What is Soap?

Soap is made through a chemical reaction that occurs when you mix an acid (fats/ oils) with an alkali base (usually sodium hydroxide).

The base must be composed of one hydroxide ion. Sodium hydroxide, (commonly called lye), is typically used in cold process soap making. However, many soapers use  potassium hydroxide to create their liquid soaps.

The acid can be any combination of fats and oils. This can include fat rendered from animals (tallow), but it doesn’t have to. There are dozens of various plant based oils available that make beautiful soaps, including coconut, olive, and palm oils and even some exotic oils such as avocado, jojoba, babassu and apricot kernel.

Each oil contains a unique set of triglycerides. Triglycerides are made up of 3 fatty acids and a glycerol molecule. When you combine the oil with the base, the glycerol molecule is released creating skin moisturizing glycerin. The remaining fatty acids combine with the hydroxide ions in the base creating soap!

So, now you know what soap is... but how does it clean? Well, basically,  water is a polar molecule. Oils, grease, grime, and the other nasty stuff we want to wash away are non polar. All this means is that water and oil don't mix. So, if you want to wash away all that greasy grime, you need to find a way to attach the oil to the water molecules so that the water can transport it off your body and down the drain. This is where soap comes in! Soap molecules are chains with two distinct ends. One end is highly polar the other end is not. The non polar end attaches to the oils while the polar end attaches to the water creating a bond that allows the oils to be rinsed away with water. Voila!

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