The two cleaning agents soap and detergent might seem similar, but have separate set of usage. Although both are surfactants i.e. surface active agents or washing compounds, they are not the same. Knowing the difference between soap and detergent is important. It helps you understand the advantages of each one so you can make an informed choice for laundry.

Let’s begin.

1) Soaps

Soaps are made out of natural ingredients like acids from animal fat and plant oils. Soaps are prepared using the process of saponification of fats and oils. Some soaps are also prepared using superior oils like castor, palm, coconut and olive oils.

2) Detergent

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Detergents arrived after soaps. They are man-made cleaning agents. They have a strong cleaning effect on clothes and can clean different kinds of stains. The surface active agents in the detergent, when mixed in water, break up dirt particles and separate them from clothes.

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3) Compatibility with Water

Liquid detergent easily dissolves in hot as well as cold water. Detergents work well even in hard water or saline water without losing effectiveness. Liquid detergents especially dissolve completely in water, leaving no residue. Soap does not dissolve well in cold water which makes it difficult to use. Soaps also do not work effectively in hard or saline water.

4) Compatibility with Different Fabric Types

Certain garments such as silk, cotton, wool, and so on need gentle care while washing. A detergent is specially formulated to suit various fabric types. It helps to clean and wash them without causing any damage. There are multiple detergent variants available in the market to suit each fabric type. Delicate garments made from silk, wool and cotton require extra care and using a mild detergent can work wonders. We recommend Love and Care, which is available in the market. However, soap may contain ingredients which might not be suitable to wash certain types of fabrics. It could also spoil the look and feel of your garment. Thus, detergent becomes a wise choice.

5) Treating Stains

If you want to treat stains, but do not have a stain removing product, you can use detergent as an alternative. Detergents have the capability to spot treat stains. The formula of a detergent is designed to loosen the components that hold stains together and clean your garments. They can help clean stains of coffee tea, gravy, juices and much more. When the stained part of any garment is coated with these surfactants, the dirt does not get back onto the fabric while rinsing or cleaning. On the other hand, soap is not effective when it comes to spot treating stains.

6) Best Option for Laundry

Soap is designed to clean the skin. It does not work as strong as detergents when it comes to laundry. Whereas, detergents are specially designed to wash the clothes. There are 2 types of detergents – powder detergent and liquid detergent. Powder detergent works best when you want to wash your clothes by hand, whereas a liquid detergent is used to wash clothes in a washing machine. If you prefer to wash your clothes in a washing machine, you can use Surf Excel Matic Liquid, which is specially formulated for washing machines and is easily available in the market. If you are using a top load washing machine, you can use Surf Excel Matic Liquid Top Load, and if you are using a front load washing machine, you can try Surf Excel Matic Liquid Front Load. These detergents are specially formulated for their respective types of washing machines. They leave no residue (like powders do) as being in a liquid form, they dissolve completely in water. If you prefer washing your clothes by hand, you can try Surf Excel Easy Wash Powder as it is easily available in the market. Check the instructions on the product to understand correct usage. Test the product on a small inconspicuous area first to check the compatibility.

Use this guide to understand the major difference between soap and detergent and make an informed choice. It is only when you choose the right cleaning agent, will your clothes come out fresh and clean.

Before determining whether to hand-wash or machine-wash your garments, always check the wash care label to understand whether the garment can be washed at home.