Class 10 Science

Carbon and Its Compounds Soaps and Detergents

These notes are based on the chapter Carbon and its Compounds from class 10 science of NCERT book and CBSE syllabus.

  • Soap
  • Detergent
  • Cleansing Action of Soap
  • Soap and Hard Water


Sodium salts of long chain fatty acids are called soap. It is manufactured by the reaction of easter of higher fatty acid with sodium hydroxide. The sodium salt so formed has cleansing property.


Soap cannot form lather in hard water. To overcome this problem, detergents were introduced. Detergent is also known as soapless soap. Detergent is sodium salt of benzene sulphonic acid or sodium salt of long chain alkyl hydrogen sulphate.

Cleansing action of soap

Structure of Micelle

Fig: Micelle

Soap molecule has two ends. One end is hydrophilic and another end is hydrophobic. In other words, one end is lipophobic (hydrophilic) and another end is lipophilic (hydrophobic). When soap is dissolved in water and clothes are put in the soapy solution, soap molecules converge in a typical fashion to make a structure; called micelle. The hydrophobic ends of different molecules surround a particle of grease and make the micelle; which is a spherical structure. In this, the hydrophilic end is outside the sphere and hydrophobic end is towards the centre of the sphere. That is how, soap molecules wash away dirt and grease by making micelles around them.

Soap and Hard Water

Hard water often contains salts of calcium and magnesium. Soap molecules react with the salts of calcium and magnesium and form a precipitate. This precipitate begins floating as an off-white layer over water. This layer is called scum. Soaps lose their cleansing property in hard water because of formation of scum. Detergents are used; instead of soaps; in hard water to overcome the problem. Detergents are usually ammonium or sulphonate salts of carboxylic acids. The charged ends of these compounds do not form precipitate with calcium or magnesium salts in hard water. Hence, detergents retain their cleansing property in hard water.

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