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A Journey Through Time: The History of Soap

By jennifer rotondo  •   3 minute read

A Journey Through Time: The History of Soap

Soap is a product that most of us use daily, but have you ever wondered about its origins? The story of soap dates back to ancient Babylonians around 2800 BC, when a simple blend of fats, ashes, and water was used. Since then, soap has taken on many different forms and functions. In this article, we will explore the fascinating evolution of soap and its rich history.

Ancient Beginnings:

Our store begins in Ancient Babylon, where the first known evidence of soap-like materials was discovered. The Babylonians stumbled upon the crude method of soap production by boiling fats with ashes and water. Although primarily used in the textile industry, soap was crucial in cleaning and preparing fabrics.

Egyptian Contributions:

Fast forward to 1550 BC in Egypt, where the Ebers papyrus detailed the mixture of animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to create a soap-like substance. Egyptians recognized soap not only for washing but also for treating sores and skin diseases. The Greeks, however, preferred washing without soap, relying on water, clay, pumice, sand, ashes, and oil for their cleansing rituals.

Roman Adoption and Innovations:

Romans, known for their ingenuity, employed abrasive substances like sand and pumice for body cleansing, followed by scraping off grime with sticks. Despite diverse methods, soap gained popularity throughout the Roman Empire, with evidence of a soap factory found in the ruins of Pompeii.

European Renaissance:

In the Middle Ages, Germans and Gauls mixed ashes with animal fat for soap, using it as a decorative element for their hair. Arabic chemists took soap-making to new heights in the 7th century, producing soaps from vegetable oils, aromatic oils, and lye. By the 16th century, Europe witnessed the production of finer soaps using vegetable oils rather than animal fats.

Industrial Revolution and Modern Innovations:

The 18th century marked a significant leap in the industrial production of bar soaps due to increased awareness of hygiene. French chemists Nicholas Leblanc and Michael Chevreul's discoveries in the early 19th century revolutionized soap-making chemistry. The 20th century saw the development of synthetic detergents in Germany, ushering in a new era of soap manufacturing.

Commercial Soap Emerges:

Commercial soap was created during World War I due to an increased need for cleaning agents, but during that same time soap ingredients were scarce. German scientists created detergents made with synthetic compounds, leading to detergent sales surpassing soap in the US by the 1950s. Most commercial soaps today are actually detergents made with petroleum by-products. Commercial soap makers now use the continuous process, removing natural glycerin which gives soap its moisturizing properties, and selling it for use in other products.

Soap Today:

In recent years, many people have become more conscious of the potential negative effects associated with synthetic additives and chemicals present in commercial soap products. As a result, consumers are choosing natural soap alternatives.

Our SōWP line is unique, as it is crafted in small batches with natural oils and non-toxic ingredients. When considering your soap options, be sure to closely examine labels and ingredients to make informed choices.

Get S ōwpy! ~ Jen

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