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Photo: DUO Studio (Shutterstock) Recently, I wrote about some of the lesser-known cleaning applications of dishwasher tablets around the house. In the comments, someone asked, “What’s the difference between dissolving the pods in warm water and using that to clean instead of…you know, soapy water?” It’s a valid question. What is the difference between standard-issue dish soap that you use to hand-wash plates and the liquid or powder that goes in the detergent compartment of your dishwasher? And is any of it interchangeable with laundry detergent? (Quick answer: No. Read on to find out why.) How dish soap and detergents are the same Essentially all detergents are designed to break up oils so they can be washed away—and they do contain similarities. Across the board, all three typically contain surfactants to reduce surface tension, allowing water to spread out and wet the entire surface you’re trying to clean; enzymes to break down food, stains, and dirt; builders to keep hard water minerals at bay; colors and fragrances to give the product its distinctive look and smell; and preservatives to enhance their shelf life. (Additionally, solvents keep liquid soaps from separating and some dish soaps and detergents contain antibacterial and disinfecting ingredients .) How liquid dish soap and dishwasher detergent are different But there are key differences in the ingredients of dish soap, dishwasher detergent, and laundry liquid that make each one best suited for its particular environment. According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison , “The main differences are in […]