Interesting Facts

History of Soap

When did soap making begin

It seems soap was “invented” about 5,000 - 4,500 years ago, somewhere in what is now modern-day Iraq.

Originally it was probably stumbled upon by accident when oil from meat being cooked fell into the ash of the wood cooking the meat, creating a soapy substance. Another theory is that ashy water was used to clean butcher knives, having the same effect.

Soap is made through the chemical reaction of mixing lye with oils (saponification) and produces a product that allows dirt and germs to bond with the water and be washed away.

It seems the earliest writings of soap being made intentionally, was approximately 4,500 years ago. Then, soap was not used to wash hands and bodies. It was used to wash wool for use in textile manufacture. It later came to be used to wash dishes, cooking utensils and the like.

It wasn’t until the late 1700’s to mid-1800's that soap for bathing became its own product. This was aided by advances in science that enabled the process to be less expensive, making soap a marketable product. But it still took a long time for hand (and body) washing to become a regular part of daily life. Even though evidence pointed to regular handwashing saving lives…it took a long time because it is hard to believe what you can’t see (germs).


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