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Preparation and Properties of Soap

Objectives:
1. To prepare a sample of soap.
2. To observe the emulsifying properties of soap.
3. To investigate the effect of hard water on the action of soap.
Background:
Soap has been prepared for many centuries by boiling animal fat with a strongly
alkaline solution of the ashes of hardwood (lye, NaOH), and then “salting out” the soap
from the resulting mixture by adding common salt. The general reaction is called
saponification, but is actually a hydrolysis of the ester (fat) to form its sodium salt and
the parent alcohol. Triglycerides (common fats) are esters of fatty acids and glycerol,
so when they are hydrolyzed to form soap, the glycerol is released a side product.
H
H

C

O
O

H

C
O

R

H

C

O

H
O

H

C

O

C
O

R + 3 NaOH

H

C

O

H + 3 Na+ -O

H

C

O

C

R

H

C

O

H

H
Fat

H
Glycerol

Lye

C

R

Soap

(Note: Identical “R” groups are shown here; they may differ.)
Different kinds of “R” groups give different characteristics to the soap. Tallow (animal
fat) is mostly stearic acid (18-carbon chain) and the soap made from it is primarily
sodium stearate (a hard soap). Coconut oil is an ester of lauric acid (12-carbon chain)
and the sodium laurate is soft, and lathers well under adverse conditions. We will use
cottonseed or vegetable oil as the fat source (cheap—and smells better than tallow).
Soaps entrap oil or grease and allow it to wash away from hands or clothes. They can
do this because a soap molecule is long and has a different type of bonding at each
end. The “R” group forms a nonpolar “tail.” This bonds well the oil or grease (also
nonpolar). The ionic, negatively-charged “head” of the soap molecule interacts with the
dipole of water, and makes the entire molecule (including the attached oil) watersoluble. In fact, the picture is slightly more complicated: several soap molecules entrap
an oil globule with their nonpolar “tails” and their “heads” all interact with water
molecules, making the action much more effective than if just one soap molecule were
involved (see illustration below).
Several things may cause problems with the normal action of the soap
molecules. One of these is the presence of left-over starting materials. Extra fat will
make the soap feel greasy. Extra lye will make the soap feel very slippery (it will also
irritate the skin of the user). A second problem is caused by the presence of positively-

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Add 10 mL of ethanol and 13 mL of 20% aqueous NaOH (sodium hydroxide) solution. When you think the alcohol has evaporated. This mixture tends to “bump. and a pasty mass remains in the beaker.charged ions (usually metal ions) in the water (“hard water”). Follow directions carefully on the heating step. These tend to bond with the negative end of the soap molecule. Check to see that goggles fit snugly. or interfering with the ion-dipole interactions between the soap molecule and the water. “Bumping” may spatter the contents of the beaker. but it should not catch fire!) Continue to stir as the heating progresses. but do not use it). Procedure Safety: 20% NaOH is an extreme eye hazard and also a contact hazard. Ethanol is flammable. Caution: stir the mixture carefully. 2. Place 10 grams of vegetable oil in a 150 mL beaker (see sample. waft some of the vapors to your nose and check for alcohol smell. This is a mixture of the soap and the glycerol produced as a by-product. Wash spills off skin and work area with plenty of water and neutralizer. (The alcohol will evaporate.” producing 2/5 . 3. Heat carefully! 1. either precipitating the molecule completely. Place the beaker on a wire gauze supported on a ring stand and heat gently with a Bunsen burner. Continue to heat until the odor of alcohol has disappeared. Keep the flame away from the top of the beaker.

Add 50 mL of saturated aqueous NaCl (sodium chloride) solution to your soap preparation and stir the mixture thoroughly with a glass stirring rod. Let these solutions stand until you have finished the other tests. or about normal). To one tube. by describing how the two mixtures appear after sitting a few minutes. When the soap dissolves to give a fairly clear solution. Mix each solution. 1. A pink color indicates too much hydroxide ion in the soap (residual lye from the preparation of your soap). Therefore. and any excess sodium hydroxide present. discontinue heating and use this solution (where indicated) for the following steps. This process is called “salting out” and is used to remove the soap from the water. 2.5 g of soap and 25 mL of deionized water in a 100 mL beaker. 4. glycerol. Basicity: Dissolve a small piece of your dry soap in 5 mL of ethanol and then add two drops of phenolphthalein indicator. add about 0. 6. 3. control the flame and watch for “bumping.large bubbles of vapor which can spatter hot product. 5. Water hardness: Pour 5 mL of your soap solution into each of 4 test tubes (one test tube will be a control). Vacuum filter the mixture (clamp the filter flask to hold it in place) and wash the soap cake once with ice water. Do you notice any difference in lathering properties? 4. Add 5 drops of 5% aqueous CaCl2 solution to the first test tube. using deionized water. Get the soap as dry as possible by cutting it up with a spatula while air is being pulled through the filter. Try again to wash your hands with the same amount of your dry soap sing tap water. Compare the stabilities of the two emulsions. and 5 drops of deionized water to the fourth tube. Shake each test tube gently. Weigh your dried soap and record the mass.” immediately removing the flame if it occurs. Washing properties: Try to wash your hands with a small amount of your dry soap. 5 drops of 5% aqueous MgCl2 to the second tube. Emulsification: Place 5 mL of deionized water into each of two test tubes and add 5 drops of kerosene to each. Properties of your soap Prepare a soap solution as follows: Warm about 0. greasy.2 g of your dry soap. Comment on the lathering properties and the “feel” of the soap (very slippery. 3/5 . 5 drops of 5% aqueous FeCl3 to the third tube.

which one was still present? ____________________________ How did you know? Difference in lathering properties with tap and deionized water 4/5 . soap and water mixture Hard water effects: Observation of test with CaCl2 solution Observation of test with MgCl2 solution Observation of test with FeCl3 solution Observation of test with water (control) Washing properties Evaluation of your soap: did it contain extra ingredients? _________ If so. No. ____________ Preparation: Yield of dry soap ______________ g Properties Emulsification: Observations of kerosene and water mixture Observations of kerosene.Report form: Preparation Name: _________________________ and Properties of Soap Sect.

Basicity Color of soap/ethanol solution with added phenolphthalein _______ Is there extra lye in your soap? ______ Explain: 5/5 .