The Chemistry of Soap Making
Soap has become a product that few people, aside from 5 year old boys, are willing to live without. There isn’t a recorded date for the invention of soap. However, throughout the years many scientists have made contributions to the soap making process. Soap has come a long way since 4,000 years ago when it was believed to have been a mixture of fat and ashes. While the soap we use has had many evolutions throughout history, the general principles remain the same.
In the chemical process, an alkali will separate the fats into glycerin and fatty acids. From there, the sodium from the alkali will combine with the separated fatty acids. As you know, the alkali used most often in modern soap making is lye.
In the past, lye was produced from ashes, but today they are made from a combination of chemicals. Lye is found in many households cleaning products and it should always be handle with care. Lye can cause damage to the skin and it can also damage the surface if spilled. Be aware that the lye available in cleaning products should not be used in soap making as it often contains other chemicals and metals you would not want in your creations.
The fats or oils that are used in soap are usually extracted from animals or plants. Within the fats and oils you will find triglyceride. Triglyceride is made up of glycerin and fatty acid molecules mentioned earlier.