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Detergents & Soaps

Soaps for cleaning are obtained by treating vegetable or animal oils and fats with a strong base, such as sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide in an aqueous solution. Fats and oils are composed of triglycerides; three molecules of fatty acids attach to a single molecule of glycerol. A detergent is a surfactant or a mixture of surfactants with "cleaning properties in dilute solutions." These substances are usually alkylbenzenesulfonates, a family of compounds that are similar to soap but are more soluble in hard water, because the polar sulfonate is less likely than the polar carboxyl to bind to calcium and other ions found in hard water.