Subject: What is a Surfactant?

Date: Mar. 6, 1997

Dear SWF:
I recently purchased some of your Liquid Seaweed Plant Food.  I read on the label that you recommend using a surfactant.  What is a surfactant, what does it do, and where can I get it?

Helen F.

Taking you back to your high school chemistry days, do you remember the experiment where you touched a drop of water on the desktop with a bar of soap?  The soap broke the water tension and the droplet spread out.  That is what we refer to when we recommend the use of a surfactant.  If you spray the leaves of a plant with water, the water tends to bead up on the surface of the leaf due to the surface tension of the individual drops of water.  A surfactant will release the tension and allow the liquid to spread and cover the entire surface of the leaf thus maximizing the potential for absorption.

Many surfactants also have sticking properties and are known as spreader/stickers.  They help hold the liquid on the surface of the leaf again allowing for greater absorption.

There are a myriad of fine surfactants or spreader/sticker products available on the market.  Most of which are available on the Internet.  However, unless you are a large commercial operation, the solution is much simpler.  The high school science experiment offers the answer.  A couple of drops of a good and pure liquid dish soap, perhaps one that was 99.9% pure, mixed into a gallon of solution will make all the difference.  You will notice that the solution spreads across the surface of the leaf and your plant will be happier.


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