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Detergents - Anionic, Cationic, Zwitterionic, Anti-foaming

Detergents are surfactants or compounds that decrease the surface tension between two liquids or liquids and solids by solubilizing hydrophobic molecules. These water-soluble surface-active agents are comprised of a hydrophobic portion, usually a long alkyl chain, attached to hydrophilic or water solubility-enhancing functional groups. Detergents are commonly used in biochemistry, cell biology and molecular biology for cell lysis, membrane protein and lipid purification, protein crystallization, and reduction of background staining in blotting experiments.   

We offer a broad range of biological detergents and surfactants to meet your research and manufacturing needs, including biodegradable alternatives per OECD 301F, such as TERGITOL™ 15-S and ECOSURF™ surfactants. Our detergent products include: anionic detergents, cationic detergents, zwitterionic detergents, non-ionic detergents, and anti-foaming agents. Our portfolio of chemically-stable products spans from reagent grade for general lab use to highly purified grades for the most demanding applications. Bulk and custom ordering options provide the same product from bench top to large scale manufacturing under ISO 90001:2008 certifications.

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Ionic Detergents

Ionic detergents contain anionic or cationic head groups and possess a net charge. Their hydrophobic tails are either straight hydrocarbon chains, as in sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) and cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB), or rigid steroidal groups, as in bile acid salts. Ionic detergents are extremely effective in membrane protein solubilization but are almost always denaturing to some extent. Bile acid salts are anionic detergents with backbones consisting of rigid steroidal groups, e.g., sodium salts of cholic acid and deoxycholic acid. Because of their planar structure, these molecules have a polar and a nonpolar face. As a result, their CMC’s are high and their micelles are small, which makes them easy to remove by dialysis.

Non-ionic Detergents

Non-ionic detergents contain uncharged, hydrophilic head groups that consist of either polyoxyethylene moieties, as in BRIJ® and Triton™ Detergents, or glycosidic groups, as in octyl glucoside and dodecyl maltoside. Since non-ionic detergents break lipid-lipid and lipid-protein, but not protein-protein interactions, they are considered non-denaturing. Thus, these gentle detergents are widely used in membrane protein isolation in their biologically active form. Unlike ionic detergents, salts have minimal effect on the micellar size of non-ionic detergents.

Zwitterionic Detergents

Zwitterionic detergents have characteristics of both ionic and non-ionic types. Like non-ionic detergents, the zwittergents do not possess a net charge, lack conductivity and electrophoretic mobility, and do not bind to ion-exchange resins. Therefore, they are often useful alternatives to non-ionic detergents in ion-exchange chromatography, electrophoresis, and isoelectric focusing. However, like ionic detergents, they are efficient at breaking protein-protein interactions. Steroid-based zwittergents, such as CHAPS, are less denaturing than linear-chain zwitterionic detergents (e.g., dodecyldimethyldiamine oxide).

Related Product Resources

  • Application Note: Comparison of Greener Detergents in Mammalian Cell Lysis & Downstream Applications

    In this application note, the capabilities of alternative detergents for effective mammalian cell lysis and downstream applications were assessed and compared to detergents commonly used: IGEPAL® CA-630, Triton™ X-100 and Triton™ X-114.

  • Poster: Biological Detergents

    This poster is an introduction to different types of detergents, their properties, and their applications in scientific research areas.

  • Article: Solubilization of Membrane Proteins

    Detergents solubilize membrane proteins for investigation, with detergent removal necessary for further characterization.

  • REACH Update: Using Surfactants like Triton™ X-100?

    Explore our comprehensive portfolio of detergents and surfactants as possible Triton X-100 alternatives for your research applications before the REACH Annex 14 ban takes effect.

  • Flyer: Greener Surfactants – The New Detergents that Degrade

    These surfactants are part of our growing portfolio of sustainable products and solutions that are designed to help you reduce the ecological impact of your research. While they are aligned with “The 12 Principles of Green Chemistry”, our greener alternatives still deliver excellent quality and efficacy to meet the highest standards in research and production.

  • Flyer: Biodegradable Greener Surfactants

    To aid you in reducing the environmental footprint of your research, we offer greener surfactants aligned with the “Design for Degradation” principle of The 12 Principles of Greener Chemistry.

  • Guide: Detergents

    Discover more about the properties, classifications, and uses of detergents in biological systems as a guideline for choosing the right detergent for your application.

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