Eli5: How does soap work?

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How does soap go from a liquid form to bubbling? Do the bubbles mean it’s cleaning or working?

In: Chemistry

> How does soap go from a liquid form to bubbling?

Soap works because anything “soapy” tends to be a molecule with a hydrophobic “water hating” end and a hydrophilic “water loving” end. The first sticks to dirt and the other sticks to water, pulling the dirt away.

This tension also creates bubbles by trapping moisture, steam etc between layers of soap molecules. Additionally most commercial soaps have chemicals added to them specifically to encourage more bubbles. The friction of you lathering your hand or cloth or sponge or whatever gets the ball rolling.

> Do the bubbles mean it’s cleaning or working?

Not really. But humans at a species decided that froth and foam mean “clean” at some point and so now everybody adds the foaming agents.