Sebum grime lodged deep in the narrow spaces between fibers is difficult to wash out and can oxidize over time, producing unpleasant odors. The surfactant methyl ester ethoxylate (MEE) solubilizes grime, dissolving it into particles approximately 10 nm in diameter. This allows the grime to be dislodged from deep within fibers and effectively washed away. MEE is the primary ingredient in the super-concentrated liquid laundry detergent TOP NANOX.
We placed pieces of fabric dosed with red-tinted oleic acid, a component of sebum grime, in detergent solutions containing either a conventional Lion product or TOP NANOX and observed the results.
After 10 minutes, a shimmering movement was observed in the TOP NANOX solution as grime was broken up at the nano-level into particles too small to see with the naked eye. After 15 minutes, the grime was effectively dissolved and removed, even from deep inside the fabric.
To better understand how MEE cleans, we used small-angle X-ray scattering to measure the diameter of surfactant micelles. By doing so, we found that MEE was capturing oleic acid and forming solubilizing micelles.