What is the importance of fat in soap? Give the levels of soap, depending on the fat's level.

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bandmanjoe eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The use of fat in the soap-making process is required to produce soap.  Simply put, it is one of the integral parts that produce soap.  The fat can be animal fat or vegetable fat.  Animal fats tend to be solid at room temperature, they have to be heated to melt them.  The fat is then combined with a potash solution in a process called "saponification".  Heat is continually applied and the mixture has to be constantly stirred, as oil and water do not naturally mix.  As the soap is produced, it will rise to the surface, where it can be skimmed off.  A fragrance and color can then be applied at this point.  The soap is poured into molds and allowed to cure, or dry.  The different levels of soap depend on the type of fat used and the amount of unsaponified fat present.  Lye--which is highly toxic before successful saponification--made from the remains of burned wood, or wood ash, produce a softer soap product.  Commercial lye tends to take soap the other way, producing a hard soap product that is more in line with traditional soap-making methods.  Today, soaps are generally made (if not exclusively made) from fat substitutes such as coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil and shea butter.

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