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Old Fashioned Natural Soap vs. Commercial “detergent” Soaps

First………. A Brief History of Soap and Soap making.

  • Legend has it that during the Roman empire women washing cloths in the rivers realized the animal fat washing down from the sacrificial alter and into the rivers would make the clothing cleaner than usual. Archaeologists were known to have found “soap like” substances in clay pots during excavations.
  • England began making soaps during the 12th Century, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that bathing came into fashion.  The French Chemist Nicolas Leblanc discovered a process for transforming common salt into alkali called soda ash.
  • During the 17th century, soap making made its appearance in Spain where the soap was made from Goat Fat and Beech Tree Ashes.  During this period, the French began using a Olive Oil base soap also known as “Castile Soap”
  • In the 19th century, Louis Pasteur asserted that good personal hygiene would reduce the spread of diseases, which created a demand for soap.
  • In the beginning of the 19th century in the United States, soap making was one of the fastest growing industries.  They used a process during Colonial times that consisted of using ashes from their fire pits and rendered fat from animals. 
  • During World War 1, commercial soap, as we know it today, came into existence.  German scientists created a new form of “soap” made with various synthetic compounds and as a result, detergents were born.

We could continue on with this timeline to present day, but essentially, the bottom line here is, all commercial soap is detergent made from synthetic materials.  I can only speculate the huge demand for “soaps” across the US and the world would make large production of all-natural soaps prohibitive for many reason.  And I get it. It’s the way of the world and to accommodate the “masses” these types of products are created.

In the meantime, I have my own commentary on the above.

  • Firstly, why am I not surprised that the Roman WOMEN put 2 + 2 together and figured out what was happening.  Secondly…………ewwwwe
  • Good job England, but why did it take 6 centuries to make it fashionable?  Feeling like being clean would have come of age much sooner.
  • Go Spain (yes, I’m Spanish, so bias here, but whatever).  Goats Milk…… Doing it Right!!
  • We all know this from History Class, I think.  Good reminder though.
  • Being that our country was built on the concept of “FREE ENTERPRISE”.  In the early 19th century, it makes sense that this would be a fast growing industry.  I would imagine with immigration during this century the combined methods of soap making made for some beautiful soaps too.
  • Well, it was inevitable, I guess.  As I commented above, I would imagine with the production needs of soap having to be met for an ever-growing population, production of natural soaps would have gone the way of the Dodo bird.  

Thankfully, there are soap makers like us who can still make small batch natural soaps.

Pictured here are two lye soaps that are over 60 years old.  This photo was taken at an old farmhouse where we have our pecans shelled.  The farmer, in his seventies, told us his mother made THIS VERY SOAP when he was around 10 years old.  Originally in a huge block, he still has several pieces he uses daily in his barn.