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Why Does Our Skin Get Slippery When We Accidentally Touch Bleach?

Bleach is commonly used in almost every household. It is specifically for removing stains and removing color from clothing or fabric. Some people even use it as a disinfectant for cleaning surfaces. But did you ever wonder why our skin gets slippery when we accidentally touch bleach?

The slippery sensation when bleach accidentally gets in contact with our skin is the dead skin cells composed of a high percentage of protein, sugar, and fats which begin to break down and dissolve as a natural effect of bleach.

What is Saponification?

Saponification is a chemical reaction that is normal for soap production. This term is derived from the Latin word for soap, sapo. One of the easiest and most cost-efficient methods of producing soap is by heating carboxylic esters, oil with water, and a primary ingredient, initially wood ash. (Source: Britannica)

Saponification is the correct term to use when we accidentally touch bleach. It is simply because we just produce soap when the top layer of our skin breaks down. (Source: CHM)

How Was Soap Manufactured Back in the Day?

It was said that the early makers of soap used wood or plant ash and animal fats that contained potassium carbonate that was diluted in water. They will bring the mixture to a boil and add more ashes until the boiling water evaporates.

During this soap-making process, a slow chemical splitting of the neutral fat occurs wherein the fatty acids react with the alkali carbonates of the wood or plant ash that form into soap. (Source: Britannica)

What is Bleach?

Bleach is also known as sodium hypochlorite. It may be of liquid or solid form. Before 1774, the natural chief bleaching agent was the sunlight until Karl Wilhelm Scheele discovered chlorine. The study was strengthened in 1785 by Claude Berthollet to demonstrate the chlorine bleaching properties.

The combination of chlorine and slaked lime is turned into a bleaching powder introduced by Charles Tennant in 1799, who produced in considerable quantities bleach cloth and paper, which had the same effect as chlorine and was easier to be shipped and handled.

In the 1920s, the standard and used bleaching agent was slowly replaced by liquified chlorine and sodium hypochlorite solutions. That was when liquid bleach was born. (Source: Britannica)

Who Invented Bleach?

It was Claude Louis Berthollet who invented bleach. Berthollet was a French chemist born on December 9, 1748, in Talloires, Savoy, France. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Turin, the capital of Savoyard. Berthollet was married to Marguerite-Marie Baur in 1779 and had an only son together in 1780, named Amedee.

Berthollet was known for his study using combined acute experimental skills with fundamental theoretical proposals on the nature of chemical reactions.

Berthollet practiced his medical career for some years while hopping on his scientific career. His scientific research soon led him into one of the leading French chemists.

When Berthollet published his study about Elements of the Art of Dyeing, Elements de l’art de la teinture, in 1791, his method for using chlorine substance for bleaching was already known and was then being exploited commercially in England.

Soon after, another study by Berthollet, Description de l’art du blanchiment par l’acide muriatique oxygéné in 1795, was published, and the English version, Elements of the Art of Dyeing with a Description of the Art of Bleaching by Oxymuriatic Acid in 1824.

Berthollet made the second edition of his book about bleaching and dyeing in 1804 in collaboration together with his son and later was introduced to a business venture in the chemical industry. (Source: Britannica)

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