Soap History Essay

Most people washed themselves with only one essential thing at the time, water.

This, of course, happened until the development of soap in 2800 B.C. The soap
was found in clay cylinders during the excavation of ancient Babylon. There were
inscriptions discovered on the cylinders, which showed us that fats were boiled
with ashes, which was the method of making the soap at this time. Records have
shown that Egyptians bathed regularly. There was a medical document found called
“The Ebers Papyrus” which described the combining of animal and vegetable
oils with alkaline salts to form soap-like material. These were used for
treating skin diseases and washing. At around this time, Moses gave the
Israelites specific laws about personal cleanliness. He related cleanliness to
health and religious cleansing. The early Greeks bathed for artistic reasons.

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Instead of washing with soap, they bathed themselves with blocks of clay, sand,
pumice, and ashes. Then they anointed themselves with oil and scraped off the
oil and dirt with a strigil. They washed their clothes in the streams without
using soap. According to an ancient Roman legend, soap got its name from Mount
Sapo where animals were sacrificed. When it had rain, the water washed away the
animal fat and wood ashes down into the clay soil along the Tiber River. Women
had found this clay mixture and it made their wash much cleaner. Soap making was
a popular craft in Europe by the 17th century. Vegetable and animal oils were
used with ashes of plants and fragrance. More varities of soap gradually became
available for shaving and washing hair, as well as bathing and washing clothes.

Italy, Spain, and France were the early centers of soap manufacturing. The
English began making soap during the 12th century. The chemistry of the soap
manufacturing stayed the same until 1916 when the first synthetic detergent was
developed in Germany. Synthetic detergents are non-soap washing and cleaning
products that are “synthesized”. Household detergent products became known
in the United States around the 1930s. It is very important to understand the
basic knowledge of soap and detergent chemistry. Water has a property called
surface tension. In water, other water molecules surround each molecule, but at
the surface, other water molecules only on the waterside surround those
molecules. A tension is created as the surface molecules are pulled into the
body of water. This tension causes the water to “bead up” on the surface,
which slows down the cleaning process. During the cleaning process, surface
tension must be reduced so the water can spread and wet surfaces. Chemicals that
do this are called surface-active agents. The surface-active agents perform many
important jobs in cleaning. They are classified by their ionic properties in
water. These properties are anionic which means a negative charge, nonionic
which means no charge, cationic which means having a positive charge, and
amphoteric which means having either a positive or negative charge. Soaps are
water-soluble sodium or potassium salts of fatty acids. The fats and oils used
in soap making are made up of a unique mixture of several different
triglycerides. In a triglyceride molecule, 3 fatty acid molecules are attached
to one molecule of glycerine. Fatty acids are the mechanism of fats and oils
that are used in soap. They are weak acids of two parts, which are a carboxylic
acid group and a hydrocarbon chain attached to the carboxylic acid group.


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