Surfactants (detergents) & soap




Surfactants are chemicals that affect the surface tension of water most commonly to help with cleaning. They are also used in activities involving solids and aqueous liquids such as in resource development as flotation aids, frothers, defoamers etc.

Surfactant chemicals may be used directly but most applications require their mixing (formulation) with other chemicals and solvents to form surfactant preparations.

There are less than four companies in Australia that manufacture surfactant chemicals, but hundreds that surfactant products by formulation (mixing).

The most common surfactant chemicals are..... 

Anionic surfactants

The most common is linear alkylbenzenesulfonate made from alkyl (especially dodecyl) benzene. Other forms include alkyl sulfates and alkyl ether sulfates using fatty alcohols and other imported hydrocarbons.

Non-ionic surfactants

Between two-thirds and three-quarters of the surfactants used in Australia are made from non-ionic surfactants. They are produced by Huntsman by reacting its ethylene oxide with imported fatty alcohols, alkyl phenol, amines and/or other chemicals to produce a broad range of surface active chemicals.

Cationic surfactants

Most cationic surfactants are quaternary ammonium salts used in domestic application (shampoos etc.). They are made from imported chemicals such as tertiary amines and an alkylating agent such as benzyl chloride. Most cationic surfactant chemicals are believed to be imported.

Defoaming agents

Widely used in industry and in mineral processing, defoaming agents are esters made from fatty acids, alcohols (simple or polyol) and amines. Several companies produce these in eastern Australia. The market in Western Australia is estimated to be less than $5m and supplied by agents.


Soap is produced from caustic soda and tallow (animal fats) and other vegetable fats (eg. olive, palm etc). The process produces glycerol as a by-product.

Manufacturers (being developed)

Campbell Bros

Campbell Bros is a diversified manufacturer of surfactant chemicals. 

In December 2000, Brisbane based Campbell Bros sold its soap manufacturing business to Faulding Healthcare products for A$4.6 million (plus stock).

In December 2001, they announced the acquisition of of North American minerals laboratory group Bondar Clegg at a cost of A$8 million. It was acquired through their subsidiary Australian Laboratory Services (ALS) that will make the company the largest provided of analytical services to the mining industry in the world with a market share of 30 per cent with 40 labs in 15 countries. They also had acquired Canada-based ASL Analytical Services for A$13 million.  

Laboratory services now account for one-half of Campbell's profits.


Details of soap manufacture


Formulator of household and automotive detergents, degreasers, coolants, mixed solvents and other household and automotive products.

Street address 1809 Lytton Road, Lytton; Postal address: PO Box 478, Wynnum QLD Post Code: 4178.

Telephone: 07 33967033; Fax: 07 3396 7329


Web address

No employees: 75

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