How Soap Works – Simplified

How Soap Works – Simplified


The process of making soap is called saponification.  At the very simplest level saponification is when you form soap by reacting an oil or fat, which is acidic, with lye, which is basic.

  • Regular soap is made by reacting animal fats with with the base
  • Castile Soap is made by reacting vegetable or plant based oils with the base

A soap molecule has two ends.   One that loves water and one that hates it!

  • The hydrophilic end of a soap molecule loves water
  • The hydrophobic end of a soap molecule hates water

When grease or oil are mixed with a soapy water solution the soap molecules work like a connector between the grease and the water molecules.

  • The end of the soap molecule that hates water surrounds the grease and the dirt
  • The end of the soap molecule that loves water attaches itself to the water molecules

Then when the soapy water is lifted off the surface it takes the grease, oil and dirt with it.

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Mark Baker

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