What is saponification?


Within the daily life of the human being , many things are used that from a young age have been known to be, but for the most part we do not know their composition or how they come to be created or formed, for example women often use sweet perfumes (with fruit scents) or also hair products such as hairspray which in its main composition are esters . In turn, for this, different processes or chemical reactions are used that are the ones that end up giving the final product that is usually used or consumed, for example with alcoholic beverages such as Vodka or Tequila they make use of the distillation process(where alcohols are distilled) to give one flavor or another, soaps also use a chemical process called saponification to be made.


What is saponification?

In terms of chemistry, saponification is that chemical process carried out on fatty bodies where together with an alkali and a quantity of water , it ends up forming soap or glycerin. For its part, the name of soap is given to all sodium and potassium salts which arise from fatty acids. Saponification can occur in the various substances that within their molecular composition store a quantity of fatty acid residues and in turn also normal substances which are called saponifiable lipids , within them, the easiest to find are fats neutral and glycerides, which are found within nature.

  • What does it consist of
  • What is saponification for?
  • Chemical reaction
  • Saponification process
  • Formula
  • Saponification index
  • Table
  • Alternative methods for obtaining soap
  • Importance

What does it consist of

This is a chemical process that is used mainly as a method of making soaps and makes use of hydrolysis , which is a chemical process in which a molecule is unfolded using water as the main medium.

For its part, to achieve a large part of the process, the organic compound ” ester ” is hydrolyzed, which is found naturally, but it is also a resulting compound that is formed from a replacement made in an acid , with the substitution of a atom of hydrogen by a radical atom alcohol.

What is saponification for?

The saponification process is of great importance at an industrial level with respect to the manufacture of soaps, since thanks to this chemical process the fatty body that binds with water, ends up forming a kind of base paste that ends up being ” pasty ” to shape the soap .

Its coloration depends on whether it is worked hot, which will give a transparent or opaque color , while if it is worked cold it will have a more milky color.

When they are produced at an industrial level, boilers are usually used in which the fats to be heated are placed , sodium hydroxide is added to them, as it is gradually mixed, the process takes consistency when a kind of paste is formed and finally that paste is poured into a mold for cooling. (During cooling it hardens and takes the shape of the mold)

Chemical reaction

The main reaction that acts in the saponification process is that of hydrolysis in a basic medium, ( which is the PH of it ) there is a decomposition of fats or lipids into potassium or sodium salts Apart from glycerines .

In turn, it is necessary to emphasize that a very important element for its manufacture is the detachment produced by heat, which is why it is sought to apply the greatest amount of heat during the reaction in order to create a higher quality soap. .

Saponification process

The process of manufacturing soap on an industrial scale consists of 5 stages from its beginning to its final presentation:

  • The salting of the Soap: It is the first stage and occurs during saponification. In it, a moderate amount of salt is added directly to the boiler in order to greatly reduce the lumps or granules that begin to form.
  • Rest or cooling: During this stage the paste is stopped stirring and in turn is washed with water in small quantities in order to remove the remaining excesses of salt and alkali.
  • The drying process: After the cooling stage, it is passed through vacuum drying sprinklers with which the soap paste is left with only 12%, and soap base spheres are created.
  • The addition of additives: During the additives stage, what we perceive as aromatic fragrances, bright colors and some elements in its chemical composition such as glycerin are added.
  • The packing process: Once fully formed workpiece or soap passes a conveyor belt which surrounds at generally a plastic or wax seals in a package to the vacuum.


In order to develop the effect of saponification we must mainly add an alkaline solution which, if placed in writing, would be this:

  • If we add 3 NaOH to the fatty acid that has the structure 2 COOR, which would be the alkaline solution, we will have as a result 3 NaCOOR which would be the soap.

Saponification index

When talking about the saponification index, it refers to the amount of milligrams of alkalis , specifically of potassium hydroxides which are necessary for the saponification of one gram of any of the oils or fats to be treated.

This in turn is variable between one and the other, and to measure it you must have extensive knowledge of chemistry since it is calculated with complex formulas . That is why there are tables where the most used indexes are found.


Within the manufacture of soaps there is a table to know the saponification index of each oil and fat:

Substance in question Saponification index:
The olive oil. 0.134
Palm oil. 0.141
Castor oil. 0.128
Avocado oil. 0.133
Corn oil. 0.136
Jojoba oil. 0.069
Wheat germ oil. 0.132
Cocoa butter. 0.137
Coconut oil. 0.190
Sunflower oil. 0.134
The oil of sweet almonds. 0.136
Soybean oil. 0.135
Sesame oil. 0.133
Palm kernel oil. 0.156
The beeswax. 0.069
Karite oil. 0.128

Alternative methods for obtaining soap

Although this is the most widely used method, there are other methods for the manufacture of soaps such as the neutralization of the fatty acids that are found within the tonnage of the soap, it is treated continuously with caustic soda. or also sodium carbonate. Unlike the saponification method, it does not lose any chemical element during its manufacture, but it is usually more harmful to the skin.

In turn, due to the handling of toxic chemicals such as caustic soda, in the plants where this production system is worked , workers tend to protect themselves more due to the dangers that it represents and in turn a series of regulations are applied to safeguard to the production plant.


In the daily life of the human being in terms of personal hygiene , soaps are an essential element in bathing sessions. This allows to remove the dirt from the body that is produced when carrying out activities of daily life and also by various activities carried out by the body such as perspiration, which when it accumulates generates a bad smell.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button