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History of Soap Making


History of soap making    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.

History of soap making    A soap-like material found in clay cylinders during the excavation of ancient Babylon is evidence that soapmaking 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 styling aids. 
The Phoenicians show history of soap around 600 B.C. These early soaps were used for the cleaning of wool, cotton and textiles prior to weaving and dieing though rather than for human washing. The Roman historian Pliny gives an account of soaps being produced form goat's tallow and wood ashes and mentions the use of salt to create a hard soap. The city of Pompeii even has a full soap factory which houses fully completed bars of soap.History of soap making

  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

Moses - soap making    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 hair gel.

The Greeks - history of soap making    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.

Romans - history of soap making    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 goat tallow and ashes, that they used to tint their hair red.

Roman Baths    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
Soap introduced in 17th century 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

By the 13th century, when the soap industry was introduced from Italy into France, most soap was produced from the tallow of goats, with beech ash furnishing the alkali. The industry in England grew rapidly and in 1622 was granted special privileges by King James I. In 1783 the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele accidentally simulated the reaction that occurs in the present-day boiling process of soapmaking, which produces a substance that he called Ölsüss, which is now known as glycerin. This discovery by Scheele led the French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul to investigate the chemical nature of the fats and oils used in soap; Chevreul eventually discovered, in 1823, that simple fats do not combine with alkali to form soap but are first decomposed to form fatty acids and glycerols. Meanwhile, the manufacture of soap was revolutionized in 1791 by the French chemist Nicolas Leblanc, who invented a process for obtaining sodiumCleopatra bahted in goat milk! carbonate, or soda, from ordinary salt. In the early American colonies, soap was made from rendered animal fats and was processed mainly in the household, but by 1700 many areas derived their main income from the export of ashes and fats used in soapmaking.

Herbal bathing has been used throughout history along with many other additions and they have always been associated with beneficial qualities. Cleopatra is well known for her bathing in milks, herbs and flowers!

(Information is Courtesy of Soap and Detergents)

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