The History of Soap:
Historically, soap was made by boiling wood ashes with fat, or
oil. Early uses of soap were primarily for cleaning textiles for
the making of clothing. It has been documented that the
Babylonians were making soap as early as 2800 B.C., but it is
not clear what the use was. There are also records of the
Phoenicians making soap around 600 B.C. There are biblical
references that indicate the Israelites had knowledge of the
making of soap.
Saponification, the technical name for the chemical reaction of
soap, is the process of an alkali combining with and splitting
the fat into two parts; glycerine and fatty acids, so that the
sodium or potassium in the alkali can fuse to the fatty acid
part of the fat or oil, creating soap.
For many centuries, soap was made from potash and pearlash lye,
combined with fat. Potash and pearlash are both potassium based
and can be found in wood or plant material. This was the most
widely used form of soap, from nobles to peasants. The process
wasn't really understood; people relied on trial and error, as
well as superstitions and folklore.
The first real evidence of soap being made was in Ancient Rome.
An old soap factory was uncovered in the Pompeii ruins. The soap
first made by Romans was not used for personal hygiene until the
later centuries of the Roman Empire. The Celtics have also been
noted by some historians as being the first civilization to use
soap for bathing and personal cleansing. The evolution of soap,
and its many uses, took a great amount of time; without the
global communication of trends like today's world!
At the fall of the Great Roman Empire, the use of soap and the
need for soap making in Western Europe greatly declined. In
other parts of the world, however, the use of soap for personal
cleansing was widely practiced. In the 700s Italy and Spain
began making soap, and France and England followed between the
1200s and 1300s. Soaps made in southern Europe were generally of
higher quality than those made in Northern Europe. Soaps in the
south were made of olive oil, while northern Europe had to rely
on animal fats & even fish oil. The poorer quality soap was used
for laundry and other textile cleaning. European soap makers
closely watched their "trade secrets" and ingredients.
Meanwhile, in Japan daily bathing and personal cleansing was a
In the Medieval Age, personal hygiene fell off. With the spread
of the Plague, the public feared public baths. Soap was still
used for cleaning and washing clothing on a regular basis.
Although people still used soap for personal washing, the
preferred to mask themselves with heavy scents.
When the first settlers came to America, they brought soap in
barrels. It was an important necessity to the early colonists.
In the interest of saving money, and the time waiting for goods,
the colonists began making their own soap. This was generally
done after butchering, to use the fat from the animals, or once
a considerable amount of cooking grease was saved. Soap-making
was generally the woman's responsibility, though it was
considered one of the hardest household duties.
Most of the early settlers used liquid soap, rather than hard
soap. In order to make hard soap, salt must be added at the end
of the process; and salt was an important supply for the home &
the farm, that was expensive as well. Most colonists preferred
the liquid soap, as it worked as well as the hard soap, yet was
cheaper to produce. However, hard soap was easier to store &
move, so when soap was first made for sale in America, it was
made into hard soap. This soap was molded into large bars of
soap & then broken off from the large bar into smaller bars that
were sold by the pound. It wasn't until the 19th century that
small, individually wrapped bars of soap were made. Real soap
that is made today is made from caustic soda. In 1971, Nicholas
Leblanc invented a process to make soda ash from salt. This
streamlined the soap-making process.
Today's soap is not the traditional soap that has been used over
the ages. WWI brought upon shortages of oil and fat for
soap-making. Detergents are non-soap washing products that are
made of raw materials. The development of detergent worked well
for the military, which needed cleaning products that could work
in sea water & cold water. By 1930, detergent almost replaced
real soap for laundry, dish and household cleaning products.
Today, soap is primarily detergent made from petroleum-based
materials. There are five general categories of soap: personal
care, laundry, dish, household and automotive care.
Manufacturers of soap and detergent based cleansing products are
constantly developing new products to one that is efficient,
easy and safe for you to use.
Types of soaps:
Laundry soaps - These
soaps are generally thought of as mild soaps used for lifting
soil, grease and organic compounds from an assortment of
fabrics. Laundry detergents are formulated to work under
varying conditions. Laundry detergents come in powders,
liquids and gels and can work in all water temperatures.
Laundry detergents are most effective when used in warm or hot
water especially when removing grease or heavy soil.
Kitchen soaps - The two
main types of kitchen soaps are dish detergents and cleansers.
Dish detergents are formulated to cut through grease, suspend
the soil particles in the foam and leave a no residue shine.
Hand dishwashing detergents are made to work at lower
temperatures and usually have more grease removing capacity by
producing more foam. Machine dishwasher detergents are
formulated to produce less foam and work at higher temperatures.
Often other agents are added to the formula to provide a no
residue rinse in the final dishwashing cycle. Cleansers
contain mild abrasives that help remove stubborn stains and
heavy soil. Some cleansers are more abrasive than others
the mildest being cream cleansers to the harshest being powdered
Personal soaps - There are
many types of personal soaps sold in today's market. From
the basic to the extravagant every soap seems to contain its own
unique properties specially formulated for every particular
need. Antibacterial soaps are formulated to stop the
spread of bacteria and viruses by adding broad spectrum
antimicrobial agents such as chloroxylenol (PCMX).
Chloroxylenol kills up to 99.9% of all bacteria that can make
you sick. Regular personal detergent soaps are designed to
lift soil from the skin by suspending particles in the foam.
Some personal detergent soaps contain lotions and extracts to
add moisture to the skin that the detergents take out.
Hair and body soaps are a multi-purpose blend that works on hair
just as well as it cleans skin making them a great candidate for
fitness clubs and schools.
Cleaning soaps -
These soaps are made for cleaning soils and grease.
Cleaning soaps come in light to heavy duty formulations and are
great at removing soils and grease without having to use harsh
Industrial soaps -
Industrial soaps are formulated for specific tasks. They
are commonly used for car washes, auto centers, and production
line cleanup. These soaps usually come in 55 gal drums or
large containers and are connected to pressure cleaning systems.