If we are going to be able to distinguish whether or not soap can be a surfactant we first have to understand what surfactants are, what they are made up of, and how they work to see if they are similar or if they are different.
What is a Surfactant?
A surfactant can be known by many names, but is commonly referred to as a surface-active agent. It works similarly to a detergent in that when combined with a liquid like water, reduces something’s hardness or tension and increases how a liquid moves and spreads across something whether it’s across a surface or dipping something.
What are some Surfactant uses?
For the purpose of reducing the surface tension of something it can be used in these ways:
- Textile Dyeing
- Defoaming agents
- Germicides, Fungicides, Insecticides
- Corrosion Inhibition
- Producing Aerosols
There are many more purposes of surfactants but these are some of the basic uses that can be implemented in many different industries.
Can Soap be a Surfactant?
In simplest terms, yes soap can be classified as a surfactant, and for a more interesting reason than one would expect it to be. One of the surfactants’ primary uses is cleaning and refining, breaking down particles to move them. Though, throughout history it can be found that soap was one of the world’s first surfactants, making soap indeed a surfactant. Soaps in the past were made from fats, and according to The Essential Chemical Industry were done through a process called saponification. Now, soaps still serve the same kind of purpose surfactants do making them almost essentially the same kind of product, just used for different industries and purposes.
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