A little Soap History


The first signs of soap making was found to be as far back as 2500 BC Clay tablets describing the mixtures of oils and alkali for washing have been found. History shows that the Egyptians used soap-like substances to bath regularly. Cleopatra was known for her milk baths that was said to have contributed to her beauty.

The first definite evidence of soap making is found in the history of ancient Rome. A Roman historian by the name of Pliny describes the making of soap from goatís tallow and wood ashes. He also wrote of the addition of salt to soap to make it harder. Salt is used today by some soap makers to add hardness to their soap.

The Romans were well known for their public baths. Although they liked their baths, soap was not generally used. They would clean their bodies with olive oil and sand. This would then be removed with a scraper. They would scrape off the oil, dirt and dead skin.

There is a legend that dates back to approx. 1000 BC in Rome, that tells of a discovery of soap. As animals were killed and sacrificed in the fires on top of Sapo Hill, the rain would wash the fat and ashes together. The fat and ashes would then seep into the soil down to the Tiber River. As the women would wash their clothes in the river, they noticed that the substance that came from the hill would make their clothes cleaner than usual.

In the 1600 Louis Pasteur suggested that the spread of disease could be greatly reduced by the use of personal hygiene. Baths were then prescribed for good health and to prevent diseases.

In early America soap making was common practice. Each family would make their own soap. Usually once a year the soaps would be made from the fats available to them. The lye would be made from the ashes collected from their fireplaces. Soap making at this time was a guessing game at best. The amounts of lye and fat were usually not measured, which lead to some pretty harsh soap.

In 1791, sodium based lye was discovered by Nicholas Leblanc. This discovery leads to a more reliable process for making soap.

In 1830, William Colgate began his soap company. He began by selling individual bars of soap like the ones we use today. Colgate created in 1872, the first scented soap by the name of "Cashmere Bouquet". In 1879 Colgate created a very popular brand of soap by the name of "Ivory". Another soap company was in the making around this time by the name of B.J. Johnson. This company created a bar of soap using palm oil and olive oil known as "Palmolive".

Around the 1940ís many commercial soap companies began to increase the use of synthetic detergents in their soaps, which lead to the increase in environmental pollution. In the 1960's, the need for natural products brought forth the individual soap makers. Today there are thousands of individual soap makers around the world, making handcrafted soaps, which are better for the skin and the environment.

Join these crafters in making beautiful soaps for your family and friends.



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