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The Secret Ingredients of HE Detergents: AEO-9, Sodium Polyacrylate, and Enzymes

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Tide HE detergent on a washing machine

The world of laundry is constantly changing, and one of the latest advancements is the introduction of high-efficiency (HE) detergents. HE detergents are designed to work with modern, high-efficiency washing machines, which use less water and energy compared to traditional washing machines.

HE detergents usually feature these 3 properties, to make them high-efficiency.

  • Low-sudsing – Less lather is crucial for HE washing, as it means less water is needed to rinse off the foam and residues. Additionally, less lather in the washing tub means more space left for the garments and washing solution to roll and tumble, which is a necessary momentum to wash the stains off the fabrics.
  • Effective in low temperatures – Being effective in washing in cold water means energy is saved to heat up the washing water.
  • Concentrated formula & improved stain-fighting ability – HE detergents come in a concentrated form, which means less use of it (about 1/3 to 1/2 ) compared to conventional detergents, making it a more cost-effective and more eco-friendly, as less packaging is needed to contain them, and less energy is needed to transport them.

To achieve their superior cleaning performance, HE detergents contain special ingredients that are different from those found in conventional detergents. In this article, we will discuss three of the most important ingredients in HE detergents: AEO-9, Sodium Polyacrylate, and enzymes.

AEO-9: The Surfactant

AEO-9, a Fatty Alcohol Polyoxyethylene Ether, is a non-ionic surfactant that is commonly used as a secondary surfactant in HE detergents, as a performance enhancer to the primary surfactant – commonly Linear Alkyl Benzene Sulphonic Acid(LABSA). A surfactant, as the key ingredient of a detergent, is a substance that reduces the surface tension of liquids, allowing them to penetrate and clean the fibers of fabric more effectively. AEO-9 is used as an emulsifying and degreasing agent with outstanding wetting, dispersing, emulsifying, penetrating, and cleaning properties.

In addition to its wetting and cleaning properties, AEO-9 also has these advantages that make it an ideal ingredient for HE detergents.

  • AEO-9 has an HLB value of 13. It is highly soluble in water, which makes it easy to rinse off with less water in every wash. This property contributes to the water-saving feature of HE detergents.
  • It is low-foaming. Unlike the other common surfactants used in detergents, AEO-9 does not produce rich foam, by contrast, it is a defoaming agent. It can effectively reduce the suds produced by LABSA.
  • It has excellent hard water-resistant properties. Unlike the primary surfactant LABSA, AEO-9 will not be affected by calcium and magnesium ions in hard water, hence it keeps its 100% effectiveness and washing performance.
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AEO-9 is commonly used in both powder and liquid detergents for fabric and other heavy-duty cleaning scenarios. Fatty Alcohol Polyoxyethylene Ether is free of APEO and NP, easy to degrade, and complies with most environmental requirements. It is developed as an eco-friendly replacement for the Nonylphenol surfactants in the detergent and textile industries. AEO-9 biodegrades quickly and does not pose a threat to aquatic life.

Sodium Polyacrylate: The Suspending and Sequestering Agent

Sodium Polyacrylate is a type of polymer that is commonly used in HE detergents as a suspending agent. It contributes in two ways.

  • It helps to keep the other ingredients suspended in the wash solution, ensuring that they are distributed evenly over the fabrics.
  • It also helps to trap dirt and stains in the wash solution, preventing them from re-depositing on the clothes during the wash cycle.
  • Additionally, Sodium Polyacrylate also works as a sequestering agent in the washing solution, meaning it can ‘capture’ metal ions like Ca2+ and Mg2+, hence helping to keep the effectiveness of LABSA.

Its ability to suspend detergent ingredients, dirt and stains makes the rinse phase easier and faster, hence helping to save water and energy. In addition to its cleaning properties, Sodium Polyacrylate is also environmentally friendly. It is biodegradable and does not pose a threat to the environment.

Enzymes: The Stain Fighters

Enzymes are another key ingredient in HE detergents. They are proteins that help to break down large-size dirt and stains through hydrolysis into small pieces, which then can be easier removed by surfactants. They work by attacking the stain at a molecular level, lifting dirt and grime from the fibers of the fabric.

