The Chemistry of Cleaning Soaps

The Chemistry of Cleaning Soaps

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Household cleaners have come a long way from the invention of the very first cleaner called soap. The concept of soap is an old one; in fact, evidence thereof can be traced back to around 3000 B.C. with directions on how to make it found on clay tablets. Over the past 100 years, cleaners have been adjusted to fight more specific soils. After World War I, detergent was invented in Germany as a soap substitute, when animal fats were hard to buy. Now, cleaning agents are much more complex, with a compilation of several ingredients that work together to fight dirt and kill germs. Cleaning supplies have ingredients that work different jobs, build the strength of the soap, and create chemical reactions.

The two most important ingredients are the solvent and the surfactant. The solvent, like water, is used to help dissolve the soil and serves as a place the grime can go after it detaches from a surface. The surfactant, like soap, has an hydrophobe end and a hydrophile end that form a line between the solvent and the dirt. When water, soap, and a dirty surface are combined, a chemical reaction happens. The hydrophobic end is afraid of the water and stays by the dirt and begins attacking the dirt. The hydrophile end is afraid of the dirt and stays by the solvent, allowing a place for the attacked dirt to be released. Using applied science and technology, the strength of this chemical reaction can be adjusted; this means the hydrophobic end can be increased, so there is more strength on the side by the dirt to make it more deadly against germs and bacteria. With the use of science, cleaning supplies are more powerful than ever.

Cleaning Supplies History

  • Automatic Dishwasher Detergent: Over the years, cleaners have had to evolve for modern technology. Learn about the man who invented detergent for the dishwasher, so you can feel confident your dishes are being sanitized.
  • Soaps and Detergents History: During World War I, there was a shortage of many things people used every single day, like fats. Fats are used to making soap, but Germany was able to create a cleaner, known as detergents, without using fat. Read more on the history of soap and detergent from the late 1900s to now.
  • Liquid Laundry Detergent: This article covers everything you need to know about the chemistry of liquid laundry detergent, starting with the history and invention thereof.

Household Cleaner Chemistry

  • What is Soap Made of?: This is a great article to get you started in learning the basic chemistry of soap and how it is created.
  • Hazardous Household Chemical Mixtures: This article covers the different chemicals found in specific cleaners and what you should not mix them with; for example, when bleach and ammonia are mixed together, they create a toxic gas.
  • Chlorination Chemistry: Bleach is a detergent that is an ingredient in many cleaning supplies. The second is added to water, several chemical reactions begin to happen. Read more about the chemistry of bleach and how it works to kill microorganisms.


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