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The enzymes found in laundry detergent are identical to those found in saliva. Borax is a ph buffer used to prevent the enzymes from being neutralized.

The human body creates a detergent in the liver, a bile acid that aids digestion and absorption of fats and oils.

Detergents are used in toothpaste, antiseptics, petroleum recovery and lubricants.

The typical "hard soap" manufacturing process skims off the glycerin as a by- product; whereas "soft soap" manufacture retains the valuable glycerins to make a transparent soap.

Laundry detergents may contain bleach, enzymes, corrosion inhibitors, dye transfer inhibitors, anti-redepositation agents, softeners, colorants and fragrances.

Detergents can etch glass, and it's not recommended as a glass cleaner.

Rose Hart's


After spending a warm, sunny spring afternoon sanding and painting the hull of the boat, my hands were black. Completely black. Nothing would release the stuff from the deep cracks and small ridges of my hands- and I seriously considered camouflaging the black under my nails with a Goth look of black nail polish. Frustrated after running through my complete inventory of brushes, cleansers and chemicals, it brought me to wonder, "What is soap?"

Soaps are produced from natural oil and fat products. Detergents are petrochemical concoctions.

The ancient Egyptians recorded a simple process of mixing animal fat and ash, or alkali, to make soap. The word alkali comes from the Arabic "al- qili," meaning "ashes". The caustic soda leached from ash burns the skin, and it's theorized that the Egyptians added oils as softeners. In the ruins of Pompeii a soap factory was unearthed; and the Roman legions found Germanic tribes using a soap made of tallow and ashes on their hair. When the Barbarian hordes toppled the Roman Empire, so went the use of soap. Gradually, it reappears in early 700's Italy and over the next 500 years slowly makes its way across Europe. During the Renaissance, refined European soapmaking used vegetable oils rather than animal fat, an example of this is Castile soap made from olive oil. The Industrial Revolution of the 1700's mechanized soap manufacture, which made it affordable to almost everyone. The exception being England, which taxed soap so heavily that it remained a luxury until 1853, when the discovery of microbes made clear the relationship between personal hygiene and public health.

Before 1930, clothes and linens typically were washed with soap that had extra lye added to break down grease. The evolution of detergents came about for several reasons; one being because of the way soap acts in hard-water. Soap lowers the surface tension of water, breaks down grease into droplets, and suspends dirt in the foam- and then water washes it all away. The minerals in hard water inhibit the formation of the grease- carrying foam, leaving brownish scum spots on fabrics.

You can help the environment, and have a healthier home by selecting a detergent brand that's fragrance free, free of optical brighteners, and low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emission, and carries the EPA's Design for the Environment label.

In the 1930's, synthetic soaps called detergents were developed, and these became commercially available in the 1950's. Early detergents contained the chemical ABS (alkyl benzene sulfonate), that did not break down in wastewater treatment and resulted in foamy lakes and rivers across the country. In the '60's and 70's laundry detergents containing up to 17% phosphorus contributed to algae blooms in thousands of waterways, creating aquatic dead zones. Outcry from the popular environmental movement failed to bring any coherent Federal regulation, and in 1985 Minnesota joined several other states and banned the sale of laundry detergents containing phosphates. Since July 1, 2010, the sale of dishwasher detergents containing phosphates has also been banned in Minnesota.

It's all very interesting and answered my question why neither soap nor detergent would remove the paint from my hands. Next year, I'll wear gloves to paint the boat...

References used for this article:
Columbia Encyclopedia, Fifth ed.

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