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The History And Methods Of Soap Making

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 3712 words Published: 5th May 2017

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Some individuals find it amusing to make their own soaps at home. Soap making has been a pleasurable hobby to a few “soapers”, as they are frequently called. Isn’t it a great way to bond with your kids over the weekend? More than that soap making encourages enjoyment either for pleasure or as an earning potentials just by being creative in your talents.

The wonder of soap making is that you can get your imagination run wild and come up with something unique that is entirely based to your own specifications and liking. You can likewise create exceptionally fun gifts for any occasions.

Which are better, handmade soaps or commercial soaps? Why not choose commercially produce soap? Little did we know that these commercial soaps are unhealthy to our skin? Normally, we tend to buy soaps that give the most lather and stronger fragrance which is likely the more reason that we should not choose. The lather is actually just chemicals that we enjoy rubbing in our skins which may eventually cause dry scaly skin.

Handmade soaps are better than those we buy commercially. Why? Because handmade soap uses only oils from flowers, herbs and spices that bring about the natural aromatherapy which gives a soothing effect on our body. They are basically hypoallergenic and safe to use all over our body even to face and hair.

If you want to know more about homemade soaps then read on. In this book, I will show you how fun and easy it is to create your own handcrafted exotic designed soaps. Plus, the ultimate factor is to turn your personal hobby into a lucrative business. How would you like a grasp of that splendid opportunity?

Soap’s Humble Beginnings

We have been using soap every day in our lives since we were born. But have you ever paused for a moment and wonder how all this started?

The farthest demonstration I can find that people uses soap is from the earlier history which dates back to around 2800 BC in Ancient Babylon. A formula was found written in a Babylonian clay tablet around 2200 BC consisting of water, alkali and cassia oil. Before that there were no records or documentation that the grand baths of kings and queens are soaps, instead they use essential oils.

In 1550 BC Ancient Egyptian were found to bathe regularly in animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salt.

Beginning from the 7th century soap was produced in West Bank, Kufa and Vassra (Iraq). Soaps were already perfumed and colored and come in liquid or solid form at that time. Even soaps for shaving already exist.

In the 8th century, soap making was then a renowned necessity for both man and woman. The recognition was attributed to Charlemagne who mentioned that soap is one of the useful products. Chemists were the ones who produced the soap made from vegetable oil (olive oil), aromatic oils (thyme oil), and lye (al-Sosa-al-Kawia).

During the 13th century, a manuscript was found to contain soap recipes such as sesame oil, a sprinkle of potash, alkali, and some lime. Mixed all together and boil. When cooked, they are poured into molds and left to set producing a hard soap.

A local record of the Bristol Company of soap makers were found in the year 1562 – 1642 which includes the names of more than 180 individuals including members of the family and those who were engage in trading for the business. Included in the record was the production of “Bristol soap” which is a soft type of black soap and “Bristol grey soap” which is the harder type was believed to have been largely supplied in London sold only a penny per pound.

In the 16th century finer soaps are introduced using vegetable oil. In this modern time history, a better understanding of hygiene emanated due to the need of reducing population of pathogenic microorganisms.

It was until the 17th century that a commercial production was born – a high quality transparent soap product was introduced by Andrew Pears in 1789 in London.

It was then during the late 18th century that soaps were industrially manufactured after promoting awareness for cleanliness and health. In 1862 Andrew Pears son-in-law Thomas J. Barratt opened a factory in Isleworth. Low-priced good quality soap was produced by William Gossage. Soap powder was manufactured by Robert Spear Hudson in 1837 by grinding the soap with mortar and pestle. Up to this day, Unilever is the largest soap business which was founded by William Hesketh Lever and his brother James who bought a small soap works in Warrington in 1885.

It was also in 1806 that a certain William Colgate opened the first great soap making concern in New York called “Colgate and Company”, They started selling individual soaps of the same size or weights only in 1830. Then in 1872 they introduced the first perfumed soap called cashmere bouquet.

Competition started to manifest when William Proctor and James Gamble opened a new business by selling candles and soaps house to house. They started their business venture in Cincinnati, and achieve tremendous success in a few years time and became a huge manufacturer. They distribute products in large quantities to major cities and in 1879, Proctor and Gamble launched “Ivory Soap” in the Western United States. Another company was born, B.J. Johnson making soap entirely from palm and olive oil. Their soap gained incredible success that that pave way to renaming their company after palm – that brought about the birth of Palmolive.

