100 Surprising Facts About Soap

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Soap is a cleaning chemical. It has a very ancient history. Soap has been used by humans since the days of the Babylonian civilization in 2800 BC. It was then made by boiling animal fat with ashes. In 2200 BC, soap was made by boiling cassia oil with water and salt instead of animal fat. In 556-539 BCE, during the reign of Nabonidus, the last emperor of the Babylonian civilization, soap made from cypress oil, sesame oil, and ash was allowed to be used by maids to clean stone furniture.

Facts About Soap

Surprising Facts About Soap

  • Soap can be in a liquid or solid form.
  • Soap in a solid form is called a bar of soap.
  • In 1966, P&G spent $161 million on TV ads for soap.
  • Soap that is used to wash your face is called face soap.
  • Soap in a liquid form is called liquid soap or foam soap.
  • Soap that is used to wash your hands is called hand soap.
  • Soap that can help kill bacteria is called antibacterial soap.
  • Soap made from animal fats can be made from beef or mutton fat.
  • Soap that is used to wash your body is called body soap or body wash.
  • In 1980, Taylor wanted to go bigger: liquid soap for the common people.
  • Soaps were originally used for cleaning clothes and for curing animal hides.
  • Soap is a sodium salt - the same kind of salt you put on your food (in theory!
  • Soap that is used to clean dirty clothes and other textiles is called laundry soap.
  • Benzoyl peroxide is added to face soap because of its antibacterial effect on acne.
  • Body wash will have fragrances added to it to enhance your smell throughout the day.
  • The boiling point of your lye solution is 245 degrees fahrenheit or 118 in centigrade
  • In the nineteenth century, Italy, Spain and France were the soap capitals of the world.
  • Soap is a bathing, washing and cleaning product made from vegetable oils and/or fat oils.
  • Salicylic acid is added to face soap because it helps remove the outer layer of your skin.

Amazing Facts About Soap

  • A popular hobby is soapmaking and is practiced by people who want to make their own soap at home.
  • Washing your face with soap and water will remove dirt, sweat, oil, dead skin cells and pathogens.
  • A popular hobby is soap carving and is practiced by people who carve objects out of a bar of soap.
  • Soap can be used to washing your hands, face, body and hair, it can also be used to clean surfaces.
  • Softsoap became a hit and Taylor sold his company to one of his competitors in 1987 for $61 million.
  • Late 1600s people began to make the connection between personal hygiene (or lack of it) and disease.
  • Sodium sulfacetamide is added to face soap because it can halt the growth of bacteria that causes acne.
  • The name “soap” is derived from the fictional Mount Sapo, which is mentioned in an ancient Roman legend.
  • Based on archeological evidence, soap-like materials were being used in ancient Babylon around 2800 BCE.
  • The World Health Organization recommends you wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Soap made from vegetable oils can be made from canola, coconut, laurel, olive, palm and various other oils.
  • Novelty soaps are designed for kids with shapes and colors to mimic real life things, like a duck or a cow.
  • Washing your hands with soap and water is good for personal hygiene and helps stop the spread of pathogens.
  • Soap that is used to clean dirty dishware, glassware and both eating and cooking utensils is called dish soap.

Historical Facts About Soap

  • By the 8th century, soap had made a comeback in Italy and Spain. France hopped on the bandwagon a few centuries later.
  • In 1927, P&G was one of the first soap brands to sponsor radio broadcasts and advertise its soap products to housewives.
  • 1853 dynamite was invented, made from a chemical derivative of glycerine (nitroglycerin), a waste product of soap making.
  • Soap has been around for at least 4,800 years: even the ancient Egyptians used a substance that was similar to our modern soap.
  • Candlemaker William Procter and soap manufacturer James Gamble founded Procter & Gamble – better known as P&G – way back in 1837.
  • 13th century soap making in Britain was centred in large towns (London, Bristol and Coventry) with each town making its own variety.
  • Soap is made from alkali and animal fat (tallow). Because of its natural origins, soap is both environmentally friendly and biodegradable.
  • Soap is literally from the Biblical times. It is said that the earliest known soap was discovered in the city of Babylon at around 2800 BC.
  • The final PH of your soap varies depending upon the type of fatty acids in your chosen fats and oils. As a guide it can be between 10.1 and 11.4. 
  • Soap is thought to have arrived in England around the 13th century, to be used for preparing wool and cloth for dyeing, rather than for personal hygiene.
  • There is a soap plant called Soapwort that got its name because its leaves and roots contain saponin that produces a rich lather and is often used in washing.
  • The first record of soap use was around 3000 BC. Sumerians were using soap solutions of water and ash mixed with animal fat to clean dishes and wool (in preparation for dyeing).

