Natural Soap Making
Natural soaps have been made by people all across the world for thousands of years. The earliest record of soap being made is 2800BC by the Babylonians. Natural soap is made using several different processes all relying on the natural ability of the chemicals Sodium Hydroxide and Potassium Hydroxide to convert oils and fats into a substance which reduces the ability of oils to stick to surfaces, forming tiny balls about particles of oil and allowing them to dissolve in and be carried away by water.
Sodium Hydroxide and Potassium Hydroxide are known by the common name ‘Lye’ an old English word meaning ‘wash stuff’. The chemical reaction that takes place between Lye and fats is called saponification because the resulting substance is known as Soap; another old English word, originally saipo. It is Lye’s ability to make soap from fats that make it useful for unblocking drains; it converts a substance that isn’t soluble in water to one that is.
Historically Lye was derived from running water through vegetable ashes, a process still used to produce soaps in some parts of the world, but pure Lye is now available in a form that does not contain any ash residue and thus does not add colour to soaps. Sodium Hydroxide is used to make a hard soap, Potassium Hydroxide to make a soft or liquid soap. Sodium Hydroxide can be used to make soap without the application of heat and it is this quality that allows modern soap makers to create natural soaps that retain the qualities of the oils used to produce rich, moisturising soaps that are gentle and nourishing to the skin.
What sets natural soaps apart from commercial soaps is a by-product of the action of Lye on fats, glycerine. Glycerine is a natural moisturiser. Commercial soap makers remove the glycerine from soap because it can be sold for the manufacture of more expensive products such as face creams and cosmetics. For this reason commercial soaps cannot be called soap; look at the labels next time you are in a supermarket or chemists, commercial soaps are called cleansing bars or detergents and are drying to your skin. When natural soaps are made all of the glycerine is retained allowing your skin to be hydrated with every use. With the moisturising qualities so much higher, natural soaps can be safely used on babies, children and people with eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and SLS sensitivity.