The emergence of this four major companies transformed soap into a multi-billion dollar industry. The intense of their competition also give rise to the introduction of laundry detergents in the early 1990’s.CHAPTER 1

Superstitions and Myths

The Folklore’s of Soap

As I tried to look into the Myths of Soap, it made me aghast to find out the different versions of their story. Some say’s soaps are made from human corpses while others say otherwise. Would you believe that? Yuck!!!! Yes, that was my prompt reaction. But it is what it is they say.

This is the story…. During World War II, the mass production of soap was originally taken from the Jewish concentration camp victims. However, the Yad Vashem Memorial denied the fact that the Nazis did not mass produced soap from human corpses. They said that the story was only made up to scare off the inmates. On the contrary, evidence shows the possibility that research facilities did developed a process of soap production from human bodies.

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The speculations of “human soap” came about because of the presumption of the labels RIF found on bars of soap, meaning Reichs-Juden-Fett or translated as the “State Jewish Fat”. It was then explained that in German acronym, “i” and “j” were frequently interchanged, they vary only in length. It was then afterwards corrected. RIF stands for Reichsstelle fur Industrielle Fettversorgung or National Center for Industrial Fat Provisioning. The RIF is the German government agency who was in-charge of soap and other washing materials in production and distribution. They concluded that RIF soap is a substitute product of poor quality and does not contain human fat at all.

This story has been circulating Lubin in October 1942, apparently the German’s knew about this. In fact a certain chief Heinrich Himmler received a letter stating that Pole’s believed the story of the Jewish people being boiled into soap. As the word spread so widely, instilling fear in the minds of Polish population gave them the reason to boycott the buying of soaps. This prompted Himmler to cremate or bury the bodies immediately.

I thought that was the end of a gruesome story but there is more. A certain Sigmund Mazur, a laboratory assistant at the Danzig Anatomical Institute testified in the Nuremberg trial. He attested to the truth that production of soap was made from the corpse fats at the camp. More so, he added that 40 bodies can extract 70 to 80 kg of fat and can produce more than 25 kg of soap. Finished products are kept under the hand of Professor Spanner. This time there are available witnesses to his statement, they are The British POW’s (the labors that constructed the camp), Dr. Stanislaw Byczkowski (head of the Department of Toxicology at the Gdansk School of Medicine). The holocaust survivor, Thomas Blatt who investigated the subject found only a few concrete documentations and with great frustration found no evidence of the said experimental soap. Somehow, evidence came up proving that a small scale of experimental soap production did exist.

Mazur even gave a copy of the recipe. Here it is: “5 kilos of human fat, mixed with 10 liters of water with 500 or 1000 grams of caustic soda. Boiled all together for 3 hours and then cooked. The soap will float and the rest of the sediments and water remains at the bottom. A bit of salt and soda is added to this mixture. Then again water is added boiled for another 2 – 3 hours. Letting it cold, the cold then is poured into its mold.

There are more other versions of the story like the report made by Alexander Werth that he did actually see the experimental factor and saw the parts of the corpses. We also have the Alain Resnais who published the testimony of the Holocaust survivor. Acting on the contrary side is the Historian Yisrael Gutman who specifically said that “it was never done on a mass scale”. Then it was corrected by a certain Holocaust historian Robert Melvin Spector that the Nazis “did indeed use human fat for the making of soap in limited quantity though.

The veracity of the myth is difficult to solve, it is up to you how you want to conclude this part of the story. On my side, I am still overwhelmed with disbelief. What about you, would you rather believe the myth, or not?


Soap Description and Its Composition

Basic elements of soap amaking



Tools You Need

Let’s get started with your soap making venture

Soap making, it is not as hard as you think it is. Take time to look into your kitchen you might find the things you need, if not you can always visit nearby stores.

If you are not much of a kitchen person, I presume that you should need to go shopping first. Funny as it may sound but you do have to go buy the important and basic tools you need before moving further on.

What you need are the following:

Scale (digital or manual) – have an accurate scale measuring 1/10th of an ounce. This is used to measure all your ingredients like oil, lye, fragrance, additives and water.

