Asked by  | 20th Mar, 2008, 09:11: PM

Expert Answer:

Detergent is a compound, or a mixture of compounds, intended to assist cleaning. The term is sometimes used to differentiate between soap and other chemical surfactants used for cleaning purposes.

Both potassium and sodium soaps dissolve in water and are effective as cleaning agents. Each has a polar end to the molecule identified by the negative charge and an end that is primarily carbon and hydrogen. The polar end attracts polar water molecules. The other end, hydrocarbon end, attracts oils and other water insoluble materials like fat or grease. Water is a polar solvent and dissolves polar and ionic molecules. Gasoline is nonpolar and dissolves nonpolar materials such as fat or oil. A way to remember this behavior is the simple axiom; "Like dissolves like."

The nonpolar ends of the molecule associate with the fat, grime or dirt which is also nonpolar, The polar or ionic end of the molecule attracts the water molecules. A spherical structure with the polar portions of the molecule on the surface and the nonpolar parts of the molecule in the center is attracted to the water and carries the non-water-soluble material away with it. This spherical shaped unit of soap and grime is a micelle.

Answered by  | 22nd May, 2008, 09:31: AM

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