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Adventures in soapmaking

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Whateverman View Post
    My bachelors degree in food science included 8 classes (24+ credits) in chemistry. Two of those were Organic, each of which had lab lessons we needed to complete.

    One of these lessons was on saponification:

    a process by which triglycerides are reacted with sodium or potassium hydroxide (lye) to produce glycerol and a fatty acid salt called "soap." The triglycerides are most often animal fats or vegetable oils. When sodium hydroxide is used, a hard soap is produced

    So, we all made soap that day.

    More importantly, in a prior lab we'd synthesized isoamyl acetate, where the lab TA mysteriously told us to save it for an upcoming class. Most of us did this...

    ... and used it for the saponification class. The result was that we ended up making banana soap. It was pretty neat, though the TA told us that we probably shouldn't use the soap very much, as it was slightly caustic. Smelled great, tho!
    If the soap you made was too caustic because it was lye heavy, all that means is that you didn't use enough fat/oil. If all the lye is used up in the saponification process and you have a very small amount of fat/oil left over, you should have a very mild soap. Harshness/mildness has more to do with what oils you use and not so much the pH. Soap made correctly usually has a pH level around 9 or 10, which is not enough to burn you especially since it is diluted and rinsed off the skin right away. I should also mention that if the TA used paper test strips to check the pH, those don't work for soap anyway. It really messes with the dyes those are made with and you'll get wildly inaccurate results.
    Curiosity never hurt anyone. It was stupidity that killed the cat.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by QuantaFille View Post
      If the soap you made was too caustic because it was lye heavy, all that means is that you didn't use enough fat/oil. If all the lye is used up in the saponification process and you have a very small amount of fat/oil left over, you should have a very mild soap. Harshness/mildness has more to do with what oils you use and not so much the pH. Soap made correctly usually has a pH level around 9 or 10, which is not enough to burn you especially since it is diluted and rinsed off the skin right away. I should also mention that if the TA used paper test strips to check the pH, those don't work for soap anyway. It really messes with the dyes those are made with and you'll get wildly inaccurate results.
      We were teen-aged kids "playing" with chemicals. There's no-doubt our lab experiments were inefficient, though to be fair to the professor, the reaction was the focus rather than the (practical usability of the) results.

      I regret having mentally-lost most of those 2 semesters of organic chem. It was an annoyingly difficult class, but still pretty darned fascinating, too. In a semester filled with 18 credits (IIRC), I was bound to lose 90% of what I learned during those 3 months :p

      ps. I did try my banana soap, and yes, it wasn't the greatest. Not terrible, but not anything I wanted on my face more than once :)
      Last edited by Whateverman; 06-17-2020, 05:27 PM.
      I can solve the problem of evil without interfering with anyone's free will. So can your God, but he refuses. This is why I'm His moral superior.

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