Some applications require conditions that require a very strong alkali. The majority of commercially available surfactants are susceptible to caustic, especially as the concentration increases. As the caustic concentration increases then a surfactant can quickly lose its surface activity.
For formulations such as hard surface cleaners for stubborn stains then alkali levels at low to medium levels can be formulated with the use of a hydrotrope. For these formulations, normal surfactants can be used but the formulation will require a hydrotrope to ensure the detergent remains stable.
More details can be found on the blog: Alkali Cleaners and the use of Hydrotropes
However for extremely high caustic levels and in high temperature conditions then Lanphos TEP4K can be used. Under normal condition this product isn't surface active but as soon as the alkali level is increased when the product become surface active.
The following highlights this: An highly alkaline KOH formulation is prepared and the surface tension (a measure of surface activity) is measured as the temperature is increased.
Potassium Hydroxide 672
The surface tension reduces as the temperature increases.