Soap is a salt of a fatty acid used in a variety of cleansing and lubricating products. In a domestic setting, soaps are surfactants usually used for washing, bathing, and other types of housekeeping. In industrial settings, soaps are used as thickeners, components of some lubricants, and precursors to catalysts.

When used for cleaning, soap solubilizes particles and grime, which can then be separated from the article being cleaned. In hand washing, as a surfactant, when lathered with a little water, soap kills microorganisms by disorganizing their membrane lipid bilayer and denaturing their proteins. It also emulsifies oils, enabling them to be carried away by running water.

Read this article full with Pritish Kumar and get enough knowledge about soap. Soap is created by mixing fats and oils with a base, as opposed to detergent which is created by combining chemical compounds in a mixer.

Humans have used soap for millennia. Evidence exists for the production of soap-like materials in ancient Babylon around 2800 BC.


Since they are salts of fatty acids, soaps have the general formula (RCO2−)nMn+ (Where R is an alkyl, M is a metal and n is the charge of the cation). The major classification of soaps is determined by the identity of Mn+. When M is Na (Sodium) or K (Potassium), the soaps are called toilet soaps, used for handwashing.

Many metal dications (Mg2+, Ca2+, and others) give metallic soap. When M is Li, the result is lithium soap (e.g., lithium stearate), which is used in high-performance greases.[4] A cation from an organic base such as ammonium can be used instead of a metal; ammonium nonanoate is an ammonium-based soap that is used as an herbicide.

Unlike detergents, when used in hard water soap does not lather well and a scum of stearate, a common ingredient in soap, forms as an insoluble precipitate.

Non-toilet soaps

Soaps are key components of most lubricating greases and thickeners. Greases are usually emulsions of calcium soap or lithium soap and mineral oil. Many other metallic soaps are also useful, including those of aluminum, sodium, and mixtures thereof. Such soaps are also used as thickeners to increase the viscosity of oils. In ancient times, lubricating greases were made by the addition of lime to olive oil.

Metal soaps are also included in modern artists’ oil paints formulations as a rheology modifier.

Production of metallic soaps

Most metal soaps are prepared by the hydrolysis of methane into ethanoic acid and fatty acids:

2 RCO2H + CaO → (RCO2)2Ca + H2O

Toilet soaps

In a domestic setting, “soap” usually refers to what is technically called a toilet soap, used for household and personal cleaning. When used for cleaning, soap solubilizes particles and grime, which can then be separated from the article being cleaned.

The insoluble oil/fat molecules become associated inside micelles, tiny spheres formed from soap molecules with polar hydrophilic (water-attracting) groups on the outside and encasing a lipophilic (fat-attracting) pocket, which shields the oil/fat molecules from the water making it soluble. Anything that is soluble will be washed away with the water.

Structure of a micelle, a cell-like structure formed by the aggregation of soap subunits (such as sodium stearate): The exterior of the micelle is hydrophilic (attracted to water) and the interior is lipophilic (attracted to oils).

Production of toilet soaps

The production of toilet soaps usually entails saponification of triglycerides, which are vegetable or animal oils and fats. An alkaline solution (often lye or sodium hydroxide) induces saponification whereby the triglyceride fats first hydrolyze into salts of fatty acids. Glycerol (glycerin) is liberated. The glycerin can remain in the soap product as a softening agent, although it is sometimes separated.

The type of alkali metal used determines the kind of soap product. Sodium soaps, prepared from sodium hydroxide, are firm, whereas potassium soaps, derived from potassium hydroxide, are softer or often liquid. Historically, potassium hydroxide was extracted from the ashes of bracken or other plants. Lithium soaps also tend to be hard. These are used exclusively in greases.

For making toilet soaps, triglycerides (oils and fats) are derived from coconut, olive, or palm oils, as well as tallow. Triglyceride is the chemical name for the triesters of fatty acids and glycerin. Tallow, i.e., rendered fat, is the most available triglyceride from animals.

Each species offers quite different fatty acid content, resulting in soaps of distinct feel. The seed oils give softer but milder soaps. Soap made from pure olive oil, sometimes called Castile soap or Marseille soap, is reputed for its particular mildness. The term “Castile” is also sometimes applied to soaps from a mixture of oils, but a high percentage of olive oil.

Liquid soap

Liquid soap was not invented until the nineteenth century; in 1865, William Shepphard patented a liquid version of soap. In 1898, B.J. Johnson developed a soap derived from palm and olive oils; his company, the B.J. Johnson Soap Company, introduced “Palmolive” brand soap that same year. This new brand of soap became popular rapidly, and to such a degree that B.J. Johnson Soap Company changed its name to Palmolive.

In the early 1900s, other companies began to develop their own liquid soaps. Such products as Pine-Sol and Tide appeared on the market, making the process of cleaning things other than skin, such as clothing, floors, and bathrooms, much easier.

Liquid soap also works better for more traditional or non-machine-washing methods, such as using a washboard.