While many of the products from the industry, such as detergents, soaps and perfumes, are purchased directly by the consumer others are used as intermediates to make other products, For example, in Europe, 70% of chemicals manufactured are used to make products by other industries including other branches of the chemical industry itself. The industry uses a wide range of raw materials, from air and minerals to oil.
The products of the chemical industry can be divided into three categories:
Basic chemicals, produced in large quantities, are mainly sold within the chemical industry and to other industries before becoming products for the general consumer.
Specialty chemicals cover a wide variety of chemicals for crop protection, paints, and inks, colorants (dyes and pigments). It also includes chemicals used by industries as diverse as textiles, paper, and engineering.
Consumer chemicals are sold directly to the public. They include, for example, detergents, soaps and other toiletries. The search for more effective and environmentally safe detergents has increased over the last 20 years, particularly in finding surfactants that are capable of cleaning anything from sensitive skin to large industrial plants.