Surfactant adsorption to soil components and soils

Munehide Ishiguro*, Luuk K. Koopal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


Soils are complex and widely varying mixtures of organic matter and inorganic materials; adsorption of surfactants to soils is therefore related to the soil composition. We first discuss the properties of surfactants, including the critical micelle concentration (CMC) and surfactant adsorption on water/air interfaces, the latter gives an impression of surfactant adsorption to a hydrophobic surface and illustrates the importance of the CMC for the adsorption process. Then attention is paid to the most important types of soil particles: humic and fulvic acids, silica, metal oxides and layered aluminosilicates. Information is provided on their structure, surface properties and primary (proton) charge characteristics, which are all important for surfactant binding. Subsequently, the adsorption of different types of surfactants on these individual soil components is discussed in detail, based on mainly experimental results and considering the specific (chemical) and electrostatic interactions, with hydrophobic attraction as an important component of the specific interactions. Adsorption models that can describe the features semi-quantitatively are briefly discussed. In the last part of the paper some trends of surfactant adsorption on soils are briefly discussed together with some complications that may occur and finally the consequences of surfactant adsorption for soil colloidal stability and permeability are considered. When we seek to understand the fate of surfactants in soil and aqueous environments, the hydrophobicity and charge density of the soil or soil particles, must be considered together with the structure, hydrophobicity and charge of the surfactants, because these factors affect the adsorption. The pH and ionic strength are important parameters with respect to the charge density of the particles. As surfactant adsorption influences soil structure and permeability, insight in surfactant adsorption to soil particles is useful for good soil management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number231
Pages (from-to)59-102
JournalAdvances in Colloid and Interface Science
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Humic substances
  • Kaolinite
  • Metal (hydr)oxides
  • Montmorillonite
  • Silica
  • Soil components


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