All of us at some point in our lives have been chided for not washing our hands before eating. If anything that’s the one thing that we’ve all been grilled about until it became a habit. Anyway, now with this dreaded pandemic on, thank goodness am I right?
The theory is simple. When we touch any surface around us, there is a good chance that bacteria or germs residing on them get transferred onto our hands. Let’s face it, we’ve all lazily sneaked in a cookie without washing hands, nobody’s innocent but we get lucky. But hey, we simply can’t afford to take that chance in today’s world. Washing our hands as we’ve come to realise is an essential weapon against most pathogens and can help stop the spread of infection to a very large extent.
Soaps aren’t necessarily limited to be of use to our hands or even our bodies. Dirty dishes and clothes have their share of dedicated soaps too. But what’s in common between dirty hands and the pile of dishes waiting in our sink? It’s grime and grease, better known as oil!
How Soaps Clean?
The dirt on surfaces we touch tends to stick to our hands and get mixed with the natural oil secreted by our skin and makes our hands greasy and grimy. As we all know the universal law, oil and water do not mix. Now bear with us because we are about to talk science for a while, we had to dust off our old chemistry books for this. When we look at things on a molecular level, we find that there is a difference in the “polarity” of oil and water. Polarity refers to the way atoms bond with each other and it dictates how it will interact with other molecules. We see that oil molecules are nonpolar and water molecules are polar, long story short, oil molecules tend to stay away from water and vice versa. They can only stick to each other and hence to the naked eye, they form two distinct layers.
This is also the reason why when we wash our hands with just water after we stain them with oil, they remain greasy. Unless something else is brought into the equation, oil and water remain foes. This is where something known as an emulsifier comes in. An emulsifier is a form of additive that allows two liquids to mix together, and this is precisely what a soap is. Soap Molecules have properties of both nonpolar and polar molecules. Let’s see how!
At a basic level, soaps are essentially special salts derived from vegetable or animal fat. In the case of Natural and Organic Soaps, it’s always a coconut or olive oil base. (Much like our very own range of cleaners.) Now the soap molecule has a unique chemical structure that looks like a balloon which has two ends - the balloon head and a tail. The balloon head (salt) is the charged polar molecule or the hydrophilic end. The tail (fatty acids) is a nonpolar part, also known as the hydrophobic end. Soaps here play a double role. While the balloon head gets attracted to water the tail end is attracted to oil. (Psst - Hydrophilia means attraction to water and hydrophobia means repulsion.)
Fact-: The word "soap" is from the Proto-European root *seib-, "to pour out, drip, trickle."
When you bring together water soap and the oily dirt together, a showdown happens. The soap molecules “break apart” the grime and bacteria by encircling singular dirt droplets. The tail end gets attached to the dirt and the balloon end on the outside of the circle faces the water around it. A wheel-like cluster formation occurs around a dirt particle and this is known as a micelle. The oil is trapped in the micelle, and when water is washed over your hands, the hydrophilic parts are attracted to water, taking the soap, and the grime connected to the soap with it.
Have you ever noticed why it is relatively easier to clean out dirt and grease in warmer water than colder? This is due to the fact that heat helps in melting fats or oils which makes the attraction to the tail end of the soap easier and this also eases the rinse. Soaps are supposed to be natural surfactants too - surfactants are substances that reduce surface tension of a liquid in which it is dissolved - this makes them compatible with water and oil, this is also what gives them a slippery property. That is why natural soaps do not require additives to make them lather a lot, it removes grime from your hands as organically as possible.
We have a little demonstration to try out with your little one as a fun activity, on how soap works. All you need is a bowl, some pepper and Koparo’s Natural Liquid Handwash. In a bowl take some plain water and add some pepper, let it float on top. Now dip your index finger in a little soap. Now gently submerge your finger in the middle of the pepper floating in the bowl.
Observe something cool happen! The pepper gets jolted to the side of the bowl. This experiment sort of mimics how germs are removed from your hands with the help of soap.
Natural Soap at Home
Now how about a little DIY Natural Hand Soap In theory there are two ingredients in a soap - an acid and a base and when they come together in a process called saponification they create soap and glycerin is the by product.
But we know this information might not be specific enough to create our own little soap so let’s take a look at what we can work with.
To prepare yourself for this project you’ll require the following -
- A Natural Base - try this Shea butter melt soap base
- Any essential oil of your choice for fragrance
- A measuring cup/microwavable container
- A spoon or a stainless steel whisk
- A soap mould
- Some rubbing alcohol
- Some extras to add a little pretty effect - lavender, rose or rosemary
- A zest for cleanliness!
Guess we are good to go!
Cut your soap base into tiny cubes and place it in your measuring cup and microwave for 30 seconds or till this melts. Add your preferred essential oil to this liquid, if needed you can add the flower of your choice to this. Alternatively, while preparing your mould you can keep the flowers in it and pour your solution into this mould. You can spray a little rubbing alcohol so that there are no bubbles in your soap. Now allow them dry!
Voila you have your very own natural soap that’s safe for you and can be an excellent Kid-safe hand wash too!