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Perfumer's Notebook: Perfuming of laundry detergents

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It is good practice in perfuming any product to learn as much as one can of the properties of that product. This is particularly true of granular or powdered detergents. Chemically a detergent contains a blend of one or more surfactants employed to provide wetting action. These may be expected to have little or no chemical action on perfume materials, but may have some interfering odor. Detersive action is provided by alkaline salts, such as phosphates and/or carbonates. These make up a large part of the composition. Water is also present as product moisture.

How does the possession of this knowledge benefit the perfumer? First, a detergent powder is alkaline and in the presence of its moisture can promote hydrolysis of esters. For example, use of large amounts of amyl salicyiate will produce a fusel oil odor. Lactones, such as undecalactone, will hydrolyze and lose odor. The moist alkaline condition may polymerize aldehydes and reduce the odor yield of phenols, such as eugenol.

The physical characteristics are also important to the perfumer. The spray dried granules possess a large surface area promoting polymerization or resinification of such terpenes as Iimonene and oxidation of such aldehydes as cyclamen aldehyde. Materials with high volatility will evaporate readily from this large surface.