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Soap – history of “washing”

        Versions of soap invention history

The history of inventing soap to save human beings from uncleanness has always engrossed inquiring minds.

The Roman scientist and statesman Pliny the Junior stated that ancient Gauls and Germans already had known how to prepare soap. As the chronologist evidences these wild tribes used to make from simple expedients, namely fat and beech ash, some miraculous grease which was used for cleaning and coloring hair, as well as for curing skin diseases. Physician Galen, who lived in Rome at those times described soap and noted that it should be made of fat and dissolution of ash with alkali; it makes skin soft and cleans body and clothes from dirt.

It is also known that even in the ancient Babylon and ancient Sumer almost everyone used soap regularly. Detailed description of soap boiling process was found on Sumerian clay tablets dated 2500 B.C. The method was based on mixing wood ash and water which was boiled and also fat was added, and in the result of which soap solution was obtained.

The Romans called soap “sapo” – by a legend it was originated from the name of Sapo Mountain. According to the old legend on this mountain sacrifices to gods were made. Mixture from animal fat and wood ash of the sacrifice fire was washed by rain into the clay soil of Tiber river bank. Women laundering there noted that thanks to this mixture clothes were cleaned much better. And eventually started to use “a gift from the gods” not only for washing clothes, but also for washing bodies. By the way, the first soap boilers were found by archeologists among ruins of famous Pompeii.

Luxury for notable and rich people

Notwithstanding that soap had already been invented, most people of antique world continued to use leach, leguminous meal, glue, pumice foam, barley yeast and clay. For example chronologists are aware that Skythian women made washing detergent from wood of cypress and cedar, then mixed it with water and incense. They applied this soft grease with fine aroma onto their entire body. Then they scrapped off the solution and the skin became clean and smooth.

Famous Arab physician Avicenna who lived in XI century advised to use soap for washing lepers. Even long after that (until XIII century) soap was ranked as medication and cure.

In Middle Ages soap was used only by representatives of two rich classes – noblemen and priests, and even not by all of them. However, people of Middle Age Europe led their lives in dirt not because soap was inaccessible. Simply, from the point of inquisition, special care for own sinful earth was deemed seditious.

As strange it may seem, popularity of cleanliness was inculcated to the Middle Age Europe by knights, who had been in Arabic countries during crusades. It is there “the unwashed Europe” had found the happiness of a clean body! In XII century crusaders used to bring famous soap balls from Damask and presented them to their beloved ones..

Probably it was Arabians who in VII century AD started for the first time to use in practice the way of processing the soap solution by lime hydrate and in that way they started to manufacture hard soap. The art of soap boiling came to Spain from Arabians. Here they learnt to make hard beautiful soap from olive oil and ash of marine plants. Along the entire Mediterranean where oil crops were cultivated, soap making started to flourish.

In XV and XVI cc. knights and merchants used to bring fragrant balls from Venice. They were graved with lilies, fir apples, crescents – so called first trademarks.

Since XIII century soap making starts to flourish in French and England. This trade was taken very seriously. In 1399 in England the king Henry the Fourth established an order the special privilege of which was to wash in a bath-house with a piece of soap. In this country for a long time it was restricted for members of soap makers’ guild to stay overnight together with masters of other trades – in order to prevent secret disclosure.

In 1424 in Italy, Savoy they started to manufacture hard soap in industrial way. Fats were combined not with ash, but with natural soda ash extracted from lakes. They used beef, mutton, pork, horse fat, whale and fish oil, waste oil of various productions. Vegetable oils were also added – flax oil, cotton-seed oil, olive oil, almond oil, sesame oil, coconut oil and palm oil.

It is interesting that the land of Cymolos island included into Cyclades islands in Aegean Sea, consists of a matter which has been used by locals as soap from times immemorial. They wash and launder, and when it rains the whole island is covered with soap foam.

So the history of soap emerging is quite diversified and does not have clear data about the place, reason and inventor. Most likely it emerged spontaneously in different places and at different times and, despite anything it survived until the time, when it made a revolution in human hygiene, becoming its everyday attribute.

 Industrial soap manufacturing

             Industrial manufacturing of soap appeared in XIX century owing to development of fats chemistry and broad manufacturing of soda by approach of French chemist N. Leblan. Men of enterprise realized what profit may bring manufacturing of soap in industrial scale. Active organization of “soap” companies and mass organization of soap factories started.

During the World War I there was shortage of fats for soap production, and then chemists started to substitute them by synthetic analogues from mineral oil and gas, i.e. they started to make soap from matters from which gasoline was obtained. Since then detergents, powders and industrial soap had appeared on shop counters. Composition of a small bar of soap resembles chemistry tasks: PAVs, detergents, aggregating agents, solvents, preservative agents, stabilizing agents and other substances. It would be good, but human’s skin is not to be washed with such chemicals. That is why most of people revert to handmade soap, prepared “from zero”. What is soap without any synthetic material, i.e. handmade soap? We would like to remind that earlier this product was made from animal fat and vegetable oil. Nowadays most of soap makers return to the same. Natural soap is composed of only those substances which are necessary for foaming and skincare. Soap maker may also add essential oils, therapeutic mud, plants and other natural components. It is easy to distinguish such product: it has natural color, nice soft aroma. If you started to use natural soap, you will soon see how your skin has changed: it became soft and delicate (more details below). So it is better to say not to industrial products made of mineral oil and gas and to use natural product.

          The main value for soap-makers is pH value – subject to continuous disputes. If pH value is equal to 7 that means that medium is not alkaline and not acid, it is neutral. Values from 6 to 8 are considered close to neutral. Manufacturers of beauty aids select value 5.5 and position it as optimal for skin. In reality skin acidity is not a standard value, it is different on different parts of the body, changes during the day and quickly recovers after washing.         

