rot
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Unclear on the concept

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I still haven't seen a clear explanation of the difference between soap and detergent. Is it just a word origin thing? Latin or Greek vs Anglo Saxon?

My sense is that soap just effects a surfactant facilitating the mechanical process process of washing while a detergent effects a chemical action of some sort.

Most soaps are alkaline and that seems to be anti-bacterial enough for me. In light of recent ideas that our bodies are really complex ecosystems of microbial life interacting with our own cells, I don't think I want to utterly destroy those ecosystems.

I've been halving the dose on detergents as a general rule for a long time now. I really like to make sure I get all the soap out my clothes after washing them.

to sense
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rainbowgardener
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Soap is natural/organic; basically created from the reaction of an alkaline like lye and the acid in oils or fats. Detergent is synthetic, petroleum based.
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toxcrusadr
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I agree with rainbow's definition. I can add a bit more detail below if you're interested. There is really no fundamental difference in the action of soaps and detergents.

Fats are long carbon chains with a carboxylic acid functional group on one end (COOH). In the naturally occurring acid form they are called fatty acids. The bottle of vegetable oil in your kitchen is just that. When mixed with lye, a base, i.e. saponification, you get a sodium salt of the fatty acid. That's soap. It's only alkaline if there is a bit more lye in it than fat so all the lye is not used up and some ends up in the final product.

The carbon chain end of the molecule dissolves oil and grease, and the salt end dissolves in water, which is how soap does its thing dissolving oils.

Synthetic detergents work exactly the same way, but chemists are able to combine all kinds of different building blocks for the two ends of the molecule to create products that you can't make from saponifying vegetable or animal fats. The carbon end can be a benzene ring, or the fatty acid end can be an ester instead of an acid (nonylphenol ethoxylate is a popular one that shows up in many products), or a sulfate instead of a carboxylate (sodium lauryl sulfate is in everything!). Branched chains can be used. Or you can attach fatty acids to a central nitrogen atom instead of carboxylic acid, to make an ammonium surfactant.

Some of these are not as biodegradable as natural soaps because they are not naturally occurring and microbes do not have efficient enzyme systems to chew them up. That's the reason why some of them come through the sewage plants. If they also happen to have toxic effects on aquatic life, trouble ensues.
Tox

rot
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pot ay toe po tah toe?

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Well it would seam that soap is Old English or Old High German in origin while detergent is Latin. Saponification origins seem a little murky.

"Synthetic detergents work exactly the same way" That begs the question of why a different word. Latin sells while Old English or Anglo Saxon has street cred like Defecation v EDITED - PLEASE REPORT THIS POST.

I notice it seemed necessary while talking about detergents that the word 'synthetic' needed to be included. Synthetic coupled with the Latin origins connotes a certain falsehood in my mind. I can't help but feel there's some kind of unsavory agenda behind detergents. Throw in the problem with breaking detergents down in nature and the word detergent strikes me as undesirable. Something to be avoided.

Not that I'm a Luddite or something but, I've long mistrusted the diction of Latin v Anglo Saxon. Some of us eat food while others have cuisine and so on.

"The carbon end can be a benzene ring" Benzene? That's what's in my lighter? Right?

Thanks. I guess I'll go and soap up some dishes with detergent and wipe them off with water.

to sense
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rot
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A bunch of what?

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"Defecation v EDITED."

That's a sore point with me but why waste my key strokes.

to sense
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toxcrusadr
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I don’t know much about the history of synthetic surfactants, but I suspect, as with so many other things the chemical industry invented in the last 100 years, that there were technical reasons as well as market forces.

On the technical side, natural soaps do not perform as well in hard water (soap scum!) and some of the synthetics are better at that. There are many specialty applications like gasoline additives to keep your engine clean, that are made possible with ‘designer’ molecules. Some synthetics make less foam, making the dishwasher and washing machine possible.

