The Simple Science of Soap-Making

Saponification is the chemical reaction that converts fats or oils into soap and glycerin. This process is the foundation of soap making and has been used for thousands of years. The word “saponification” comes from the Latin word “sapo,” which means soap, and “facere,” which means to make. The reaction itself is a type of hydrolysis that occurs when an alkaline solution, such as sodium hydroxide (lye) or potassium hydroxide, is mixed with fats or oils. The result is the formation of soap molecules and glycerin.

 Here's the basic idea:

 Fats or Oils + Alkaline Solution = Glycerin + Soap

 Fats and oils are like building blocks with two parts: glycerol and fatty acids. When we add an alkaline solution, it breaks down these building blocks. The fatty acids team up with the alkaline solution to create soap, while the glycerol just hangs out as glycerin. 

Why is soap so awesome? Soap is like a superhero with two sides. One side loves water, and the other side loves oils and dirt.

 When you use soap, the water-loving side grabs onto water, while the oil-loving side grabs onto the gross stuff. Soap molecules form teams, called micelles. They trap the dirt and oil, and when you rinse with water, the micelles get washed away, taking the grime with it.

 Remember, when soap is made from combining fats/oils with an alkaline solution soap and glycerin are created. Glycerin is fantastic because it is a humectant, which attracts moisture to your skin to help keep your skin hydrated. Many commercial soap manufacturers extract glycerin from their products to use in other skincare products, but in homemade and artisanal soaps, glycerin is often retained, contributing to the soap’s moisturizing properties.

 The saponification process is the cornerstone of soap making, allowing us to create a product that effectively cleans and keeps us healthy. Understanding the saponification process behind making soap helps us appreciate the craftsmanship of soap makers and the importance of using the right ingredients and techniques to create high-quality soap. So, the next time you use a bar of soap, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the science that makes it all possible.


Have a Blessed Day, Y’all!

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