Safety goggles and rubber gloves – you must wear this during the process to protect your eyes and hands from lye solutions and caustic raw soap

Stainless steel pitcher with lid or any heat resistant plastic – this is use for mixing your solution.

Large stainless steel or plastic spoon – definitely for stirring solutions. For smaller soaps (2-3 lbs) you may use a large pyrex pitcher, but for bigger size you will need an 8-12 quart stainless steel pot.

Glass or plastic bowl or a pitcher- this is use to hold your liquid oils before adding to the soap pot.

Candy or Meat Thermometer – an accurate and quick reading is preferred to monitor the temperature of your solution and melted oils.

Small beakers, ramekins or measuring cups – this is used to hold your fragrance oils, colorants, separated soap and additives before adding to the soap.

Small spoons and whisks – use to blend colorants, fragrance oils, and melted oils.

Large stainless steel or plastic ladle – is used to ladle out a bit of raw soap to blend colorants .

Stick Blender – blend oils and other mixture and start saponification process.

Soap mold – be creative, you can use any shape of container that are leak-proof. You may use plastic, glass, or stainless steel. Never use aluminum or metal. Plastics are preferable.

Rubber spatulas- used for scraping to make use of all mixture leaving nothing to waste.

Paper towels or dish cloths – for wiping spills.

Rags – to catch spills while working

Peeler, scotch tape and knife


Easy Steps of Soap Making

Rule of thumb:

There are various approaches in making soap. The easiest way is to buy pre-mixed or soap making packs that are readily available in the market. The other one is to buy individually the ingredients needed along with the useful tools required for your soap making operandi. The ingredients and tools you need for your homemade soap will depend of course on the method you choose, we have the melt and pour method, hot or cold process, Rebatching or Milled soap, and the liquid soap.

Soap Making Methods

Melt and Pour Soap Making Method

This is the easiest and most common way to make your own homemade soap. If you are a novice on this undertaking you may choose this method, as the title melt and pour suggest all you have to do is melt a pre-made soap base into a liquid then probably add some extra ingredients and then pour it to your desired mold design……. and Presto! You have your own new specially created homemade soap. Using translucent or opaque glycerin soap for melting is absolutely favorable to your skin because it consists only of vegetable oils.

Cold Process Method

This is more challenging, a mixture of science and personal touch of artistry is what makes this method uniquely your own style. This method is the most versatile, let you visualize and naturally brings out your creativity. In this way, you are obliged to make your own soap base from scratch through “saponification” which means soap making. What is saponification process? It is the process where oil or fat (tristearin) is treated with sodium hydroxide solution called lye to form soap and glycerine. When chemical reaction starts to occur, other ingredients may now be added of your choice excluding artificial ingredients whatever your preference would be.

Hot Process Method

The hot method process is similar to the cold process only heat is used to speed up the saponification process. You may use an oven, a crock pot or even a microwave for the heat application.

This has been an age old usage in soap making. One disadvantage of this method though, is the difficulty of removing the finished product from its mold. But it has also its advantageous gain; cure time is greatly reduced thus skipping weeks of waiting and able to use your new soap right away.

Rebatching or Milled Method

This method involves shredding your own soap creation, melting and adding your specially selected choice of additional ingredients. This is most likely the same with melt and pours however, in this method you do not use a pre-made soap to shred.

This method requires that you know the hot and cold method first. You can used this method particularly for your unsuccessful batches, save it and re-melt the soap for your next project.

Proper Steps-by-step Process of

Making Soap

B-1 Preparation Stage

I know you are already intensely excited to know how to start your soap making adventure. Let me not hinder your curiosity any longer, here is what you should do during the preparation stage.


Step 1 – Getting Ready.

Before starting, make sure that you have everything you need. Plan ahead. It is better if you can spare extra time reading and learning everything you need to know before attempting to make your own homemade soaps. If you can do that I am pretty sure of your enormous success.

Choosing your perfect location.

An ideal area should be close to the oven, easy access to water, a large flat table where you can work and a part of the house that is free from distractions. Preferably your own private area, if possible if not then any place that has the least distraction.

Taking care and protecting your workplace.

Cover your area with vinyl table cloth (optional), on this way it is easier for you to wipe and clean your surface and avoid oil leaks running through your table. Vinyl cloths are reusable and affordable that is why I highly recommend you use the same.

Setting up equipments and ingredients.

