Soap vs. Detergents

Difference Between Soap and Detergents

Can you imagine your life without soaps and detergents today? Our shower is incomplete without soaps and cleaning is not possible without detergents. Have you ever thought about the differences between these two elements?

Let us begin with similarities between them. Both these cleaning agents are surface active and have similar chemical properties. They work by reducing surface tension of water and this reduces the attraction between two water molecules.

Now let us list down the differences between them:

  • Soaps are usually made from oils and fats obtained from animals and plants while detergents are made from various synthetic elements.

For making soaps the oils and fats are reduced to glycerin and fatty acids and then added with sodium or potassium salts. You would find the use of sodium salts in soap bars because they are little harder while potassium salts which are softer are used in making shaving creams and liquid soaps.

Detergents are made by using propylene, a byproduct obtained during refining of petroleum products. Along with hydrogen Sulphate this propylene makes a compound and then sodium hydroxide is added to it. This gives you a similar product like soap. As they are made from all synthetic materials they are harder on skin.

  • Soaps are safe and gentle on skin while detergents are good for cleaning tougher stains on clothes because of their hardness.
  • Soaps are eco-friendly and they do not pollute natural water resources and land and bio-degradable unlike detergents.
  • Soaps do not create as much lather as detergents do.


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