen Earth Products go to our website at zenearthproducts.com



  1.         Myers, D. (1988). Surfactant science and technology (1st ed.). New York, N.Y.: VCH.
  2.         surfactant | chemical compound. (2016). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 24 November 2016, from https://www.britannica.com/science/surfactant
  3.       Presto, W. & Preston, W. (1948). Some Correlating Principles of Detergent Action. The Journal Of Physical And Colloid Chemistry, 52(1), 84-97. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/j150457a010
  4.        (2016). Retrieved from http://us.arcanatura.com/wp-content/uploads/whatisshampoo.png