The Making of Soap – Saponification

Making of Soap – Saponificationts


  1. Alcohol react with carboxylic acid will form ester.
    Ethanoic acid + ethanol → ethyl ethanoat (ester) + water
    CH3COOH  + C2H5OH → CH3COOC2H5 + H2O
    This process is call esterification, and it is a condensation reaction (take out 1 water molecule and form a covalent bond).
  2. Inversely, the ester also can be decomposed to form alcohol and a salt by alkali such as sodium hydroxide.
    ethyl ethanoat (ester) + sodium hydroxide → sodium ethanoat + ethanol
    CH3COOC2H5  +  NaOH → CH3COONa  +  C2H5OH
    This process is a hydrolysis reaction (add 1 water molecule to the covalent bond and break the bond).
The Making of Soap
  1. As we learnt before, salt can be produced by the reaction between acid and alkali.
  2. Since soap is the sodium or potassium salt of fatty acid, we can produce soap by the reaction between fatty acid and alkali.
  3. Usually, the alkali that we use is sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or potassium hydroxide (KOH).
  4. Fat molecules are the molecules that form by a glycerol molecule and three fatty acid molecules.
  5. Since glycerol is an alcohol, while fatty acids are carboxylic acid, the process is call esterification, and it is a condensation reaction.
  6. Figure above shows that, we can separate the glycerol molecule from the fat molecule, and at the same time, produce three sodium salt of fatty acid.
  7. The hydrolysis of a fat or oil is given the particular name, saponification.
  8. The saponification reaction is the hydrolysis of fatty esters.
  9. The saponification reaction typically refers to the reaction that is carried out by a strong base.
  10. An example the saponification of tallow by sodium hydroxide. (tallow is the mixture of fats that are obtained by steam treating cow fat.)
  11. Summary of saponification reaction
  12. Normally some sodium chloride (NaCl) will be added into the solution to reduce the solubility of soap. As a result, we will obtain soap in solid form.

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