          Natural soap (as salt of sub-acid and strong base) in water dissolution cannot but be alkali. And in order to maintain “optimal” level (for example, the same 5.5) soap is made from synthetic detergents. In the result soapless soap is obtained which has very good washing properties but it cannot be considered natural. Modern developments of chemical industry certainly are of high technology, and none can say they are of low quality. However human skin is genetically predisposed to natural products. Besides the most perfect chemical combination can be taken by human organism adversely! Further, allergists take many tests from patients for identifying reasons of allergy, and the worst thing is that very often they fail.

          Natural is better for your body

                Natural soap is so called handmade soap (as stated above). It can be made both from totally natural products, and from products with natural components. Both can be handmade beauty aids, but only the first one can be applied such terms as: fresh, organic, natural cosmetics. Coconut, olive, laurel, cacao oil, palm, castor oil, sesame oil, peach-kernel oil, apricot, almond oil, wax – these are not the only oil-bases used in organic manufacturing of handmade soap as the source of fatty acids. The best option is combination of several kinds of oil; using of only one type oil or disproportional increase in mixture leads to worsening of overall application properties. For instance, sunflower oil is good for dry skin, but if it prevails soap does not lather well. And in case of increase of mass fraction of cacao-oil the soap bar will crumble. Ingredients used in the process of manufacturing are not thermal processed nor pressure processed – soap making is implemented by “environment-friendly” “cold” method. With such manufacturing method, handmade soap appropriates hardness and thickness after being stored in a room with stable temperature and moisture indexes for not less than 2 months. The best soap grades are from 1.5 to 3 years of age.      Natural handmade soap is always alkali, it cannot be neutral due to technology. If manufacturer promises you pH less than 7, that means that you have synthetic soap, and its basis is chemically obtained detergents. Handmade soap has several advantages: ecological cleanness, cleansing and cosmetic effect, individual making, visual appeal, etc.       Industrial soap is made from natural oils, as well as from their substitutes.  Industrial soap may contain perfect chemical compound, which could be taken by organism adversely and result in severe allergic reaction to agents.  

          Experts have common forecast regarding soap market development. The times when buyer purchased cheap care means gradually pass away. Consumer preferences shift to more expensive brands with high quality performance, attractive package and a whole set of additional functions.

With growing of population income and increase of purchasing capacity the trends will more shift towards selective approach to hygiene means individually for each family member.

         Today, the initial hygienic function of soap is supplemented with some others, for instance, therapeutic functions. They started to use soap for sensitive skin, to relieve stress, as a product of aroma therapy and preventing skin aging.

             So, what is the difference?

           Industrial soap and handmade soap are two different things. Handmade soap is called so due to chemical reactions, occurring in the process of its manufacturing but the product itself is totally different from what large factories produce. For instance, let’s take widely spread kind of handmade soap – glycerin, and the same kind of soap can be seen on shop-windows of any supermarket. In the process of industrial production of glycerin soap very high temperatures are involved, in the result of all chemical reactions glycerin is separated from the basis and removed. Therefore, very often buyers wonder: why advertisement says that glycerin moistures and protects the skin, but glycerin soap dries it? It’s because there is nothing moisturizing left in the soap. In the process of industrial soap production may be used animal fat – lard or of cattle.

Regarding handmade soap:

- It is “boiled” by “cold” way, which allows preservation of useful properties of oil and other ingredients,

- All glycerin, formed in the result of saponifying reaction remains in the soap, i.e. that is the glycerin soap.

- Only vegetable oils are applied.

-Real good quality and essential oils, extracts, vitamins and other beneficial things are used.

         Certainly, we should keep in mind that soap is soap, it is not after-shower cream, it is intended to clean, that is all that industrial soap does, moreover it does it hard. Handmade soap cleans very softly and components included therein soften cleansing means, protect skin. You should not expect super moisturizing from such soap.


         When selecting natural soap besides aroma you should pay attention to the set of oils. As a rule, in description to such soap oils applied therein are indicated. You should select them for your skin type, ask sellers, they should provide you consultation. In case if you have oily skin, taking soap with peach or apricot oil is not the best option, even if you like the odor very much, it is better to select soap with raisin-seed oil or almond oil. And from ethers – citrus and cedar oil. And otherwise, if you have dry skin, it is better to forget about citrus soap, if you are not going to apply moisturizing creams after getting shower. Citrus will dry your skin even more, i.e. when selecting a bar of soap you should keep in mind the type of your skin and its individual reactions to certain products. There are people for who citrus ether oils are not good, for some ones beekeeping products – honey, blossom dust, bee-glue are not suitable at all, there may be individual reaction to herb extracts. You should not think that there are so little of them in the soap that your skin will not even feel them. In the soap of good manufacturers they all exist and in needed quantity.

                 What about us

           In Uzbekistan lately you can often see handmade soap of various manufacturers. This soap is expensive, but it’s worth that. Why not to take care of yourself? However, first of all you should pay attention to the quality. Quality is guaranteed only through a certificate. In case if it is not available, then the product can be qualified as “doubtful”. In Uzbekistan, for the first time appeared handmade soap (or cold manufactured) totally certified and passed all necessary dermatologic and clinic tests. This soap appeared under well known brand “SEZAM” which has been producing natural vegetable oils for more than 12 years. And now under this confident brand, we can also enjoy natural soap. Approximately thirty items of such soap among which you can select appropriate to your individual peculiarities are produced by “Natek” LLC. So far this is the only certified recently aligned new production, which is established taking into account all details and applying all “ancient secrets” of this business, which allow buyers to use the product without being afraid of undesirable consequences. When taking care of your skin, you must be sure that what you are using will not do you any harm! Respect yourself – use natural products proved by ages!

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