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Home > Professional > Laundry Solutions > Detergents: Liquid or Powder?
Kartik Iyengar
Marketing Manager
Fabric Care & Personal Care– South Asia,
Diversey India Pvt Ltd.

The new washing machines like wash extractors have intelligent systems which are fully programmed and can take care of any parameters in washing. Hence, launderers are very careful of EH&S (environment, health & safety) in their facilities and by moving to liquid detergents, which can be dosed through a pre-programmed dispensers, they are able to meet the standards. Also, there is a rise in the need to move away from manual handling of chemicals which is not in the case with powders.

The liquid detergent is as effective as the powder detergent. What makes liquid popular is the ease of operation and improvement in productivity with the automated dosing system. Powder is manually dosed and is susceptible to error, leading to inconsistent results whereas liquid is automated and more reliable. The dosages of the liquid detergents are controlled and are not subject to human intervention. This brings in consistent cleaning performance to the linen day in and out.

In fact, the cost of liquid detergent is higher compared to powder. But, if you look at the productivity and consistent wash results, the liquid detergent is cost effective. In case of India, with the awareness about the liquid system increasing, more and more customers are shifting to liquid laundries.

Even though theoretically liquids tend to mix faster compared to powder, there is no definite conclusion to state that there is any cause and effect of them in the laundry. In fact, the powder systems also mix easily with each other in the wash process, as water is always present to facilitate mixing. We have been supplying to 5 star/4 star hotels, hospitals commercial laundries and to the railways & institutional customers. While the detergent does not differ for the different types of linen in each of these sectors, the dosage changes as per the soil type. For e.g. there is a sanitizer required additionally for healthcare linen which is not a standard practice for hotels and other institutions.


Zakir Atashbajiwala
General Manager-
Marketing & Technical
Altret Performance Chemicals Gujarat Pvt Ltd.


Detergents primarily have three roles – to improve wetting ability of water, to loosen & remove soils and to emulsify, suspend or eliminate soils in the washing solution. It’s basically the customer’s choice between liquid and powder detergents, as both have their own features and limitations. As far as product stability is concerned, powder detergent may become lumps or cakey when stored in high humid area due to its hygroscopic nature. Liquid detergents may solidify or separate out as they are temperature sensible.

Actually, both powder and liquid detergents contain several ingredients such as builder, anti re-deposition agent, water conditioning agent, corrosion inhibitor, opacifiers, fabric softening agent, fragrance, digester and enzymes. Liquid detergents are designed scientifically to give synergistic effects, nourish and enhance the look of the fabric, give bouncy or body fills and to increase fabric life. Liquid detergents are not necessarily effective in all cases but they work better on typical stains and do not harshly affect the fabric if designed with balanced surfactants.

In India, institutional, hotel and hospital linen gets heavily soiled and the sophisticated liquid detergent may not provide excellent results. Liquid detergents may not seem cost effective due to various factors. It may require repeated washing with heavy soils. Further, if the liquid detergent contains high amount of water, obviously the dosage would be higher. The packaging material cost (such as HDPE jar) and the high price of surfactants also influence the overall cost of liquid detergents. But, on the other hand, product wastage is minimal with liquid detergent applications and it is a value addition to the fabric. Thus, liquid detergent may be cost effective. Good liquid detergents are phosphate free and do not contain major inorganic constituents. With better foam and better results, it is recommended for soft & premium fabrics and for those that are not colour fast.

Sometimes powder detergents may leave residue on the clothes, which can be avoided using liquid detergents with a proper dosing system. The newly developed professional laundry machines have inbuilt design of dosing system which makes things easier. Dosage depends on laundry cycle, usage of additional booster, softeners, biocides, whitener, bleaches and neutralizers. The quantity would differ considering soil type, water quality and linen type. Generally, blood stains are a big issue in the healthcare industry, while tea, coffee and sauces stains are common in the hospitality industry. Similarly, oil & grease stains are common in industrial uniform linen.

Good powder detergents are 100% water soluble and a proper mixture of powder & water can be handled similarly like the liquid detergent. Some are mixed in a specifically designed machine, while others are mixed at the point of use. Nonetheless, the penetration of liquid detergent is naturally good compared to powder detergent. Indian customers demand result oriented products at minimum cost. They analyse and evaluate the pros and cons keeping in mind the operating cost and then match the specification with their own available resources. Liquid detergent will take time to become popular considering the Indian environment, available water quality and product cost.

