BLEACHING SOAP MAKING OILS Common soap making oils such as Palm Oil, Beef Tallow, are generally fairly highly coloured and for aesthetic reasons require bleaching before they can be used in soap-making. This phenomenon usually presents a true nightmare for small to medium soap manufacturers here in Kenya and other East African countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda.
In our consultancy experience, we have had many people enquire about making their soaps white or simply removing the “offending” colour of palm oil and odor from beef tallow so that their soaps can be appealing to their customers.
First let us start by a small brief about the history and process of bleaching tallow and palm oil. Some commercially significant vegetable oils are highly coloured owing to the presence of chromophoric impurities: one which is particularly highly coloured is palm oil, which has been estimated to contain up to about 0.2% of the red pigment beta-carotene.
Oils and fats can be successfully bleached with milder, aqueous bleaching agents such as hypochlorite and peroxide, in the presence of a phase transfer catalyst. The action of polar bleaching agents such as hypochlorite on these oils in the absence of a catalyst is slow and incomplete because of the hydrophobic nature of the oils. The reaction (oxidation or reduction of the coloured impurity) probably takes place in the organic phase and the bleaching agent in the aqueous phase cannot easily penetrate the organic phase to reach the reaction site.
What is a phase transfer catalyst?
A phase transfer catalyst is a charged compound which also possesses significant oil solubility. Such a material can assist in a reaction between a charged species and a hydrophobic substrate in an organic phase by carrying the charged species, for example, as an ion pair, into the organic phase.
Do we sound very technical and confusing?
Now, we can tell you that you don’t have to get worried over the colour of your soap anymore. Bleaching palm oil, beef tallow is a simple process which has been kept secret by the big oil refinery corporations world over. (This ensures that they have no competitors for their soap business whose monopoly they control). As you know, soap manufacturing, whose market is the biggest in the world, is a business controlled and enjoyed by the few. Many would-be manufacturers’ dreams of venturing into soap making business are curtailed by the fact that they cannot produce “world class” products devoid of “offending” odor/smell and colour. Take heart, visit us today and we will guide you into making soap which is white and odorless.
Article By Herman Koome & Betty Kithinji
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