It splits it into a fatty acid and glycerine, but seems to have no further action.
The suberized and cuticularized cell-walls appear to contain a fatty body called suberin, and such cell-walls can be stained red by a solution of alcanin, the lignified and cellulose membranes remaining unstained.
Owing to their possession of this common property, these natural fatty bodies and various artificial derivatives of glycerin, which behave in the same way when treated with alkalis, are known as glycerides.
Palm oil, it exists in the free state, so that it can be separated by washing with boiling water, which dissolves the glycerin but not the fatty glycerides.
The rationale of this treatment is not fully understood, but the action appears to consist in the separation or decomposition of the aromatic hydrocarbons, fatty and other acids, phenols, tarry bodies, &c., which lower the quality of the oil, the sulphuric acid removing some, while the caustic soda takes out the remainder, and neutralizes the acid which has been left in the oil.