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Industrial thinking on detergent evaluation, particularly for soaps and alkaline builders, has been largely directed to analytical methods. That this reasoning was sound, for soaps and the alkalies, is evidenced by the available methods and specifications. With literally thousands of surface active agents developed over the years, and of such diverse chemical structure and character, generally satisfactory analytical methods remain to be devised for these increasingly important agents. Consequently, performance tests are resorted to for comparison of their important physicochemical properties, such as lather, wetting capacity, and soil-removing ability. These are complex phenomena, and tests devised to measure them are arbitrary, involve many operations, and are directly subject to the personal equation. For this reason, replication of test is necessary, but this in turn suggests a reasonable treatment of the developed data. The very nature of the surfaces which detergents must clean and the possible conditions which might be used during cleansing make agreement on the conditions for any single test a task of considerable proportions. Laboratory detergency tests have been used for almost a decade, without as yet any exact agreement as to how, and with what soiling media, these tests shall be conducted. There seems to exist a fear that a suggested method, even though agreed upon by producer and consumer, might unfairly harness both thinking and progress. Much of the performance research testing already reported is felt by many to be so specific and narrow as to be of limited value. Many will claim to disregard laboratory performance tests completely and further claim that actual trial is the sole criterion for successful evaluation. Granted that present methods may lack control or be very narrow in scope, what is needed is knowledge of the reproducibility and significance of these methods and especially their correlation with practice. The agricultural and biological fields were probably the first to recognize the difficulties inherent in methods subject to chance variation, or which must be correlated with practice, and they accepted, if they did not actually develop, the practice of statistical analysis. Any “tool” which will speed production, aid in uniformity of product, or increase the knowledge about some chosen subject is a useful one to borrow. Our need to use statistical methods became apparent and in line with our policy of keeping abreast of and influencing current thinking, this Symposium on Statistical Methods for the Detergent Laboratory was established.
Harris, Jay C.
Assistant DirectorChairman of Committee D-12 on Soaps and Other Detergents, Monsanto Chemical Co., Dayton, Ohio