Chemistry Question #22

Tania, a 14 year old female from the Internet asks on May 31, 1999,

How does dish soap work to clean dishes?

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The answer

Barry Shell answered on May 31, 1999

The molecules that make up detergent (or any soap for that matter) have a "water-loving" end and an "oil-loving" end. In other words, the opposite ends of these molecules are attracted to the kinds of molecules that make up water on one end and the kinds of molecules that make up oil, grease, or fat on the other. This is because water molecules are polar (they have + and - poles). The oily, non-polar end attaches to all the greasy fatty bits stuck on your dishes. Then the water in the sink "grabs" the other, polar, end sticking out from all the oil globs, and all the oil and fat comes right off your dishes, into the water, and down the drain. The same thing happens with soap in the shower, or when you shampoo your hair.

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