The first traces of a soap-like substance date back to the third millennium B.C. in the kingdoms of Babylon and Sumer. At that time, the Sumerian population made a soap-like preparation of boiled fat and ashes. The saponification of this material had similar effects to our present soap.
Later in 1500 BC, the Egyptians used natron (a mineral) and soda ash recovered from evaporation from salt lakes for their daily hygiene.
However, according to Pliny the Elder (23 -79 AD), hard soap was invented by the Gauls who made it from ashes, tallow and lard or inedible oils. It was then mainly used to wash hair.
After that, the use of soap became more and more common in Europe, first for the wealthy and then later for the common people.
The Legend of Mount Sapo
Legend has it that soap originated from Mount Sapo, a fictitious mountain on the outskirts of Rome.
The story explains that the Romans used to make animal sacrifices on its slopes. Then, the ashes from the wood fires mixed with the fat of the killed animals forming a primitive soapy material. This liquid flowed into a nearby stream, where women used to wash clothes, and they noticed that there the stains were easier to clean.
This legend would explain the Latin origin of the word soap, sapo, from the name of this mountain.
However, it has never been proven, although it often appears in stories and other sources.
Types of Soap
There are many different kinds of soap with different uses: for the body, for laundry, for the home... but they all have a common purpose of removing stains and cleaning.
A soap can take many different forms and still be effective.
As a bar of soap
In powder form for laundry
In liquid solutions such as shower gel, dishwashing liquid or hand soap.
However, it is their composition and not their form that really differentiates one soap from another.
The medicinal soap
Medicinal soap is another way to take advantage of the active ingredients found in medicinal plants. It is made with oil extracted from plants with healing properties.
Aleppo soap is a very ancient soap that was created several millennia ago. It is made from vegetable oil and soda. Usually the oil used is either olive oil, berry oil or bay leaf oil.
The black soap
The raw material of black soap is resin. This ingredient gives it stronger degreasing capacities than other soaps.
The current Marseille soap is made from palm oil and olives mixed with soda.
Contrary to beliefs, Marseille soap does not originate from the city of the same name. It is Gallipoli, an Italian city along the Ionian Sea which was probably the origin of this soap so well known. Gallipoli is a town where a very good quality olive oil is made. The inhabitants of Gallipoli had the idea of adding soda to the remains of pressed olives to make white soaps.
It was only later that Marseille became the main producer of this soap.
DIY cosmetics: make your own soap
Recipes for making soap at home are numerous on the internet. There are some to make classic soap, nourishing or exfoliating according to the preferences and usefulness that each one makes.
This recipe will allow you to obtain a classic soap that is richer in oil than in soda.
For more safety, it is recommended that you wear an apron and possibly glasses to protect yourself from possible splashes.
It is better to use glass containers when making soap.
WARNING: Caustic soda is a dangerous ingredient and should be kept out of reach of children.
Gloves must be worn throughout the preparation to avoid direct contact with the soda.
Remember to wash the gloves thoroughly at the end before removing them.