Detergents Are Not Soap

February 8, 2017 |

Detergents are often confused with real soaps or ingredients which have been saponified to form soap. Most people believe that the products they purchase at the store, whether it be in powder, liquid or bar form, is soap. More often than not, the product is not soap, but rather detergent. So what is the difference?

Why there is a difference

The main difference between soap and detergents are the ingredients. Soap is derived from natural ingredients, while detergents are derived from synthetic ones. Soap production came into existence around 2800 B.C.  Legend has it, that it was discovered accidentally by women washing their clothes at the base of a mountain, called Mount Sappo in ancient Rome. The combination of fat and ashes derived from wood, produced a foamy lather that enabled the women to wash their clothes more effectively. Whether the legend is true or not, it was a wonderful discovery.  Soap not only helps us to keep our clothes and environment clean, but for personal hygiene that aids in warding off opportunistic bacteria that attempts to invade our bodies constantly. It's a fact that a lot of illness and diseases are preventable by simply maintaining proper hygiene and washing our hands.

How soaps have evolved

Due to a shortage of fats supplies for soap-making, it created a need for alternative sources, thus giving birth to surfactants and a combination of other chemicals which are combined as a more robust cleaning agent. Due to the intensity of the product, detergents are mainly used for laundry and to clean other hard surfaces. Commercial soaps today are a combination of the original soap formula and detergents. Detergents in some cases will work better than soap because unlike soap, it doesn't react with mineral salts inherent in water (hard water), which is the culprit behind soap film. Additionally, it reduces surface water tension, making it easier to lift dirt and oil from surfaces and will not leave a film and spots behind once the surface has dried.