Whether washing dishes, cleansing your face or doing a load of laundry, surfactants make cleaners work better. Surfactants are compounds used in an array of cleaning products for their ability to lower the surface tension of water, in essence making the molecules slipperier, so they are less likely to stick to themselves and more likely to interact with oil and grease.
Beyond soaps and detergents, surfactants are used in lubricants, inks, anti-fogging liquids, herbicides, adhesives, emulsifiers and fabric softeners. The human body even produces surfactants, known as pulmonary surfactants. The lungs produce surfactants at the cellular level to aid in the breathing process by helping keep airways open.