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Simple Science: The Difference Between Soap and Detergent
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Simple Science: The Difference Between Soap and Detergent
American consumers often use the words “soap” and “detergent” interchangeably, but in reality there are significant differences between these two types of cleaners.
A Brief History
The earliest evidence of soap can be traced back to 2800 B.C., where historians believe it was used by the ancient Babylonians. Soap making is mentioned in ancient Roman documents written as early as 70 A.D.
Fast forward to Medieval Europe where soap making is an established craft with centers in France, Spain and Italy. During that time the use of soap was a luxury enjoyed mainly by those who could afford it. Manufactured bar soaps weren’t available until the late 18th century in Europe and the U.S. Widespread use of soap during this period can be attributed to advertising campaigns touting the relationship between good personal hygiene and health.
Detergents entered the picture about 1916 when World War 1 soap ingredient shortages encouraged manufacturers to develop synthetic cleaners to meet demand. By the 1950s detergents had overtaken traditional soap products in homes across America. Today, detergents are used for laundering, dishwashing and many other types of cleaning.
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