I doubt there was some hidden agenda other than making new products to do more things in order to make lots of money. But, as with pesticides and a host of other products, mankind had the ability to invent and produce them long before we had an understanding of subtle environmental effects.

Your lighter is likely full of butane, which is rather harmless. Benzene, a carcinogen, is one of the major toxic components of gasoline, so you’re driving around with a tank of it every time you turn the key. Don’t inhale when you fill up. However, the benzene ring occurs as a building block in a huge number of molecules, including some of the amino acids in proteins. Molecules are harmful or not, but their basic building blocks do not determine which.
Tox

rot
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Just give the people what they want.

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Thanks for the explanations.

The chemical industry gave us what we wanted, more effective cleaners at a cheaper price. It seems like we moderns don't have a grasp of what the ancients try to tell us in their stories like Prometheus, Icarus and Pandora's Box that new ideas and new technologies are double edged swords. Yes great things come with all these new fangled things but also hidden costs.

I'd like to recycle some of my gray water out of the washer in my compost bins so I'm trying out some new detergents and even a couple of 'green' fabric softeners. Those synthetic scents they add though always give me pause and I really do wonder what some mean by 'organic'. That word seems to get chucked about with very little definition attached to it. That and every time I hear the work 'organic' I imagine my old high school chemistry teacher glaring down at me.

to scents
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Just give the people what they want.

rot wrote:..
Thanks for the explanations.

The chemical industry gave us what we wanted, more effective cleaners at a cheaper price. It seems like we moderns don't have a grasp of what the ancients try to tell us in their stories like Prometheus, Icarus and Pandora's Box that new ideas and new technologies are double edged swords. Yes great things come with all these new fangled things but also hidden costs.

I'd like to recycle some of my gray water out of the washer in my compost bins so I'm trying out some new detergents and even a couple of 'green' fabric softeners. Those synthetic scents they add though always give me pause and I really do wonder what some mean by 'organic'. That word seems to get chucked about with very little definition attached to it. That and every time I hear the work 'organic' I imagine my old high school chemistry teacher glaring down at me.

to scents
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Yes indeed! Love the mythology analogies!

I've been thinking about gray water too, though I haven't done anything about it. Wouldn't it be easier to recycle water from your kitchen sink? Would be less likely to have any chemicals in it.

What I have wondered about is storage. I guess that's why you said putting the water in the compost pile. But even a compost pile could get too wet. It seems like gray water comes in bunches, none and then a lot. That's another reason why I was thinking about the kitchen sink, it gets used every day but in smaller quantities, not a zillion gallons at once.

If you were saving gray water, wouldn't you need a cistern for storage and a pump to get it back out of the cistern? All of a sudden you are talking about big bucks. What I would be hoping for would be some kind of more passive system where you could just let it drain out into a well drained area of the garden or into a rain garden area.

I was thinking your kitchen sink could have a valve/diverter kind of thing so if there had been too much rain lately you could just let the water go into the sewage system as usual, but in drought you could send it to the garden.

We should make a separate thread for this, I'm really interested!!
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rot
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Shades of Gray

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I'm only passively interested in gray water at the moment. Currently I'm renting a small place with a small washer that empties into a utility sink. I'm not interested in any kind of elaborate plumbing installation in my current situation. I just figured that with some long hose and a hose clamp that I could start running the water out of the washer into a barrel outside starting in spring. Maybe 10 ft of hose will get it out the door and to a low barrel and the ground outside is lower than the threshold of the door. As long as I'm not narrowing down the hose, I figure I won't put too much extra work on the pump inside the washer. Come winter, when the rains come anyway, I could just roll up the hose for the season.

The last place I was at, I had an unused sump pump for some reason and I figured I could drain the large washer there into a trash barrel and with the sump pump, pump the water out somewhere. I couldn't seem to figure out a way of running a line outside without someone getting upset and for a long time I had this barrel with a sump pump in it sitting next to the washer. All pumped up and no where to go.

