Soap or Detergent?
Many people are now opting for soap instead of detergent when laundering their clothes. But what's the difference?
Actually, using soap goes as far back as the ancient Babylonians, around 2800 B.C. Mixing water, alkali, and cassia oil -- voila -- they created soap, and the world has been cleaner for it ever since.
Soaps and detergents are both surfactants. This means that through a process scientific types call "breaking the surface," surfactants lower the surface tension of water, which helps water soak in and spread around. Soaps are made of materials found in nature, like ash and alkali, while detergents are usually made of synthetic materials, including the phosphates and petroleum-based ingredients we've already mentioned. While soaps go way back to the Babylonians, detergents more or less came into vogue during the post-World War II economic boom.
If soap can clean your clothes and is made of "natural" ingredients, is there any green reason not to use it to wash your clothes? Perhaps. Soaps are more difficult to rinse out of fabric, especially in homes that have hard water, whereas clothes washed with detergents are less prone to this problem. Some people also point out that soap in its standard form deteriorates on the closet shelf, while today's detergents are packaged differently and will not deteriorate. Think hard about your laundry needs -- can soap do the trick for you?