What is the difference between the soap and the detergent ? - Future Study Point

What is the difference between the soap and the detergent ?

Soap and detergent

The difference between the soap and the detergent

The soaps are sodium or potassium salts of the long-chain molecules of carboxylic acids and detergents are sulphonic salts of long-chain molecules of carboxylic acids before we understand what is soap and detergent in detail we required to get the knowledge of what is saponification because it is the process used in manufacturing soap.

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Saponification is the reaction between ester and sodium or potassium hydroxide producing alcohol and subsequent reaction of sodium or potassium salts of carboxylic acid which is known as soap. This process is completed in two steps.

Soap and detergent


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We need to understand the process of saponification before we study soap and detergent. The process of esterification is also involved in saponification.

1-Formation of the ester 

The reaction of alkanol(alcohol) and alkanoic acid(carboxylic acid) producing ester is known as esterification, the example is shown below.


Ethanol + Ethanoic acid → Ester + water

2-Formation of alcohol:

The ester so formed in the above reaction is treated with strong base NaOH or KOH produces alcohol and sodium or potassium salt of carboxylic acid.

Ester + Sodium hydroxide → Ethyl alcohol + Sodium salt of carboxylic acid

If this reaction occurs in the case when the long chain of alcohol( fatty alcohol) and the carboxylic acid is involved then the soap is produced which is used by us. Soap is two kinds one is derived from sodium hydroxide known as harder soap and the other is derived from potassium hydroxide is known as softer soap. Generally, the formulas of soap are the following. In nature, the long-chain carboxylic acids(fatty acids) and long-chain of alcohol(glycerol) are found linked to each other in the vegetable oil or animal fat, it is that’s why soap is produced from both of these things.

Formula of  Soap


The requirements of detergent is needed because soap does not work in hard water, the hardness of the water is caused by calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese. These metals react with the soap forming a scum(soap film) which separates the connection between dirt and water thus the dirt remains in its place, so other products called detergent are used to overcome this problem.

detergent and soap


Detergents are ammonium or sulphonic salt of the long chain of carboxylic acids which doesn’t make scum in the cleansing action of cloth since it doesn’t react with calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese available in the hard water. The detergents are more soluble in water as compared with soap, soaps are completely biodegradable while some of the detergents are non-biodegradable.

The formula of detergent 

Name: Dodecylbenzene sulphonate

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