How old is Soap?

Soap is a beautiful substance.  It is what helps us keep our friends, family, and jobs.  With it we feel clean, happy, and healthy.  So when exactly was soap created?

The art of soap making dates all the way back to the Babylonians.  When ancient Babylon was being excavated, a clay cylinder that was dated 2800 BC had a soap like substance within it.  There is also a clay tablet that had a formula for making soap that was dated 2200 BC.

Even the Egyptians used soap.  It is mentioned in the Ebers papyrus that the Egyptians made a type of soap by combining animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts.  There is also Egyptian documentation that they used a substance like soap to prepare wool for weaving.

soap making

There is a Roman legend of how soap received its name.  This legend says that on Mount Sapo animals were sacrificed to their Gods.  When it rained, it would wash the melted animal fat and ashes down the mountain into the clay by Tiber River.

Women would go to Tiber River to clean their laundry.  After a while, the women discovered that using the clay mixture was a very effective tool in cleaning.  Some say that this legend is not true because there is no such mountain, but as legends go no one knows for sure.

Soap making continued through out time and was often thought of as women’s work.  The finer soaps were made in Europe in the 16th century using vegetable oil instead of animal fat.  Chemists were the first to use vegetable oil, lye, and aromatic oils in soap.

Until the Industrial Revolution, soap making was done on a small and personal scale.  The large manufacturing of soap helped to create low priced and higher quality soap.  Transparent soap was invented in London by Andrew Pears in 1789.

The majority of today’s soap is still manufactured.  Although, there are some shops and boutiques that sell their own line of home made soap.  Some individuals still like making soap as a personal hobby.

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