Video: EC17-18-S1-Q37A

Without using chemical equations, describe how soap can be obtained industrially.

01:22

Video Transcript

Without using chemical equations, describe how soap can be obtained industrially.

The first thing we have to do is remind ourselves of what a soap is. A soap is the salt of a fatty acid. A typical fatty acid might have this structure, a water-soluble carboxylate head with a hydrocarbon base tail. In industry, this kind of soap will be generated by treating what’s called a triglyceride with sodium hydroxide. Triglycerides get their name from the glycerol core combined with the three fatty acid side chains.

The forward process that liberates the soap and the glycerol is called saponification. At the industrial scale, various triglycerides are used. And these are more commonly known as fats and oils. So, soap can be obtained industrially by treating oils and fats with sodium hydroxide. There are other routes and specialist soaps that don’t use sodium hydroxide. However, the majority of soaps are manufactured in this way.

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