Natural Soap vs Detergent

by Bella Martinez May 29, 2018

Natural Soap vs Detergent

If you’ve been keeping up on Edens Garden’s blog, you know a lot about soap by now, but what about soap’s competitor? Surfactant based washes are widespread, and you may be using them without knowing it. If your body wash, liquid cleanser or detergent contains ingredients like sodium laureth sulfate, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium cocoyl isethionate, coco glucose or ingredients that look similar, it’s time to learn about what you’re putting on your body. 


Soap is the result of combining water, alkali and oil. This combination produces triglycerides which have a water-loving (hydrophilic) end and an oil-loving (lipophilic) end. The lipophilic end picks up dirt, oil and grime, while the hydrophilic end pulls the grime away when rinsed in water. Soaps are often made with natural ingredients, such as vegetable-derived oils and lye which is made from salt. If the soap is made by cold-process, it can take 4-6 weeks to completely cure before it’s ready to use. Natural soapmaking is an ancient practice that has been around for thousands of years, and is still cherished to this day.

Detergents (surfactants)

Surfactants were first introduced during World War I, but didn’t become popular until decades later. Today, surfactant based cleansers are one of the leading washes on the market. Surfactants (short for surface active agents) reduce the surface tension of water, making water more spreadable and loosening grime such as on dishes. Like the triglycerides found in soap, surfactants have both a hydrophilic and lipophilic end, making it possible to effectively wash. Unlike natural soap, surfactants are almost always synthetically made with either naturally derived ingredients or other synthetic ingredients. An example being sodium methyl cocoyl taurate which is derived from coconuts versus sodium lauryl sulfate, which is made from harmful chemicals. Washes made using surfactants are not to be marketed as soaps because according to the FDA, soaps must primarily contain “alkali salts of fatty acids.” Washes made with surfactants are also unlike natural soaps, in that they take much less time to prepare and use.

Detergent, or surfactant based washes come in many varieties. From body washes and other liquid cleansers, to laundry and dishwasher detergents, surfactants have become widespread due to their ease of use and quick production time.

Which do you prefer: natural soaps or surfactants? Let us know in the comment section below!

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