General Question

tinyfaery's avatar

Is there a difference between soap and detergent?

Asked by tinyfaery (36774 points ) March 23rd, 2010

My wife bought me a beautiful enamel and white gold ring for my b-day. The ring came with an insert saying not to wear with other jewelry and to not expose it to detergent. Well, I wash my hands (with soap) a lot and I have been taking my ring off when I do, but is it necessary? I have a habit of losing things and I do not want to forget my ring in some random bathroom because I took it off when I washed my hands.

Is there a difference between soap and detergent? Is it okay to wash my hands with my ring on?

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13 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

Soap is made of lye, fat and ash. It is a detergent. There are other detergents made of different materials, some synthetic. To be safe, since you never know what the “soap” consists of in any given bathroom, I would slip the ring off.

anartist's avatar

Yes. Soaps don’t have emulsifiers.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

Do you use liquid chemical-like soap or natural hard bar soap without any of the crap?

tinyfaery's avatar

At home I use liquid and I use whatever is there at other places.

What is it about the detergent that could ruin the enamel on my ring?

dpworkin's avatar

I’ve actually never heard that warning before: one uses detergent on glass all the time, but in my first answer I assumed that the manufacturer knew of a problem (perhaps there is a cement that is soluble in certain detergents) which is why I suggested that for safety’s sake you might want to take it off before washing your hands, or the dishes.

Buttonstc's avatar

With all of the additional crap they’re constantle coming up with mostly for marketing purposes, the only soap that really fits the definition accurately is Ivory which always proudly proclaimed that it is 99 and 44/100th percent pure.

I don’t even lnow whether they still use that claim even.
In my mind, the primary difference between the two is that detergents contain ingredients called “surfactants” which are evidently harmful to the environment as they throw off the natural balance in waterways.

Someone more knowledgeable in Chemistry than I will perhaps chime in with how that might affect jewelry.

Is it possible to contact the manufacturerer of the ring or consult with a jeweler as to the precise reason for the warning?

dpworkin's avatar

A surfactant is just a chemical device to lower the surface tension of a fluid. It has a pole (head) that is attracted to water (hydrophilic), and a pole (tail) that is repelled by water (hydrophoblc). It makes the water flow better under the grease, to help you get your dishes, hands, etc. cleaner.

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

Soap is made with rendered fat, tallow if you will, along with lye and ash as dp said. However, it is not a detergent. Detergents are generally synthetics not made with fats or oils of any sort.

thriftymaid's avatar

Two completely different things. Easy to google.

laureth's avatar

There are other pure soaps out there besides Ivory. Any kind of castille soap (like Dr. Bronners or Kirk’s) would be fine.

About.com has a pretty good article explaining the difference between the two.

I make soap for fun.

anartist's avatar

A surfactant creates its dispersion between two substances normally immiscible and is a subcategory of emulsifier. Whichever word you use it can have a destabilizing effect on liquids but that does not not necessarily imply any effect on solids like a ring.

tinyfaery's avatar

Well, I see I did not ask the right question.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

Most liquid soaps are detergent-like, in my understanding. So I would invent in some all natural soap – Trader Joes or a “health” section at any supermarket should have suitible choices.

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