Salts and Soaps

Salts and soaps are two important classes of compounds in chemistry. In this lesson, we’ll explore what salts and soaps are, how they are made, and some of their uses.


A salt is an ionic compound made up of positively charged ions (cations) and negatively charged ions (anions). Some common examples of salts include sodium chloride (table salt), potassium nitrate (saltpeter), and calcium carbonate (chalk).

Salts can be formed through a variety of chemical reactions, such as neutralization reactions between an acid and a base. In a neutralization reaction, an acid and a base react to form a salt and water. For example, when hydrochloric acid (HCl) reacts with sodium hydroxide (NaOH), the resulting salt is sodium chloride (NaCl) and water (H2O):

HCl + NaOH → NaCl + H2O

Salts have many uses in everyday life. For example, table salt (sodium chloride) is commonly used as a seasoning for food. Potassium nitrate is used in fertilizer and fireworks. Calcium carbonate is used in construction materials like cement and plaster.


Soaps are compounds made from the reaction of a fat or oil with a strong base, such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or potassium hydroxide (KOH). This reaction is called saponification. During saponification, the fat or oil is broken down into its component fatty acids, which react with the base to form soap molecules.

Soaps have two distinct ends: a hydrophilic (water-loving) end and a hydrophobic (water-fearing) end. The hydrophobic end of the soap molecule is attracted to grease and dirt, while the hydrophilic end is attracted to water. This allows soap to dissolve grease and dirt in water and be washed away.

Soaps are used for cleaning a variety of surfaces, including skin, hair, and clothing. They are also used in industrial applications, such as in the production of paper and textiles.

Salts and soaps are two important classes of compounds with many everyday uses. Salts are ionic compounds formed through chemical reactions like neutralization, while soaps are compounds made through saponification of fats or oils.