Soaps are now an essential part of our daily living. What is a soap? It is a cleansing agent made from the salts of vegetable or animal fats. In some countries, the television serials are known as soap operas because they are mainly sponsored by soap ads! Soaps are two kinds, washing soaps and bathing soap. As the name indicates, washing soaps are used to cleanse our dirty clothes and bathing soaps are for cleansing our soft skin. Man has used soap at least 2000 years.
Let's elaborate the word soap in scientific terms. Soap is an anionic surfactant used in conjunction with water for washing and cleaning. Soaps usually come in bars or as viscous liquid. Soap consists of sodium or potassium salts of fatty acids and is obtained by reacting common oils or fats with a strong alkaline solution. This process is known as saponification.
Now, let's have a look on how to make soaps. Before that, lets explore the meaning of some technical words. 1. Lye: A strong solution of sodium or potassium hydroxide. 2. Fat: As we all know, fats can be obtained from various oils. The most commonly used raw materials are olive, coconut, palm, cocoa butter, hemp oil and shea butter to provide different qualities. For example, olive oil provides mildness in soap. Coconut oil provides lots of lather. Coconut and palm oils provide hardness. Nonetheless, a combination of coconut, palm, and olive oils is the most favorite one.
Now, let's come back to soap making. The widely used technique is cold process. Just as the name suggests, in cold process method, it does not require heat to make the soap. In this method the lye is reacted with the fats in order to initiate saponification. After saponification, the soap is allowed to settle for several weeks to reduce its moisture content.
Now, we have to purify the soap. We have to remove sodium chloride, sodium hydroxide, glycerol (unwanted chemicals) from the soap. No need to worry at all, the can be removed by just boiling the soap in wanter and re-precipitating the soap using salt. Now, what all we need to do is to dry the soap using vacuum dryers.
Now, it is the time to compact the soap to pellets and then add the fragrances. You can also add some sand or pumice to the soap to make it a scouring soap. Scouring soaps are used for removing the dead cells on the skin.
We can use nanoscopic metals to soaps for coloration and anti-bacterial properties. Many people use titanium powder to get these effects and these are extremely white soaps. Some metals like nickel, aluminium, and silver are rarely used in soap making, but they have the anti-bacterial property. Their working method is simple. These metals have electron-rubbing behavior. When they come in contact with bacterial, they strip electrons from the bacteria's surface and kill the bacteria. Sometimes, these metals remain in the skin for long time after washing and they prevent bacterial contamination and we can get rid of bad odors caused by bacteria.
That is all about soap making. Soap is also an art. It is very simple to make soaps. We cannot think of a world without soaps. Soaps are replaced by detergents and various other products, but still many people like to use soaps. I hope you have now grasped a brief idea on how to make soaps.