The History Of Soap Making -
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
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
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.