The History Of Soap Making - Part 2

by Gary Everson

The English began manufacturing soap during the 1100s, Italy, Spain and France, also began making soap at an early stage, possibly pre-dating England by up to 400 years. Early soap production primarily used tallow from goats and beech ash, but following experimentation by the French, olive oil was found to be an effective alternative to animal fats.

In about 1500 this discovery was introduced to England and the industry began to grow rapidly King James I granted special privileges including a monopoly to a soap maker for $100,000 a year, it was clearly a product for the wealthy.

In the American colonies, commercial soap making began in the early 17th century as settler tradesmen arrived from England, but in spite of this, soap making remained almost exclusively a home made product for many years. It is understood however that commercial soap makers visited houses and traded waste fats in exchange for soap.

In 1783 Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele accidentally simulated the reaction that occurs in the present-day boiling process of soap making, when he boiled olive oil with lead oxide. This produced a sweet-tasting substance that he called Ölsüss - now known as glycerine.

Until late in the 18th century wood or bark ash was generally used as the catalyst in soap making. In 1791 soap making was revolutionized with the discovery by the French chemist Nicholas Leblanc of a process for making soda ash from common salt. This discovery significantly reduced the cost of the ash ingredient, while also improving quality.

Some 20 years later Michel Eugene Chevreul established the basis for both fat and soap chemistry and thus the science of modern soap making was born. His studies revealed the chemical nature and relationship of fats, glycerine and fatty acids.

The invention during the mid-1800s of the ammonia process by Belgian chemist Ernest Solvay further reduced the cost of obtaining the alkali soda ash from common salt and again the quality and quantity available for the industry increased significantly.

Together with the developing availability of power to operate factories, these advances made the manufacture of soap one of America's fastest growing industries by 1850. This increased availability also changed soap from a luxury to an everyday convenience; however taxation in some countries also played a part in preventing its widespread availability and therefore inhibiting improvements in cleanliness standards.

About the Author

Want to learn All About Soap Making, but haven't a clue where to start? Gary Everson's FREE course will show you how, from the basic techniques with a detailed explanation of theraputic soaps, to cold process and melt and pour recipes, followed by comprehensive safety and legal information and finishing by turning it all into a business, with an extra bonus at the end.

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