Set up all your soap making supplies according to your working convenience and flow. A working place you feel comfortable and set up in a manner that works with you even with your eyes close.

Preparing your soap molds.

You may line up your molds in one place ready with its plastic wrap or butcher paper.

Preparing your insulation area

Lay down a blanket on a warm draft area where you will allow your process soap to cool down for 24 hours. And in that side, prepare an extra piece of butcher’s paper to use for covering the top of your soap. A Styrofoam or a plywood is also recommended. It will be put on top of the wax paper to regulate the heat during the cooling period and protects the soap from any possible accidents. Rapid heat loss may result to a chalky soap.

Step 2 – Preparing your Favorite Additives.

If you are a novice to soap making, I advise you try on with a couple of additives at first. As you get the feel of soap making you can always add more additive techniques.

How to pre-heat your oven.

Oven must be warm and not hot. Meaning you are able to remove what you place inside with your bare hands – no need for mitts!

How to measure additives and essential oils

Measuring your botanicals or colorants in advance and placing them on ramekins encourage a faster and convenient working scenario once you start making homemade soaps.

You may do it also with your essential oils or rosemary extracts if you are using it and superfatting nutrients and keep them in a small sealed jar.

An organized area benefits you with ease and peace of mind which is very helpful to keep your mind focus on what you are doing.

Step 3 – The Proper Way to Measure Base Ingredients.

All steps in making soaps are considered important, but we need to pay extra attention on weighing ingredients with ultimate accuracy. Familiarize yourself with the weighing scale.

Inaccurate measurement will just waste your time, money and effort. Lye and oil if measured wrongly will tend to get heavy in cold process soap which either you have to rework or throw away.

How to prepare and measure lye

Measure water and place in a jug.

Get ready and wear your working clothes – wear goggles, gloves, long sleeve clothing and safety equipment before putting your hand on sodium hydroxide.

You may now measure your lye and slowly pour it into the water and stirring simultaneously until lye crystals are completely dissolved.

Fumes will start to manifest as you mix the lye solution. What I do during this time is to hold my breath until lye is dissolve and leave the working area for a few minutes or until fumes disappear.

IMPORTANT: Always add the sodium hydroxide to the water and not the other way around. If you mistakenly mix sodium to water an unpleasant and violent reaction could occur.

How to measure base oils

Measure each solid oils and place it into the stainless steel pot.

Set the heat on a medium- low as you continue to measure the other ingredients, your solid oil is also gradually melting.

And once the solid oils have melted remove the pot from your heating equipment before putting the other liquid oils and grapefruit seed extract into the pot. (extracts are optional)

Step 4 – The Proper Way of Mixing Oils and Lye

Mixing oil varies from 5 to 10 minutes or even up to an hour depending on the ingredients you use.

How to combine lye solution and oil mixture.

Slowly pour the lye solution into the pot of oils using a whisk for stirring.

Steadily and firmly continue stirring adequately fast enough to keep the mixture in constant motion but not too fast as to spill out some of the mixture. Your goal is to get the oil, lye, and water to combine well to make the soap.

Thoroughly stir the mixture reaching all areas of the pot. The mixture will turn creamy and opaque and then begins to thicken.

How to stir mixture that reaches its trace point.

Continue stirring until reaching a thin trace. At this point we need to maintain a thin trace yet since we still have ingredients to add.

How can you determine trace? What is trace? Trace means the lye-water and your heated oil are well blended and that the mixture will not separate back to its original oils and lye-water. To test your trace, deep a spatula or spoon into your mix then drip it back to the mix, if it takes a second or two to disappear back into the mix then you’ve got the trace right.

Step 5 – Adding Essential Additives of Your Choice and Pouring Soap to Your Mold.

This is where your creativity comes in. Pour in all decorative and unique design soap making ideas at this point.

How to incorporate additives

B-2 How to Determine Temperature

Step 1 – How to check the temperature


Lye solutions can be heated or cooled in a hot or cold water bath in the sink.

Oils can be heated on heating elements or cooled in a cold water bath.

Temperatures of oil mixture and lye solution should be at 90 – 95 degrees Fahrenheit or 32 – 35 degrees Celsius.

It may be difficult to get temperatures almost the same but it gets easier as you develop on how to get the feel of the time frame or how long you can get lye to cool down.


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