What is This Stuff Called Soap Anyway?
Soap is one of those things we use everyday (hopefully) and we kinda take for granted. But what is soap really? And how is it made?
Humans have been using soap for thousands of years. The soap we use today is probably quite different than the soap we used in ancient times but the basic formula for making soap remains the same.
Soap is a Salt
Did you know soap is actually a type of salt. But don’t go grinding it up and sprinkling it on your avocado!
Soap is a ‘salt of long chain fatty acids’ to be precise. But never mind about that.
Ok here comes the sciency bit…it’s easy though
Soap is formed through a special chemical reaction between oils or fats (which are actually acids – fatty acids) and a strong alkaline (most often sodium hydroxide or lye).
The chemical reaction that happens is called ‘saponification’ because the oils and fats change and become ‘saponified’ or turned into soap (that fancy salt I mentioned earlier).
When Was Soap First Discovered?
It’s thought that soap was first discovered when animal fats dripped into cooking fire ashes and then it rained or water was used to put out the fire. The mixture of water, ashes (alkaline) and fats (acids) created a crude saponification reaction and formed the first primitive soaps.
Why is There Lye in my Soap?
These days we have refined the alkaline component and use a chemical called sodium hydroxide or lye to create a more precise and controlled chemical reaction and therefore nicer finished product.
Sometimes people become alarmed when they hear there’s sodium hydroxide or lye in their soap. But without it there would be no chemical reaction and therefore no soap, just a bowl full of fats and oils.
Once the chemical reaction – saponification – is complete, the sodium hydroxide is all used up and the oils and fats are transformed into soap.
ALL soap making uses an alkaline and usually it’s sodium hydroxide. There is no way around it. (If anyone claims their soap is lye free – they are most likely using Melt and Pour soaps using a melt and pour soap base then adding their own scents and colours. Melt and Pour soaps still use lye to create the soap base)
There is no need to worry about lye or sodium hydroxide as there should be no sodium hyroxide left in your finished bar of soap. (As long as your soap maker is experienced and knows what they are doing and carefully measures ingredients. We do here of course.)
How Does Soap Clean?
Soap cleans because it is made up of a long chain molecules that have an oil-loving end (lipophilic) and a water-loving end (hydrophilic).
When you lather up with the soap, the lipophilic ends pick up the oil and grease on your skin and when you wash it with water the hydrophilic ends follow the water down the sink carrying away the oil, grease and dirt.
Water alone can wash off some dirt but doesn’t combine with oils and so cannot remove a greasy buildup.
What about ‘Antibacterial’ Soap?
“Antibacterial’ soaps are often liquid soaps with antibacterial chemicals like triclosan or triclocarbon added to them. These chemicals are not super great for us and there is growing concern about their effects on our bodies, hormones and the environment. Often these liquid soaps are not true soaps but chemical detergents anyway. Also, for the antibacterial agents to work properly and kill bacteria they should be left on a surface (your skin) for two minutes or more, before washing them off. And for those worried about COVID, remember it’s a virus so antibacterials don’t work on it anyway.
Natural Soap is The Best
Natural handmade soap is the best thing to use as there are no nasty antibacterial chemicals added and it easily removes all germs and dirt and grease without harming you or the environment. Just remember to wash all surfaces of your hands for at least 20 seconds and rinse with plenty of water.
Plus natural soap is just so lovely to use and if it has beautiful high quality oils and butters,like ours does, then it will leave your skin moisturised and soft too.
Now what are you waiting for...stock up on some luscious handmade soap today and keep your skin fresh, clean and lovely.