HISTORY of SOAP
The origins of personal cleanliness
date back to prehistoric times. Since water is essential for life, the earliest
people lived near water and knew something about its cleansing properties - at
least that it rinsed mud off their hands.
A soap-like material found in
clay cylinders during the excavation of ancient Babylon is evidence that
soap-making was known as early as 2800 B.C. Inscriptions on the cylinders say
that fats were boiled with ashes, which is a method of making soap, but do not
refer to the purpose of the "soap." Such materials were later used as hair
Records show that ancient Egyptians bathed regularly. The
Ebers Papyrus, a medical document from about 1500 B.C., describes combining
animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to form a soap-like material used
for treating skin diseases, as well as for washing
At about the same
time, Moses gave the Israelites detailed laws governing personal cleanliness. He
also related cleanliness to health and religious purification. Biblical accounts
suggest that the Israelites knew that mixing ashes and oil produced a kind of
The early Greeks bathed for aesthetic reasons and apparently
did not use soap. Instead, they cleaned their bodies with blocks of clay, sand,
pumice and ashes, then anointed themselves with oil, and scraped off the oil and
dirt with a metal instrument known as a strigil. They also used oil with ashes.
Clothes were washed without soap in streams.
Soap got its name,
according to an ancient Roman legend, from Mount Sapo, where animals were
sacrificed. Rain washed a mixture of melted animal fat, or tallow, and wood
ashes down into the clay soil along the Tiber River. Women found that this clay
mixture made their wash cleaner with much less effort. The ancient Germans and
Gauls are also credited with discovering a substance called soap, made of tallow
and ashes, that they used to tint their hair red. As Roman civilization
advanced, so did bathing. The first of the famous Roman baths, supplied with
water from their aqueducts, was built about 312 B.C. The baths were luxurious,
and bathing became very popular. By the second century A.D., the Greek
physician, Galen, recommended soap for both medicinal and cleansing purposes.
After the fall of Rome in 467 A.D. and
the resulting decline in bathing habits, much of Europe felt the impact of filth
upon public health. This lack of personal cleanliness and related unsanitary
living conditions contributed heavily to the great plagues of the Middle Ages,
and especially to the Black Death of the 14th century. It wasn't until the 17th
century that cleanliness and bathing started to come back into fashion in much
of Europe. Still there were areas of the medieval world where personal
cleanliness remained important. Daily bathing was a common custom in Japan
during the Middle Ages. And in Iceland, pools warmed with water from hot springs
were popular gathering places on Saturday evenings.
Soap-making was an established craft in Europe by the seventh
century. Soap-maker guilds guarded their trade secrets closely. Vegetable and
animal oils were used with ashes of plants, along with fragrance. Gradually more
varieties of soap became available for shaving and shampooing, as well as
bathing and laundering.
Italy, Spain and France were early centers of
soap manufacturing, due to their ready supply of raw materials such as oil from
olive trees. The English began making soap during the 12th century. The soap
business was so good that in 1622, King James I granted a monopoly to a
soap-maker for $100,000 a year. Well into the 19th century, soap was heavily
taxed as a luxury item in several countries. When the high tax was removed, soap
became available to ordinary people, and cleanliness standards improved.
Commercial soap-making in the American colonies began in 1608 with the
arrival of several soap-makers on the second ship from England to reach
Jamestown, VA. However, for many years, soap-making stayed essentially a
household chore. Eventually, professional soap-makers began regularly collecting
waste fats from households, in exchange for some soap.
A major step
toward large-scale commercial soap-making occurred in 1791 when a French
chemist, Nicholas Leblanc, patented a process for making soda ash, or sodium
carbonate, from common salt. Soda ash is the alkali obtained from ashes that
combines with fat to form soap. The Leblanc process yielded quantities of good
quality, inexpensive soda ash.
The science of modern soap-making was
born some 20 years later with the discovery by Michel Eugene Chevreul, another
French chemist, of the chemical nature and relationship of fats, glycerin and
fatty acids. His studies established the basis for both fat and soap chemistry.
Also important to the advancement of soap technology was the mid-1800s
invention by the Belgian chemist, Ernest Solvay, of the ammonia process, which
also used common table salt, or sodium chloride, to make soda ash. Solvay's
process further reduced the cost of obtaining this alkali, and increased both
the quality and quantity of the soda ash available for manufacturing soap.
These scientific discoveries, together with the development of power
to operate factories, made soap-making one of America's fastest-growing
industries by 1850. At the same time, its broad availability changed soap from a
luxury item to an everyday necessity. With this widespread use came the
development of milder soaps for bathing and soaps for use in the washing
machines that were available to consumers by the turn of the century.
The chemistry of soap manufacturing stayed essentially the same
until 1916, when the first synthetic detergent was developed in Germany in
response to a World War I-related shortage of fats for making soap. Known today
simply as detergents, synthetic detergents are non-soap washing and cleaning
products that are "synthesized" or put together chemically from a variety of raw
materials. The discovery of detergents was also driven by the need for a
cleaning agent that, unlike soap, would not combine with the mineral salts in
water to form an insoluble substance known as soap curd.
detergent production in the United States began in the early 1930s, but did not
really take off until after World War II. The war-time interruption of fat and
oil supplies as well as the military's need for a cleaning agent that would work
in mineral-rich sea water and in cold water had further stimulated research on
The first detergents were used chiefly for hand dishwashing
and fine fabric laundering. The breakthrough in the development of detergents
for all-purpose laundry uses came in 1946, when the first "built" detergent
(containing a surfactant/builder combination) was introduced in the U.S. The
surfactant is a detergent product's basic cleaning ingredient, while the builder
helps the surfactant to work more efficiently. Phosphate compounds used as
builders in these detergents vastly improved performance, making them suitable
for cleaning heavily soiled laundry.
By 1953, sales of detergents in
this country had surpassed those of soap. Now detergents have all but replaced
soap-based products for laundering, dishwashing and household cleaning.
Detergents (alone or in combination with soap) are also found in many of the
bars and liquids used for personal cleansing.
Today a “bar of soap” may not be labeled “soap.” That is
because it is not –it is a petroleum or synthetic based bar of detergent. At
Cedar Creek Organics LLC we manufacture SOAP – 100% soap made from soybean
Each batch of Cedar Creek Organics LLC Soap is carefully
measured to within 2/10th’s of an ounce to ensure quality
and consistency. It takes 4-6 weeks for each batch of soap to cure
before it is available for purchase. We use only the purest essential oils
for scent and aromatherapy benefits. Our soaps do not contain lanolin or
animal fat. And… the only animals they have been tested on are our