What’s more, enzymes are effective in removing stains even in low temperatures, making them a valuable ingredient in HE detergents. The low-temperature washing cycle is a common feature of HE washing machines, and enzymes are specifically designed to work in these conditions. At low temperatures, conventional stain fighters can be less effective, but enzymes continue to perform well.

In addition, washing in cold water not only saves energy but also helps to preserve the color and shape of the fabric, making it a more gentle and effective laundry option.

Different types of enzymes are designed to target specific stains, such as protein-based stains (e.g., blood and grass), starch-based stains (e.g., food and mud), and oil-based stains (e.g., grease and cosmetics). By including a combination of different enzymes in HE detergents, manufacturers can ensure that the detergent can effectively remove a wide range of stains.

Practical HE Detergent Formulations

Here are two practical formulations of HE (High-Efficiency) detergents, both in powder and liquid form, that contain the three key ingredients of AEO-9, Enzymes, and Sodium Polyacrylate. These formulations are designed to provide an effective and eco-friendly laundry solution that can remove tough stains, save energy, and leave the clothes smelling fresh.

HE detergents commonly have these 3 key ingredients on their ingredient list. However, not all HE detergents necessarily contain all the 3 ingredients.

1. HE Powder Detergent Formula(Spray Drying Production Route)

IngredientWt, % (as is)Function
Caustic soda1.04%Neutralizer
LABSA 96%8.0%Primary Surfactant
AEO-92.0%Secondary Surfactant
Soda Ash Light16.0%Buffering agent
Sodium Silicate 34%29.5%Buffering agent, Bead-structure former
Sodium Polyacrylate 45%3%Suspending, Sequestering Agent
4A Zeolite10%Water softener
CBS-X0.02%Optical brightener
Fragrance0.2%Scent additive
Colorful Speckles1.5%Embellishment
Sodium Percarbonate3%Bleaching agent
Savinase® Evity® 24 T0.5%Catalytic agent
Sodium Sulphate Anhydrousq.s. to 100%Builder

2. HE Liquid Detergent Formula

IngredientWt, % (as is)Function
Caustic soda0.78%Neutralizer
LABSA 96%5.0%Primary Surfactant
SLES 70%4.0%Secondary Surfactant
AEO-92.0%Secondary Surfactant
EDTA-2Na0.1%Chelating agent
Sodium Polyacrylate 45%2%Suspending, Sequestering Agent
MIT-15 preservatives0.1 %Water softener
CBS-X0.02%Optical brightener
Fragrance0.3%Scent additive
PREFERENZ® P 3001.5%Catalytic agent
Salt(NaCl)q.s. to achieve
desired viscosity
Bleaching agent
Citric acidq.s. to achieve
desired pH(7-8)
Catalytic agent
Deionized waterq.s. to 100%Builder


HE detergents are designed to work with modern, high-efficiency washing machines, and they offer many advantages over conventional detergents. AEO-9, Sodium Polyacrylate, and enzymes are three of the most important ingredients in HE detergents, and they play a crucial role in ensuring that HE detergents can effectively clean clothes while also being gentle on the environment. If you’re looking for a detergent that can help you get your clothes clean and conserve resources, be sure to look for one that contains AEO-9, Sodium Polyacrylate, and enzymes.

Written by:
Jun Xie
Jun Xie
Jun is the head of R&D at Yeser Chemicals. He holds a master's degree in Chemical Engineering and Technology. After joining Yeser Chemicals in 2013, he has been dedicated to researching and developing new coconut-based green surfactants and their safe uses in Home & Personal care products. In addition to serving as the Head of R&D at Yeser Chemicals, Jun is the director of the Guangdong Green Surfactant Engineering Technology Research Center and a member of the Standard Committee of Guangdong Daily Chemical Chamber of Commerce.

Yeser Chemicals is a leading producer of CAPB, CDEA, CMEA, EGDS, and other various Coconut-derived surfactants.

By self-manufacturing and 3rd-party toll-manufacturing, we provide a long list of safe ingredients, including surfactants, conditioners, thickeners, etc.,  used in Home & Fabric Care, Personal Care, and Cosmetics.

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