How Methyl Esters Play a Key Role in Making Soap

Stop and think of all the personal care items and toiletries you use in your daily life. The list can be lengthy.

A common item on many of our personal lists is soap. Household soaps – whether it be hand soap, bar soap, shower gel, dish soap, or shampoo are among the most common products we use. While you’re no doubt aware there is a chemical process involved with making soap, have you ever wondered what some of its most important ingredients are?

Soap Production

Soapmaking has been around for centuries, but modern processes for creating this cleaning agent have evolved – including the critical use of methyl esters as a key ingredient.

Methyl esters are a common fatty acid. They are usually referred to as FAME (fatty acid methyl esters), and are sustainable, biodegradable compounds with excellent solubility and lubricity. This makeup allows them to play a role in developing different types of cleaning products, including shampoo and soap.

The esters are derived from natural sources like vegetable oils and animal fats, which are then heated with an alkali, specifically sodium hydroxide in this case. They are then hydrolyzed to form a sodium salt of the carboxylic acid, and eventually used to make the soap products we’re all familiar with.

Where Do Methyl Esters Come From?

Production of FAME can derive from several sources. Typically, they come from vegetable oils, animal fats or unused cooking oils by a process called transesterification. In this method, glycerides and alcohols react to form fatty acids. The esters are extracted from these acids, where they go on to be prepared for use in many different products.

Methyl soyate is one such key ingredient. This soybean-based compound is a sustainable alternative used in degreasers, ink removal, oil spill remediation and more. Cremer’s ME-S1885 is a distilled methyl soyate – a colorless and odorless liquid with low solubility and a high flash point. This means this ester is low hazard and safe for several applications – including soap and shampoo.

Visit our Methyl Esters page to learn more information, see spec sheets, and its practical uses in everyday products.

Previous Post
Methyl Ester Applications for Household Products
Next Post
Where Science, Growth and Workplace Culture Meet