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Understanding How Soap, Shampoo & Detergent Are Different

Updated on February 18, 2019

Soap is a combination of plant oil or animal fat and caustic soda. Solid fats like palm oil, coconut oil, lard (rendered pork fat), or tallow (rendered beef fat), are used to create bars of soap. Oils such as soybean oil, canola oil, or olive oil make softer soaps. Any soap that is made primarily of olive oil is called castile soap, and it is known for being soft and mild.

Did you know most commercial soap is actually not a soap?. They are actually a detergent.

Difference Between Soap & Detergent

Soap is made from materials found in nature whereas detergent is synthetic (but some of their ingredients are natural). Since soap is natural, it is biodegradable and therefore less harmful to our environment when compared to detergents. However, you should not use soap to wash your clothes as the mineral in the water will react with soap causing your clothes become grayish.

Soaps are usually not as strong as detergents as they are designed to clean hands, skin, or face areas. Due to their chemical structure, detergents are stronger thus suitable for removing greasy or oily buildup on surfaces or clothes.

How Soap Clean Your Skin

Normally, water and oil do not mix and therefore they separate into two different layers. With soap, oil is broken up into smaller drops so that it can mix with the water. This can happen because soap consist of molecules with two different ends - one end of these molecules hate water (they are hydrophobic) whereas the other end love water (they are hydrophilic).

Hydrophilic ends will stick out into the water while hydrophobic ends will all attach to the oil, forming drops of oil that are suspended in the water. When we clean our hands, these drops of dirt and grease would be pulled off and washed away.

Laundry Detergent Is A Lot Like Shampoo

As you know that every day your worn clothes pick up dirt and sweat, detergent removes this dirt and grime just like shampoo do to your hair. This means using only fabric softener will prevent us from getting a heavy-duty clean, regardless of how good our clothes smell afterward.

Soap vs Shampoo

Soap was created long before shampoo. However, since soap can strip away our hair's natural protective oils, it is considered too strong for regular use on hair. Our hair need these oils so that it doesnt look limp and dull.

Proper hair care is complicated, this is because there are different types of hair with varying compositions, and therefore you can see so many types of shampoo at your local store. They are made with different purposes, such as oily hair, dry hair, color-treated hair, etc.

On the other hand, shampoo should only be used on your hair, this is because it is designed to perform in a quite different manner. Shampoo will leave some oil in our hairs, allowing them for a better look, texture, and feel. When you use shampoo on your skin, the result may be an excessively greasy, slimy feel.

Difference Between Shampoo & Conditioner

While shampoo cleans your hair (remove oil and dirt), conditioner helps beautify and protect your hair as it contains ingredients that are designed to control fly-always, increase the moisture content and improve manageability of your hair. Conditioner makes your hair softer and easier to comb. It also restores shine, body and pH balance to your hair.

And Fabric Softener is Like Conditioner

As just mentioned that conditioner helps soften, smooth, beautify and make our hair manageable, this is also what the fabric softeners do to your clothes - soften and freshen fabric. After the dirt and sweat is being removed by detergent, the softener is making sure it feels fresh.


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