An Annonymous Admirer asked..
What’s the diff between ammonium lauryl sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate? Can I wash floors with the former?
The Left Brain Retorts…
The way that these chemicals are used for making shampoos or other types of personal care products (facial cleansers, toothpaste, etc) there is practically no difference between them. This is why I’m amused when I read scare stories about Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate isn’t mentioned. They’re pretty much the same thing! Incidentally, these claims about SLS have been thoroughly debunked.
Chemically, they are like this…
C12H26O4S · NH3 – Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
C12H26O4S · Na – Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
The NH3 is the ammonium part and the Na is the sodium. When you put these ingredients in the water, the “lauryl sulfate” part of the molecule separates from the “sodium” or “ammonium” part. It’s the same this that happens to table salt (sodium chloride) when you put it in water. The sodium and chlorine separate and dissolve.
But the part of the chemical that makes these ingredients work as cleansers is the Lauryl Sulfate. We talk about how surfactants work in a recent shampoo post.
Everything you can do with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate you can do with Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. You can wash your hair, you face, your floors, and even your car. They are both quite versatile ingredients.
The only real difference is a formulating one. With Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate if you put it into an acid (like vinegar or lemon juice) you could create ammonia.
Brains’ Bottom Line
Sure you can wash your floors with sodium lauryl sulfate and you can wash them with ammonium lauryl sulfate. Both will work but they will provide more foam than you really want. You can also clean your floors with Johnson’s Baby shampoo if you’d like. Surfactants are a wonderful thing.