Economic Facts About Soap

  • Soap manufacturing processes were consistent until 1916 when the first synthetic detergent was developed by German chemists in response to a shortage of animal fats for making soap.
  • Soaps just washes away the dirt, it doesn’t really destroy dirt or germs as is the common norm. While some anti-bacterial soap can kill bacteria, it doesn’t really kill any viruses.
  • Taylor decided to invest $12 million – everything his company was worth – into his idea. He ordered 100 million soap dispensers from the only two companies capable of producing them.
  • No glycerin is added to your soap but it is created as a by product of the saponification process, this is why you will find it on the ingredients label of every bar of handmade soap.
  • For this Softsoap, he had a dispenser developed with a plastic cap to cover the pump. This meant no additional packaging was needed and the product could be put on store shelves as is.
  • Some face soaps, both over the counter and prescription, contain one or more of the following chemicals to help control acne, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sodium sulfacetamide.
  • As Roman civilisation advanced, so did bathing. The first of the Roman baths was built in 312 BC. It is thought that the use of soap for cleansing was propagated throughout the Roman Empire.
  • The fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD heralded a falling away from hygiene in much of Europe, ushering in the plagues of the Dark Ages and a reduction in life expectancy to around 35 years.
  • Soap is a surfactant - that means it dissolves in both water and oil - this is why you can rinse oil off your hands with soap. Hot water not necessary but it does make the job a little easier.
  • From 1964, American entrepreneur Robert Ridgely Taylor invented and developed hundreds of variants of the common bar of soap at his own kitchen table. His real success was still to come, though.

Scientific Facts About Soap

  • 1868 BJ Johnson developed the first formula for liquid soap, made from palm and olive oils. He called it, Palmolive. The first liquid soap for household cleaning soon followed, made from pine oil.
  • The World Health Organization recommends you wash your hands before and after caring for someone who is sick, preparing food, prior to eating, after using the bathroom, handling garbage and handling animal waste.
  • It is possible to reduce the PH of your soap even further with hot process soap making by adding a low PH fatty acid or even something like citric acid to your soap after the cook and before you put it in the mould.
  • Industrial innovations of the 19th century brought about further changes in public health with the introduction of the first carpet sweeper (Daniel Hess, in 1860) and vacuum cleaners (Ives McGaffey, in 1869 and Hubert Booth in 1901).
  • Taylor’s golden move: a liquid soap that could easily be pumped from the bottle using a dispenser. He called it Cream Soap on Tap. The soap was sold as a luxury product in beautiful ceramic dispensers, and soon became an enormous success!
  • Ancient Roman legend suggests soap derived its name from Mount Sapo. From here, rainwater washed melted animal fats and wood ash (both from sacrifices) into the river below, where the soapy mixture was found to benefit the washing of clothes.
  • You can use saturated or unsaturated fats to make soap - saturated fats ie coconut oil will make a harder soap, while unsaturated ie olive oil will make it softer, on that point most solid fats are saturated, whilst most liquid oils are unsaturated.
  • A fancy bar of soap in Qatar could cost you as high as two thousand dollars! Known to be the most expensive soap in the world, it is produced by a family-run business in Qatar. Each soap is infused with diamond and gold powder, thus making it so pricey!
  • An automatic soap dispenser uses a motion sensor. It recognises when someone places their hands underneath the dispenser and releases a small quantity of soap. Because you do not have to touch the dispenser itself, the whole process is much more hygienic!
  • By 1950s synthetic and chemical detergent had all but replaced soap for washing clothes in developed countries. Not until the new millennium did the demand for a reduction in carbon footprint bring about the release of more biodegradable, environmentally friendly products.
  • A short time later, in 1989, a man from Taiwan named Guey-Chuan Shiau invented the automatic soap dispenser. With it, Shiau sought to improve hygiene in public toilets. Today, automatic soap dispensers are found in more and more public toilets, but their popularity in the home is also on the rise.

Unknown Facts About Soap

  • The radio broadcasts took the form of soap operas, the most successful of which was The Guiding Light. This show was developed by Irna Philips in 1937 and was sponsored by P&G White Naphta Soap. From 1952, the show was also broadcast on television. To this day, we still refer to such shows as “soaps.”
  • In 1865, American William Sheppard received a patent for the first liquid soap, also known as “improved liquid soap.” It was not like the liquid soap we know today, but rather a viscous, syrupy substance. The soap was mainly used in public places where proper hygiene was important, e.g. hospitals and restaurant kitchens.
  • Soap was initially used as a medicinal agent. The Ebers Papyrus, a medical document circa.1500 BC, describes a mixture of animal and vegetable oils with alkali salts to form soap used for treating skin diseases. Today, real soap (sans artificial ingredients) often has a healing effect on acne, eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions.
  • Today, researchers in London estimate that if everyone routinely washed their hands with soap, a million deaths could be prevented. CDCs (Centres for Disease Control) remind us that cleaning and disinfecting are not the same thing. Cleaning with soap and water removes dirt and germs from surfaces, whereas disinfecting actually kills the germs.
  • The fumes that are given off when you mix you water with your sodium hydroxide are hydrogen. ( Bonus - the reaction that occurs between your NaOH and water and makes it hot very quickly is called an exothermic reaction) It is worth noting that if you use ice cubes to mix your NaOH with it will drastically reduce the fumes and also keep your lye solution below 100 f once mixed. 
  • Soap molecules are long and thin and have a water loving end (hydrophillic) and a grease and oil loving end (hydrophobic). When you wash your hands, the hydrophobic end of the soap molecule grabs the grease and oils and the dirt that is trapped within whilst the hydrophillic end binds with the water which then pulls the hydrophobic end complete with dirt and oils away and washes them down the sink
  • The final composition of the superfat in your cold processed bar of soap will depend on the make up of your recipe. Those ingredients that react with lye the slowest will make up the biggest proportion on your superfat. To put this in to perspective, if you were to make a very simple coconut oil/olive oil soap at 50/50 ratio of each you might expect the superfat to be 50/50 too but because the unsaturated oils in olive oil are slower to react with lye than the saturated fats in coconut oil so you will have a higher proportion of olive oil in your finished bar.

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