Soap and detergent are common products used when washing clothes, cleaning the house or bathing. Soap has been around for centuries, while detergents have gained widespread use in the United States since the end of World War II. Soap is typically made from natural materials and is used in personal hygiene, while detergents consist of synthetic chemicals and tend to provide more cleaning power. Detergents offer a number of advantages over most types of soap.
Detergent cleans more effectively in hard water than soap. Hard water contains calcium and magnesium ions that limit soap's cleaning capabilities. When combined with soap, hard water develops a type of film that leaves a deposit on clothes or skin that does not easily rinse away. Over time, this can lead to the deterioration of the fabric and eventually ruin the clothes. On the other hand, detergents are made with chemicals that are not affected by hard water.
Detergent consumes fewer natural resources in the manufacturing process than soap. Detergents are primarily made from synthetic materials while soap is comprised of vegetable oils and fatty acids. In a time where environmental concerns are high and vegetable oil is needed to manufacture biodiesel fuel, this can make detergent the environmentally friendly alternative.
Results and Cost
Because detergents are made with chemicals, they can be tailored for specific cleaning purposes. For example, some laundry detergents are made with bleach so that they are effective at cleaning white clothing. Others contain additives that make them safe for cleaning colors or certain fabrics. Detergent is also typically less expensive to manufacture than soap.
Retaining Cleaning Power
Detergent maintains its cleaning power better than soap over a long period of time. For household managers who are looking to economize, this means they can purchase the larger size of detergent at a lower unit cost and not have to worry that its cleaning ability will subside while in storage.
Chris Joseph writes for websites and online publications, covering business and technology. He holds a Bachelor of Science in marketing from York College of Pennsylvania.