Handmade soap – a short history and intro

Handmade soap is once again generating interest among quite a few people. And so it should, as it has both a very interesting history as well as numerous health and environmental benefits. Furthermore, there has been an increased interest in homemade soap lately.

It is simply a very time proven product that has evolved for hundreds of years. Here is a short overview of what the wonderful, lathering thing we refer to as (hard) soap came about and what it really is:

A brief history of soap, who invented it and more:

  • The Romans where the first to write down actual recipes for soap. They used this product very much as people do today.
  • It is believed that the Babylonians where the ones to discover basic soap making almost 5000 years ago.
  • The hard soap was probably invented in the Middle East in the 700s. It spread to Europe through Spain soon thereafter.
  • Europe has a long tradition of making handmade soap. The brand Lush exists to this day and Savon de Marseilles from France has been manufactured since 1370.

The process of making soap:

  • The basics consist of mixing fat with an alkaline. Most homemade soap is made with oils such as olive oil and sodium hydroxide, more commonly known as lye.
  • There are two main methods: the cold process and the hot process. The latter makes for a very active solution that needs to be handled with care.
  • Most homemade soap is made with the cold process, which takes longer to finish but is by many believed to make a soap that is better for your skin.
  • Commercial soaps today are made with the hot method and high pressure.

And finally a few points about safety and equipment:

  • When prepared correctly, lye is not present in the final handmade soap. However, as such it is a very dangerous substance that will cause severe burns on the skin and that is deadly if ingested.
  • Basic safety gear for making soap at home includes rubber gloves, protective eye wear and a well ventilated space to work in.
  • The recipe must be one that is proven to work and must be followed carefully. Particularly with the cold method the ratio of oil and lye has to be followed very accurately.

So there you have it, the entire history and application of handmade soap in one short blog post. Just kidding – we will delve deeper into the matter in the very near feature. This was just a short primer for those who are looking for quick facts.

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3 Responses to Handmade soap – a short history and intro

  1. george says:

    beginner seeking advise and recipe

    • Erwin says:

      Originally the intention wasn’t to make this a recipe site, but we’ll see – maybe we will publish a few basic recipes here in the near future. Meanwhile you can find many good recipes in books on the subject. Just have a quick browse at amazon (or other bookstore) and you should find many titles that fit the bill nicely.

  2. Cheryl says:

    You can find recipes on suppliers for soap making products. Just search for soap making supplies, several suppliers will come up, all you have to is go to the site and look for recipes, lots of these suppliers also have forums to discuss soap making with other people. I also found some books at the library. Maybe this will help.

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