Since most washers just drain from a hose hooked up to a drain somewhere, it seems simplest to divert that in some fashion instead of hiring a plumber or something installing valves and extra drain pipe and so on.

I would think the permaculture folks would have some gray water ideas starting with collecting rain water. I haven't rooted around too much myself on the subject. I've heard of people draining their gray water into a pond maybe letting it drain through a sand filter first and things like that. The LA Times had a feature article once on some incredibly expensive house on a hillside with a living roof and bamboo floors and they were collecting their rain water into an underground cistern and letting it drain down the hillside through a drip irrigation system.

The other thing you have to look out for with gray water is there are a lot of restrictions at the state and municipal level. They don't want that stuff pooling up on the surface. Some places are starting to ease up on those restrictions but you'd better do your homework.

You might want to look into collecting rainwater off the roof and see what kind of hoops and hurdles you need to jump through to get that to work and then pursue gray water.

Do your homework and good luck.

to sense
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rainbowgardener
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I have two 75 gallon rain barrels collecting roof water. I just hate how much water is wasted. And in the drought years we've been having lately (global warming), the rain barrels may sit empty for a month or more. Kitchen sink is always putting water down the drain, if I could "harvest" that, there would always be a supply.

A diverter seems like actually fairly simple plumbing. Since my house is on top of a hill, the kitchen sink is well above grade to everything else. Since no bad chemicals go down my kitchen sink, I might just not worry about codes and let them try to catch me. :)

The biggest question would be how to get the water from the diverter outside the house and to somewhere where it would be useful. How do I find an "eco-plumber" who might have an interest in a project like this?
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DoubleDogFarm
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I might just not worry about codes and let them try to catch me.

The biggest question would be how to get the water from the diverter outside the house and to somewhere where it would be useful. How do I find an "eco-plumber" who might have an interest in a project like this?
That's my girl. To hell with Tyranny!

There are many talented and hungry people. Maybe start at a nursery that have younger owners that are into alternative designs. Here, the Bullock brothers are just one Island over.

Can you access the plumbing in the basement?

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TheWaterbug
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Re: There once was a girl from Nantucket

rot wrote:..
Well I like the limerick potential - Nantucket, bucket and so on.
While gardening deep in Nantucket
I came 'cross some sludge in a bucket.
"Is it safe?" I conjectured.
"Has it been manufectured?"
"If it has," I thought, "then I'll just . . . chuck it." :D
Sunset 23/USDA 11a, Elev. 783', Frost free since 8,000 BC. Plagued by squirrels, gophers, and peafowl, but coming to terms with it!

rot
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Re: There once was a girl from Nantucket

TheWaterbug wrote:
While gardening deep in Nantucket
I came 'cross some sludge in a bucket.
"Is it safe?" I conjectured.
"Has it been manufectured?"
"If it has," I thought, "then I'll just . . . chuck it." :D
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Love it
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toxcrusadr
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This Old House Hour visits people who write in asking for help with household projects. They did a show that I saw a few months ago where they visited a lady in LA or San Fran who wanted to run her washing machine out into the garden. It's perfectly legal (with appropriate restrictions, I assume) in whatever town that was.

They put in a valve so she could switch between the graywater line and the sewer, so bleached loads etc. could be directed to the sewer. Then ran a pipe through the back wall and hooked it into a system of buried flexible plastic pipe (like drip irrigation piping) with outlets along the way, buried in the flower beds and amongst the bushes.

They did recommend that she use biodegradable detergents so as not to have a buildup of detergent in the soil.

Very simple in a place where it's legal and doesn't freeze up in winter. :D

The problem with storing in a cistern or tank is that it will get funky very fast! Think dirty sock funk, incubated in a nutrient soup. :shock:

I'm sure there's a lot of stuff on the web about this. I'd like to do some of it myself.
Tox

toxcrusadr
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Here it is, Ask This Old House episode 1017 from Jan 2012.

https://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/tv/ask- ... 23,00.html

You can click ahead to Scene 3 for the project.
Tox

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