How does soap work?

Thursday 12th July 2012
Uploaded by: Luis Villazon
Asked by: Richard Somerville, Northamptonshire

How soap cleans

The structure of soap molecules enables them to remove dirt with ease. They consist of a hydrocarbon chain, with a sodium or potassium atom at the end. The hydrocarbon end is attracted to oil and repels water, whereas the other end attracts water. When you wash your hands, oily dirt particles are surrounded by soap molecules with their water-loving heads facing outwards. This breaks up the dirt and lets it wash away in the water.

What causes left-handedness?
previous Q&A Article
Do you burn more calories during deep thought?
next Q&A Article
Q&A Tabs

The deepest mine in the world is Mponeng, part of the West Wits gold field, in the North-West province of South Africa. Mponeng has been gradually deepened over its lifetime and is now 3.9km (2.5...

QWERTY came about because the keys on early typewriters used to stick, especially if frequently used letters were placed close to each other. American inventor Christopher Latham Sholes had the...

It is not entirely clear why Saturn possesses rings. Astronomers have developed three theories of their formation. They could have formed from material left over from the formation of the planet...

Gold is called a heavy metal because of its high density, which comes from the fact that each of its atoms is individually very heavy. The density of tungsten is almost identical, but tungsten is...

All female mammals have a clitoris, the sole purpose of which is to react to sexual stimulation, and presumably this stimulation has evolved to be pleasurable for most species. But establishing...

To create a sound, we have to set matter - whether it's a gas like air, a liquid or even a solid material - in regular motion, creating a wave of specific frequencies, which we hear as a sound of...

Mirrors don’t reverse left and right either – that’s just our interpretation of what happens. Your reflection in the mirror is actually reversed front to back – if you have...

Discovered by an American student named Gary Flandro in the mid-1960s, the slingshot manoeuvre usually involves spacecraft briefly 'coat-tailing' a planet orbiting the Sun, extracting some of the...

The ice disappears because the wind blows away water molecules that have evaporated or 'sublimed' from the ice, so the ice slowly shrinks in size. The molecules that escape are those with the...

We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here