Crafts-Hobbies Vivian | 03 Oct 2010 04:13 pm

The History of Soap Making

Records indicate that soap making began as far back as 2,800 B.C. Inscriptions discovered on the sides of clay cylinders excavated from the ruins of ancient Babylon describe the boiling of fats with ashes. Unfortunately the inscriptions do not describe the use of the mixture.

Ancient Egyptians are known to have bathed regularly, a medical Papyrus from about 1,500 B.C. describes the mixture of oils with alkaline salts to form a soap-like mixture used both for washing and treating skin conditions.

According to an ancient Roman legend, soap got its name from Mount Sapo, where the practice of animal sacrifice was carried out. It is said that the rain then washed the mixture of animal fat and ashes down through the clay soil into river Tiber, where women found that the mixture made their washing cleaner and did so with much less effort.

Today the chemical reaction resulting from the combination of fats or oils with an alkaline is still called saponification.

By the seventh century soap making had become an established craft in Europe. Trade secrets were closely guarded by soap maker guilds which developed during the period. Vegetable and animal oils were used with ashes of plants, and fragrances were added. Gradually more varieties of soap became available for bathing, laundering, shaving and shampooing.

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