In blog/ soap making

How Soap Cleans

how soap cleans

Here’s a not too scientific explanation of how soap cleans…

Soap is actually made from fat…could be animal based (like tallow or lard) or all vegetable based (like from coconut oil, olive oil, etc…) or could be a combination of both. Our soaps are 100% vegetable without any palm oil (in case you’re wondering why no palm – here’s why).  These fats are mixed with either sodium hydroxide (for solid soaps) or potassium hydroxide (for liquid soaps) which breaks apart the fatty acids and turns them into a salt (or alkali).  That chemical reaction is called “saponification.”  The original oils are no longer oils and the hydroxides are no longer hydroxides – they are indeed a new matter called soap.

We all know water and oil don’t mix. Oil and grease are “insoluble” in water.  So, try as you might to wash without soap…dirty oils aren’t going anywhere with water alone. Soap works to emulsify oils, allowing them to become “soluble” in water and thus to be washed and rinsed away.

So how does soap work it’s magic to emulsify? For this, we have to think about soap at the molecular level. You all remember molecules right…well, it’s a combination of atoms. Soap is a chain of atoms with very different ends. One end of the atom chain attracts water, the other end attracts oil. A soap molecule is kinda holding hands with water on one side and oil on the other. So now that they are joined and getting along happily, oils can be rinsed away with water. The key word here is “rinse”. Soap is a rinse-away item, its function is to emulsify oils with water so it can go down the drain. It’s not meant to stay on the skin like a lotion or perfume.

Natural soaps tend to be more mild since they usually don’t strip all the oils off your skin and include some percentage of unsaponified fats.  In the soaping world, it’s referred to as superfatting your soaps.  Soaps that are harsh tend to clean a little too well and leave you with that dry and tight feeling. For the most gentle bathing experience, use a mild soap with warm (not hot) water, make lots of lather, rinse way and keep it brief.  I of course do not take my own advice and will stand in a hot shower way longer than necessary since it just feels amazing. But, my skin never feels dried out since I only use handmade soaps (of course my own but I do enjoy soaps from other makers too) and I have a water softener.

So that’s it!  If you haven’t already – do yourself a huge favor and give natural soaps a try.  In fact, you can order a bag of samples right here.

Soap Sample

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