What culture invented the soap

The history of soap

Status: December 17, 2020 12:06 p.m.

Soap has a long history: around 4,500 years ago in what is now Iraq, the Sumerians immortalized the first recipe for a preform of soap, a mix of alkaline vegetable ash and oils, which they mainly used as a healing ointment, on a clay tablet.

Egyptians, Greeks and Teutons also used similar forms of soap. It was not until the Romans began using them to cleanse the body from around the 2nd century AD. They discovered that the mixture also makes you clean. Soap as we know it today originated in the 7th century. The Arabs heated the oils and alkaline salts, which replaced the potash, in a caustic solution and let the mixture boil until the oily mass solidified. They also used quick lime to make particularly strong soaps.

Prohibited because of epidemics in the Middle Ages

The soap has a history going back thousands of years, but it has not always had a good reputation for cleansing the body.

The knowledge spread in Europe in the Middle Ages. In Spain, Italy and France, among others, centers of the soap makers were established, in which the methods of making soap were refined. However, these luxury soaps were initially reserved for the rich nobility. But slowly a bathing culture developed with public bathing houses, which were also accessible to the bourgeoisie and the poorer population. But when the plague and other epidemics spread in the 14th century, people suspected that the pathogens were in the water. Personal hygiene with soap and water was suddenly frowned upon. If anything, people powdered themselves in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Louis XIV issued the Purity Law

Louis XIV helped the art of making soap to flourish again. He brought the best silk boilers to his court and issued a purity law at the end of the 17th century. According to this, a high-quality soap had to contain at least 72 percent pure oil. Another French made the luxury item a mass product: In 1791, the chemist Nicolas Leblanc invented a process for the artificial production of soda - a sodium salt that was essential for soap production. This invention marked the beginning of mass production.

By the beginning of the 19th century, people developed a better understanding of hygiene. The resulting high demand for soap could only be satisfied by industrial production. High-quality oils were used for fine soaps for washing the body, simple soaps for washing and scrubbing were made from cheap linseed or hemp oil.

Liquid soap competition

Many consumers consider liquid soap to be more practical and hygienic than the classic piece.

While the classic bar of soap was a bestseller in the 1970s, liquid soaps are now a serious competitor. In the period from 1990 to 2005 alone, sales of soap bars in Germany had shrunk by a quarter, says soap expert Dr. Josef Wellmann, chemist at the Kappus soap factory in Krefeld.

Bar of soap versus liquid soap

Compared to liquid soap, bars of soap do clearly better in terms of costs and environmental compatibility: Even well-known branded soaps cost no more than 60 cents per 125 grams, while liquid soap has to be paid up to twice as much. In terms of washing performance, there is no difference between liquid and solid soap.

Soap: how good is it for the skin?

Soap is essential for washing hands. However, it disrupts the skin's natural protective layer. Dermatologists therefore advise using soap sparingly. more

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Know more - live better | 04/06/2020 | 3:15 p.m.