Detergents and Surfactants

SGS M-Scan has extensive experience in the detailed characterisation of surface-active compounds, either singly, in mixtures or in finished products. Appropriate analytical procedures are selected to suit individual projects. These include Electrospray- Mass Spectrometry (ES-MS), Fast Atom Bombardment Mass Spectrometry (FAB-MS), Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation-Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) and Liquid Chromatography with Mass Spectrometry Detection (LC-MS).

Positive ion ES-MS or FAB-MS are equally well suited to the identification of cationic and amphoteric detergents, such as quaternary ammonium salts, N-oxides and sulphobetaines as well as non ionic detergents.

Negative ion ES-MS or FAB-MS are well suited to the identification of anionic detergents, such as alkylbenzene sulphonates and ether sulphates.
MALDI-TOF MS is particularly suited to the identification of alkoxylated non-ionic detergents, such as alkylphenol ethoxylates, alcohol propoxylates and gasoline dispersants.

LC-MS is particularly suited to the analysis of low levels of surfactants or where the sample has a complex matrix e.g. in environmental samples.


Analysis of detergent residues has been used in a wide range of industries including:

  • Analysis of soil, ground water and benthic fauna samples for trace levels of toxic fluorinated sulphonate residues including Perfluorooctane Sulphonic Acid (PFOS) and its breakdown products which are derived from fire fighting foams.