What’s the Difference Between Laundry Soap and Detergent?

Laundry soap vs detergent in the laundry, which one do you think would win? Most of the time, these two words are interchanged loosely. And while both soap and detergent can clean clothes, they have different components.

We are here to discuss the differences between soap and detergent. So you could pick which of the two would best suit your lifestyle.

Laundry Soap vs Laundry Detergent

Detergents are not soap. They do not contain the same ingredients. Yet, both of them are cleaners and can get rid of dirt on clothes in their way.

Soap has been around for thousands of years. A Sumerian tablet that dates way back to 2200 BC states a soap formula. It includes water, cassia oil, and alkali. 

The materials and processes used for the production of soap remained the same. It still uses boiled fats, oils, and alkali. However, in 1916, Germany discovered the first synthetic detergent. During the advent of World War I, there was a shortage of fat for soap-making. Synthetic detergent was made by combining non-soap cleaners and washing products.

Here are the main differences between laundry soap and laundry detergent:

CharacteristicsSoapDetergent
ComponentsBiodegradable and natural ingredientsUsually synthetic chemicals
FormLiquid or barLiquid, powder, pods,
Eco-FriendlyYesNo
HypoallergenicYesSome
ToxicityNoneContains toxic ingredients
PriceCan be expensiveCheap

Laundry Soap

Soap is more natural than detergent. To produce soap, all you need is oil, glycerin, animal fat, lye, and your choice of fragrance oil. Most of its ingredients are biodegradable. Thus it is an eco-friendly cleaner.

Laundry soaps are surfactants. Surfactants are molecules that attract water on one end (hydrophilic) and hold soil on the opposite side (hydrophobic). Thus it can clean clothes. Moreover, it can remove stains when used in small amounts. Although this may seem promising, its hydrophilic end is not strong. It means it cannot make the soil and soap mixture soluble enough. Thus it does not mix evenly with water. Soap scum then floats during laundry. Laundry soaps are fine to use when hand washing clothes. The water flowing from the sink can rinse soap scum. But, this is not the case for laundering clothing in washing machines. It is because the floating suds can redeposit on clothes during the rinse.

Laundry Detergent

The term detergent came from the word detergency. Detergency is the process of cleaning using surfactants. Laundry detergents contain synthetic sulfates. Thus it is not an environment-friendly cleaning option compared to soap. 

Recent technological advancements led to improvements in laundry detergents. Nowadays, detergents contain various chemical ingredients that aid in stain removal. Some of them are bleach and enzymes that target specific types of dirt and grime. Moreover, detergents contain fragrances, dyes, and brighteners.

Although it contains chemicals, laundry detergent is a laundry essential. Its molecules use surface tension to break apart and aid the detergent in its job. Since it’s also a surfactant, it also has hydrophilic and hydrophobic ends. Yet, it is more water-soluble. Detergent washes away all the dirt and grime down the drain. It leaves less residue on your clothing after wash. 

Laundry Soap or Laundry Detergent? Which One Should You Use?

If you have to wash more clothes in the washing machine, the laundry detergent takes the cake. It is best to use even with hard water. Its components do not respond with magnesium and calcium ions in hard water. Soap creates soap scum when its ions react to hard water. Scums stick around clothes even after rinsing. Laundry detergents can also target specific types of stains during the wash. It is due to the addition of other components. Moreover, detergent is cheap.

Using laundry soap is a good option when you are hand washing a few items. It can remove germs and dirt from fabrics. Besides, the running water from the sink and friction from rubbing the clothes can get rid of soap scum. Moreover, it is an environment-friendly option as well. This cleaner is natural and free of harmful chemicals. Thus it is safe for people with sensitive skin. 

In Conclusion

Laundry soap may not be the same as laundry detergent. But, both are efficient cleaners in their might. There are a variety of reasons to choose one from the other. It all depends on your lifestyle and preferences. So, do you see yourself as a soap user or a detergent buyer?

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About Margaret Croom

Peggy is a contributor and editor at Tidy Diary. She is a proud mother of three children who inspired her to level up her tidying skills. She enjoys her me time by lounging in her favorite nook with a lovely cup of tea. She also keeps a handy diary.