Water Soluble Polymers

Water-soluble polymers are widely found in nature, and their practical uses were known to the earliest civilizations. The Ancient Egyptians prepared animal glue by dissolving collagen in water, and natural water-soluble polymers still have an important part to play in many of today’s more sophisticated products. Casein is used as an adhesive, guar gum is employed as a thickener in cosmetics, and gum Arabic as a dispersant.

The range of applications open to natural polymers is limited. Only synthetic polymers can be tailor-made to display a discrete range of properties. Many different monomers and special polymerization techniques are employed to this end. Acrylic acid is a convenient starting point for synthesizing water-soluble polymers such as polycarboxylates, with which we are concerned here. Polycarboxylates can be put to use in a multitude of applications.

A great deal of work has been published on the effects that they provide in laundry detergents.
Polycarboxylates are mainly used in low-phosphate and phosphate-free formulations.

Many countries have passed legislation which requires detergent manufacturers to reduce the phosphate content of their products, but compensating measures must be taken to ensure formulations meet the level of performance expected by the consumer. Fabrics become stiff as a result of incrustation, more soil is re-deposited, and the detergency of washing powder can suffer. The severity of these effects depends on the detergent formulation, water hardness, washing temperature and type of fabric.

Detergent polymers, such as our Sokalan® grades, can make up for the loss in performance caused by reducing phosphate contents. They have a very pronounced dispersing capacity on account of the carboxyl groups they contain, and are thus able to counteract incrustation and the re-deposition of soil on fabrics.

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