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Chapter 5

Chemicals for Consumers

Soaps and Detergents
 Soaps
Sodium or potassium salts of long-chain fatty
acids that contain 12 to 18 carbon atoms per
 General formula – RCOO-Na+ / RCOO-K+
R = an alkyl group
– containing 12 or 18 carbon atoms
Soap preparation process
 Made from animal fats (cows or goat) and
vegetable oils (palm oil, olive oil and
coconut oil)
 Prepared by hydrolyzing fats or oils under
alkaline condition
 The reaction is called saponification
 Saponification
Process involves boiling fats or oils with
concentrated sodium hydroxide solution or
concentrated potassium hydroxide solution
to produce glycerol and the salts of fatty
acids which are soaps
The general equation
• The fats and oils are hydrolysed first to form
glycerol and fatty acids
• The acids then react with an alkali to form
the corresponding sodium and potassium
 When concentrated KOH solution /
concentrated NaOH solution, a potassium
soap /potassium palmitate is formed
 Potassium soaps are softer, milder than
sodium soaps. Used for bathing
Preparation of soaps
1. 10 cm3 of palm oil is poured into beaker.
2. 50 cm3 of 5 moldm-3 sodium hydroxide
solution is added to the palm oil.
3. The mixture is heated until it boils.
Mixture is stirred with glass rod.
4. The mixture is boiled for 5 minutes (until
the layer of oil disappears).
5. Bunsen burner is turned off. The mixture
is left to cool.
6. 100 cm3 of distilled water and 3 spatula of
sodium chloride are added to the mixture.
[Soap is precipitated by adding NaCl.
NaCl lowers the solubility of soap in water]
7. The mixture is boiled for another 5
minutes. The mixture is allowed to cool.
8. Soap is filtered out. Soap is washed with
little distilled water.
9. Soap is pressed between a few pieces of
filter paper to dry it.
 Detergent – any cleaning agent that is not
a soap
 Made form synthetic resources such as
 Detergents are usually sodium salts of
sulphonic acid
The general formula of 2 common
detergents are:
The cleansing action of soap and
 Ability of soap and detergent:
 to lower the surface tension of water
 to emulsify oil or grease
 to hold them in suspension in water
 This ability is due to the structure of soaps
and detergents
 When soap is dissolved in water, it
dissociates to form soap anions and
sodium cations

 Example: Ionisation of sodium palmitate

 A soap anion consists of a long
hydrocarbon chain with a carboxylate
group on one end

Hydrophobic hydrophilic
 In water, detergent dissolves to form
detergent anions and sodium cations
 Example:
Sodium alkyl sulphate

Hydrophobic hydrophilic
Sodium alkylbenzene sulphonate

Hydrophobic Hydrophilic

 The anion part of a detergent consists of

hydrophobic and hydrophilic parts
 The hydrocarbon chain, which is
hydrophobic, is soluble in oil or grease
 The ionic part is the carboxylate group,
which is hydrophilic, is soluble in water
 When soap or detergent is added to water,
it reduces the surface tension of water.
 When the surface tension is lowered, the
water molecules will spread out and wet
the cloth.
 Soap act as wetting agents.

If the water is agitated slightly, the grease

begins to be lifted off the surface.
Mechanical agitation during scrubbing
helps to pull the grease free and also
break the grease into small droplets.
The droplets do not coagulate and
redeposit on the surface of the cloth due
to the repulsion between the negative
charges on their surface.
 The droplets are suspended in water,
forming an emulsion
 Soap and detergent act as emulsifying
agent to emulsify oils and grease.
 Rinsing washes away these droplets and
leaves the surface clean
Additives in detergents
Additives Function
Builder Enhance the
(Sodium tripolyphosphate) cleansing efficiency of
detergent by softening
the water
Suspension agent Prevent the dirt
(Carboxymehtylcellose) particles removed
from redepositing onto
clean fabrics
Additives in detergents
Additives Function
Drying agent Add the bulk of
(Sodium sulphate, sodium detergent and enable
silicate) it to be poured easily.
Biological enzyme Remove organic dirts
(Amylase, lipase, such as blood stains
protease) and oils.
Builder Soften hard water,
(Sodium tripolyphosphate) increase the pH value
of water to remove
muddy dirt.
Additives in detergents
Additives Function
Whitening agent / bleaches Decolorize the dirt.
(sodium perborate)
Optical whitener / Add brightness and
Brighteners whiteness to white
(Fluorescent dyes) fabrics
Stablisers (Silicons) Prevent formation of
Perfumes Make the cloth smell
fresh and clean
The effectiveness of
soaps and detergents
as cleansing agents
 Effectiveness of soap is reduced when
used in hard water
 Hard water contains a great amount of
calcium ions, Ca2+ and magnesium ions,
 Example: sea water, well water
 Ca2+ ions and Mg2+ ions react with the
soap to form a insoluble precipitate / soap
scum (grey solid)
 Formation of soap scum reduces the
amount of soap available for cleaning
 Wastage of soap
 Soap are only suitable for use in soft
 Effectiveness of soap is reduced when
used in acidic water
 Hydrogen ions, H+ in acidic water react
with the soap to form long-chain fatty
 Long-chain fatty acid is insoluble in water
due to their relative molecular mass.
 Reduce amount of soap available for
 Effectiveness of detergent when used in
hard water and acidic water
 Detergent do not form scum with hard
 Detergent ions form soluble substances
with calcium or magnesium ions.
 Detergent do not form precipitate in acidic
water ( do not react with acid)
 Detergent can still perform its cleansing
action in hard water.
Comparison between
soap & detergent
Soaps Detergents
Made from natural Made from synthetic
resources resources
(animal fats or vegetable (petroleum fractions)
Effective cleansing Effective in soft water
agents in soft water and hard water
Comparison between
soap & detergent
Soaps Detergents
Form soap scum in hard Do not form scum in hard
water water
Form precipitate in acidic Do not form precipitate in
water acidic water

Do not cause pollution Most detergents have

problem. Soaps are branched hydrocarbon
biodegradable chains are non-