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How was soap invented?

Soap is being used widely almost by every person in every part of the world. Have you ever wondered how was the soap invented? Do you know how the soap gained so much popularity? Can we actually imagine a life without soap?

Every day we have a shower and we use this foamy little bar called as soap. Can you imagine taking bath without this thing called as soap? Soap is being used widely almost by every person in every part of the world. What changes is probably the form of soap. Some use it as a bar, some as shower gel while some use it for their bubble bath. But the point here is that everyone does use it.

Have you ever wondered how was the soap invented? Do you know how the soap gained so much popularity? Can we actually imagine a life without soap?

When was soap invented?

The history of soap dates back to almost six thousand years. Around 2800 B C E, excavations of ancient Babylon revealed cylinders with inscriptions of making soap. Later, in 1500 B C E, records from Egypt revealed how animal and vegetable oils were mixed with alkaline salts to prepare soap.

Although no one really knows how the soap was actually discovered, however there are many legends surrounding the invention of soap. According to the Romans, soap gets its name from Mount Sapo. Animals were sacrificed on Mount Sapo. Rains washed the fat of the sacrificed animals along with the alkaline wooden ashes from the sacrificial fires into the Tiber River. This mixture helped people in cleaning their clothes.

This recipe stayed for many years and Americans also started collecting and cooking animal fat and mixed it with an alkali called as potash solution that was found in the accumulated hardwood ashes used for winter fire.

Even the Europeans prepared soap by using olive oil and named it as castile soap. Around 19th century, commercialised version of soap became widely available in the market.

How is soap made?

Manufacturing soap is not a simple process. It involves many steps. First the fats and the alkali are melted in a kettle and after boiling the mixture thickens. The fat reacts with the alkali and produces soap and glycerine.

The soap and glycerine are separated and is treated with salt. This causes the soap to rise to the top and glycerine settles in the bottom. The glycerine is then extracted. Then the unprocessed fats are removed and a strong caustic solution is added to the kettle again. The mass is boiled again and then the fat turns into soap.

This soap is then boiled again with water and perfume. The mixture separates and the top layer is called neat soap which has 70 percent soap and 30 per cent water. The lower layer is called nigre and has lot of impurities. The neat soap is taken and then the mixture is cooled and shaped as per desire.

Here is an interesting video on how soap is made

To sum up, here is an interesting fact to know about soaps! Most of the cleansing soaps you buy at the shops are mere detergents and not actual soaps. In technical terms, they are called as syndet bars or synthetic detergent bars.

Tags :     Soap     vegetable oils     alkali     potash    


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