So, How Does Soap Work?


I’m willing to bet that you have soap somewhere in your house. It’s probably in your shower, under your sink, on top of your sink, inside your carpet from the last time you tried cleaning that stubborn coffee stain, somewhere. If it’s not, then eew. Let me ask you a question, do you know how that soap actually works? Not how you scrub, that’s just elbow grease. The actual, chemical process to how it works. Probably not. Well, it’s time you learned. Put on your science hats, kids, it’s school time.

The first thing to understand is that opposites attract. One of the main methods gunk sticks to something like a counter, carpet, or your skin, is because the gunk has an opposite magnetic charge to the thing it’s on. Yes, a magnetic charge. Most everything is magnetic at the molecular level. When the gunk is the opposite charge of the surface, those two molecules start using the buddy system, and refuse to fly solo. You can scrape some of these away with just scrubbing and some water, not everybody clings to their buddy with the same strength, but sometimes those molecules just don’t want to stop the hugging action. For this we need something stronger, something to break the bonds. For this, we need SURFACTANT! Say it with me. It’s fun. Sur-fact-ant.

Surfactants form a chemical bond with the gunk and the surface, changing the charge from positive to negative or negative to positive. The particle doing the hugging starts to become hugged by a different particle, and the original buddy gets jealous and boots the original hugger out. This leaves the dirt floating around with no solid ground to hold onto, and allows your rag, sponge, or mop to quickly grab it and take it to parts unknown. Thus through the application of surfactants, things are left clean.

Of course, there are far more chemicals in soap than just surfactants. This is why it’s important to rinse whatever spot or surface you’ve cleaned to ensure you’re not leaving residue behind. Residue attracts dust and dirt, which will go on to hug your surfaces, and you’re back in the same situation you were in to begin with.

Soap is important, use it. And now you know how it works. Science!

-Andrew M.
Field Manager
InstaDRY, Carpet & Tile Cleaning