History of Soap

Soap… for some it’s an object of cleaning only, for other it has a cosmetic purpose. And it’s probably the first item to be manufactured by chemical means that is still in production today using similar production methods. It still fascinates me today that ordinary oil, fats and butters can turn into a solid mass that removes the same oil,fats and butters from your hands, or turn into a mesmerising transparent golden liquid with viscosity that ranges from water to thick honey to a gel. Beautifully scented, or sporting pretty decorative embeds, pastel or bright coloured or simply elegant and white, the possibilities are endless and nothing brings more pleasure to a soapmaker than the compliment you receive on a work of art, or a product that has helped a skin ailment.

Vintage Lux adSoap has a wonderfully diverse history, and it all promulgates to the commercial brands that we know today mainly manufactured by Unilever in South Africa – Dove, Sunlight, Lux, Pears but to name a few.  After the Great War and until the 1930’s, soap was made by a method called batch-kettle boiling using three story kettles that produced tonnes of soap over the course of about a week. Shortly thereafter, an invention called continuous process was introduced and refined by Procter & Gamble. This process decreased soap making production time to less than a day. Large commercial soap manufacturers still use continuous process.

Commercial soap manufacturers also started to remove the natural glycerin in soap which gives it moisturising properties. They sell it or use it in other items like  lotions, moisturisers and creams that you need when commercial soap dries out your skin. Removing the natural glycerin also extends the shelf life of the soap so that it can sit in warehouses or supermarket shelves for extended periods of time.

And interestingly enough, what we call a bar of soap today is very different in size to what it was in former times and it resembles what we call a soap loaf today. Read more here on the history of soap: https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/news-and-analysis/opinion/comment/a-short-history-of-soap/20066753.article?firstPass=false


This website makes use of cookies. Please read our Privacy Page under More Info.