Is there a difference between soap and detergent? Both clean what they are supposed to clean. The two have a different chemistry and functionality.
A soap is the metal salt of a fatty acid. The metal may be an alkali metal such sodium (Na) or potassium (K). It can also be an alkaline earth metal, such as calcium (Ca) or magnesium (Mg). A fatty acid is an organic compound most often of animal or plant origin. A fatty acid contains an aliphatic carbon skeleton (a chain with or without branches) and a carboxylic acid group (COOH) at its end.
Detergents bear some similarity, but are often of synthetic origin. They are not usually made insoluble by mineralized or so-called hard water. Instead of a carboxylic acid group, the detergent contains a more highly ionic group, such as a sulfate or sulfonate group (OS(O)₂-OH).
In addition, detergents may contain one or more aromatic ring. Detergents possess added properties. They may be employed as surfactants and foaming agents.
Example Difference Between Soap and Detergent
An example of a soap is potassium palmitate: CH₃(CH₂)₁₄-COO⁻ K⁺
An example of a detergent is sodium lauryl sulfate: CH₃(CH₂)₁₂-OS(O)₂-O⁻ Na⁺