Soap cleans hands by encapsulating dirt, oil or grease in a miniature bubble called a micelle. Soap molecules are both hydrophilic (water-attracting) and hydrophobic (water repelling), which allows the micelles to form. World of Molecules describes the soap molecule as having a nonpolar, hydrophobic hydrocarbon chain at one end and a polar, hydrophilic oxygen and sodium structure at the opposite end. When soap and water combine with the dirt or grease on hands, the soap molecule acts as a bridge between the insoluble dirt particles and the water. The soap molecules surround the dirt particles in micelles, with the hydrophobic end of the soap molecule on the inside of the micelle and the hydrophilic end on the outside, suspending the dirt particle in water. The water then rinses away the suspended particles, leaving the hands clean.
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