This is How Soap Works

This article originally posted April 10, 2014 on our tumblr blog


We all know that soap is a substance that can get our hands, clothes and dishes clean. Have you ever wondered how it does that?

The secret is in soap’s ability to bring together different kinds of chemicals, such as oils and water*. Part of the soap likes to be in water and the other part doesn’t. Soap is a little like a good dinner party host this way: it connects oils and waters together more than they would mingle on their own, like getting your steak-loving cousin to chat with your vegan coworker by giving them both a delicious cocktail.

This is why we use water when washing with soap. The water naturally rinses away anything that’s already hydrophilic (water-loving), such as salts and sugars. Oils, greases, dirt, and other hydrophobic (water-hating) stuff would usually get left behind. Try rinsing your hands after applying some olive oil and you’ll see how water itself isn’t great at removing oils. But add a little bit of soap and bingo! The oils wash away easily, welcomed into the party by the soap. Bacteria and other particles also get rinsed away during this process.

Scents, colors, and other additives to soap can add aesthetic value, skin moisturizers, germ-killing properties, and increase shelf life. More negatively, some of these additives can also trigger allergic reactions or may have other health and environmental effects. But the soap itself is very simple - it’s an oil that’s been chemically altered to give it this special “let’s get together” cleaning feature.  We make our own soap at Meliora K, using the simplest possible ingredients and no additives or preservatives.  

*The technical term for this is amphiphilic, meaning it’s partially hydrophobic(water-hating) and partially hydrophilic (water-loving). Amphiphilic amphiphilic amphilphilic…really rolls of the tongue.