We have just started our product line for laundry and are supplying to segments such as hospitality, institutes, healthcare, food & beverages and private professional laundry besides serving textile auxiliaries and textiles industries (mainly surfactants which are being used while manufacturing – processing of main fibre, cotton and their blends).

NR begins laundry service for train linen

Following demand for quality linen in long distance trains, the Northern Railway has made operational new laundry service for trains originating from Anand Vihar terminal. The fully mechanized laundry unit consists of computerized high spin washer extractors with centralized detergent dozing system, tumble driers with digital moisture control and high temperature chest heated flat work ironers to finish railway linen to the highest level of hygiene, cleanliness and fineness. The laundry set up at Patparganj Industrial Area has a capacity of 8000 linen kits per day. It will not only be able to cater to the requirements of seven trains originating from Anand Vihar (about 2500 kits per day) but also take care of future requirements. The linen from the laundry will be subjected to strict quality checks at all levels and soiled linen with spots & stains treated in the stain removing machine before washing.

Edward Menzes,
Technical Director –
Rossari Biotech Ltd

Although powder detergents are most commonly used because of their stability, eco-feasibility and long lasting properties, they have a tendency to cake up on clothes if used in excess. Detergent cakes on clothes will require another complete rinse cycle involving use more electricity and water. Some powders do not dissolve properly unless it is mixed in warm water, thus increasing heating costs.

Liquid detergents dissolve better, reducing water temperature worries or soap cake lumps on clothes. Liquids are especially effective on food & greasy soils and in pre-treating spots and stains prior to washing. Powder detergents are mostly highly alkaline in nature and with prolonged washing will lead to cloth harshness and strength loss. Also handling of alkaline detergents may cause skin irritation.

Both liquid and dry laundry detergent clean well, but many cleaners think liquids tend to work better on grease and food stains, while powders are better on tough soil and dirt. Pre-treating stains, which can save rewashing clothes that didn’t get clean the first time, is easier with liquid detergents than with powders.

Preferred liquid detergents are pH neutral to slightly alkaline which will overcome above demerits of powders. Most of the powders possess high foaming properties which affect the performance of the washing machine as well as cleaning efficiency. Liquid detergents are available in various scents and colours, whereas powdered detergents may not be as versatile.

Liquid detergents are becoming popular around the world due to its convenience in dispensing, easy dispersion and dissolution in the wash water. Liquid detergents are most common in bigger laundries where they have auto-dosing system. Further mixing of chemicals with liquid detergent becomes much easier as it is aqueous based. Detergent will differ with respect to substrates which are to be washed rather than the place where it has to be used like hospital or laundry.

Major categories of liquid detergents in laundry washing are:

1) Light duty laundry liquid detergents: They are used for washing delicate fabrics, like wool, silk, and synthetics. It is important to note that that light duty liquid detergents easily disperse in water and are mild and gentle to hands and the fabric being washed. The pH is neutral or very slightly alkaline.

2) Heavy-duty laundry liquid detergents: These are distinctive because of their relatively high surfactant level, sometimes even up to 40%. Heavy-duty liquid detergents are effective in removing grease and greasy soil at wash temperatures below 60°C at much lower dosage levels. The cleaning ability naturally depends on the water hardness and the amount of the soil in the substrate.

Both liquids as well as powders have their importance in their own place. The advent of liquid detergent concentrates, which now dominate the market, seems like an improvement allowing for less liquid per load and more loads per bottle. However, consumers haven’t yet adapted to the change and think they need more than the recommended amount for each load. A recent Consumer Reports analysis has found that people tend to use far more liquid per load than they need to.

Online Service

In a pressing need to avoid carrying piles of clothes and standing around for hours to get the laundry done, Joshua Niamehr, a New York student, has come up with online solution. He has successfully simplified people’s laundry woes by providing laundry service at the click of a mouse. Just go online at laundrylocal.com and enter the location, schedule pickups and deliveries. There’s no extra charge for customers either.

Niamehr, who is studying computer science, find being a one-man operation allows him to solve problems directly – even pick up patrons’ laundry himself from time to time if something goes wrong.

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