Though soap is a type of detergent, there are some differences between soap and present day soapless detergents:
1. The Chief constituent of soaps are fats or oils and alkalies. But the chief constituent of detergent is an inexhaustible material known as hydrocarbons or petrochemicals.
2. Soap preparation is expensive and the production process is different and a lengthy process. But production or manufacturing process of detergent is simple and cheap.
3. Soap is difficult to handle whereas detergents are easy to handle, as they are available in powdery or liquid form.
4. The method of washing clothes is a difficult and time taking process by the use of soap. Hard washing is required as it is used by rubbing and scrubbing method for cleaning of fabrics. In detergent solution, it is easy to clean the cloth only by little rinsing. Less time and energy are required for cleaning by detergents.
5. There is every chance of withdrawing colour from the coloured clothes by the use of soap because of the presence of caustic soda. But detergents can preserve the colour of the fabric.
6. Soap cannot be used safely in hard water. Sufficient lather cannot be produced and there is a great loss of soap when used in hard water. Washing process may not be perfect in this case. But detergents’ can be safely used in both hard and soft water. Sufficient foam or lather can be formed as detergents are not affected by the hardness of water and the washing process is becoming perfect.
7. After washing with soap we have to use further processes like blueing and bleaching. But while using detergents, blueing agents may not be used at the time of rinsing cloth, because of the presence of optical white (Blue) and bleaches. So it can save the time of the housewife.
8. Expensive silk and woolen garments cannot be washed in soap because the fibers may be destroyed by friction or the presence of strong alkali like caustic soda in soap. But some liquid detergents with no free alkali can be safely used for washing of expensive fabrics.