Soaps and Detergents

How does laundry detergent work on a molecular level?

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Wiki User
2008-06-09 21:19:01

The molecule that makes up soap or detergent has a polar head

and a nonpolar tail. In chemistry, compounds that are polar like to

mix with other polar compounds and compounds that are nonpolar like

to mix with other nonpolar compounds. This is why oil and water

don't mix. Water is polar and oil is nonpolar. Oil and grease are a

nonpolar compounds. When in water the soap molecules will arrange

themselves in such a way that the nonpolar tails surround the

grease creating a spherical droplet. On the face of this sphere is

the polar heads of the soap molecule. This allows it to interact

with the polar water. This is how soap and laundry detergent are

able to remove oil and grease and wash it down the drain.

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