A new class of labile surfactants that break down at a controllable rate without the need for a change in pH will be presented. The invention has been patented by YKI Institute for Surface Chemistry, and is based on use of β-keto acids or their salts as surface-active compounds. These surfactants spontaneously break down through decarboxylation, to form an oil-like ketone and CO 2 /HCO 3 − /CO 3 2− depending on pH. The rate of breakdown can be controlled within a wide range by temperature or by certain additives, but, unlike most cleavable surfactants, a change in pH is not needed. Furthermore the surfactants can be conveniently activated from a stabile precursor just before use, and one (of many possible) precursors of this kind is already available on the industrial scale in the form of a well-known chemical that is FDA-approved in other, non-surfactant, applications. The compound in question, alkyl ketene dimer (AKD), is produced in large scale by a number of large chemical producers today, and used for hydrophobization of paper. The present article gives an overview of the surfactant chemistry, with focus on recent studies of the kinetics of activation of the surfactant precursor and breakdown kinetics of the labile surfactant at different conditions. Furthermore, possible industrial applications of the surfactant will be discussed, with one example taken from a recent feasibility study performed within the car washing area.