About Soap

"Washing hands with soap can prevent disease and save lives" says United Nations experts.


There are millions of different soap variations and soap making has become a craft. It has also been a simple and effective way to improve hygiene worldwide. 

Ancient Roman legend has it that the word ‘soap’ is derived from Mount Sapo, where animals were sacrificed, and the mixture of melted animal fats and wood ash run into the rivers beneath. The local ladies notices that the rivers of Mount Sapo washed their clothes better.


The history of soap has ancient origins, with first evidence dating back to the Babylonian civilization

Ancient Roman legend has it that the word ‘soap’ is derived from Mount Sapo, where animals were sacrificed, and the mixture of melted animal fats and wood ash run into the rivers beneath. The local ladies notices that the rivers of Mount Sapo washed their clothes better.


The history of soap has ancient origins, with first evidence dating back to the Babylonian civilization


Soap is a surfactant, a necessary function of cleaning. It traps dirt or anything other than water in a little ring called a 'Micelle" which is washed away in the rinse water. That is why rinsing is as important as washing.


For it to considered a true soap it must be made using plant or animal fats, water and lye. Lye is essential in making soaps, anything that does not use lye is a detergent and is made using a concoction of chemicals.  Soap and detergent are not the same thingSoaps are far more safer to use and do not damage the environment  

Lye is basically a very strong alkaline made from salt that will convert a fat into a soap through saponification. This same principal is why alkaline ingredients clean, they essentially turn grease into soap which dissolves then washes away easily. 

These fats include all the oils from coconut, olive, castor to tallow. It can be a mixture of oils or just use the one base fat, which in the case of Coconut Soap, is Coconut Oil. 

Lye is basically a very strong alkaline made from salt that will convert a fat into a soap through saponification. This same principal is why alkaline ingredients clean, they essentially turn grease into soap which dissolves then washes away easily. 

These fats include all the oils from coconut, olive, castor to tallow. It can be a mixture of oils or just use the one base fat, which in the case of Coconut Soap, is Coconut Oil. 


Soap comes can come hard or liquid form, and this depends on the type of lye used. Sodium hydroxide is used for hard soap and  potassium hydroxide used for liquid soaps. There is no substitute for lye, nothing else will make oil become soap. All the lye is converted in the saponification process and there should not be residual lye left over in a good quality soap.


You can use soap anywhere you have a need to clean, however it does not like hard water so can be boosted by water softeners like Washing Soda, Borax and Bicarb


When it comes to natural handmade cleaning products, soap is an essential ingredient. Ground soap flakes are great for powder products while Castile Soap is great for liquid products. With a team like that you will be able to make:


  • Laundry Powder or liquid

  • Wool Wash
  • Dishwasher Powder or Tablets

  • Multi Purpose Cleaning Pastes

  • Multi Purpose Cleaning Sprays

  • Hand and Body Wash

  • Dish Liquid

Next time you are in the supermarket and need to stock up any of these products, remember there is a likely a better alternative, using just good old fashion soap.

Footnotes

Thank you to the various sources relied upon the compile this article


Appromedia. (n.d.). Lye. Retrieved from https://www.appropedia.org/Lye


Centre for disease control and protection. (n.d.). Show Me the Science - Why Wash Your Hands? Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html


Cleaning Institute. (n.d.). Soaps and Detergents History. Retrieved from https://www.cleaninginstitute.org/understanding-products/why-clean/soaps-detergents-history


Global Handwashing Parnership. (n.d.). Why handwashing. Retrieved from https://globalhandwashing.org/about-handwashing/why-handwashing/health/#:~:text=Handwashing%20with%20soap%20is%20an,to%20143%2C000%20people%20every%20year.


school energy&environment. (n.d.). History of detergents. Retrieved from http://www.eniscuola.net/en/2016/08/03/history-of-detergents/


Soap History. (n.d.). History of Soap and Soap Interesting Facts. Retrieved from http://www.soaphistory.net/


Surival Kit. (n.d.). How to Make Lye for Soap From Wood Ash. Retrieved from https://www.survivalkit.com/blog/how-to-make-lye-for-soap-from-wood-ash-2/


The Pharmaceutical Journal. (n.d.). A short history of soap. Retrieved from https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/opinion/comment/a-short-history-of-soap/20066753.article?firstPass=false


United Nations. (n.d.). UN News. Retrieved from https://news.un.org/en/story/2009/10/317452-washing-hands-soap-can-prevent-disease-and-save-lives-stress-un-experts


Wikipedia. (n.d.). Soap. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soap#:~:text=A%20formula%20for%20soap%20consisting,create%20a%20soap%2Dlike%20substance.

This article has been updated 21 December 2020

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