Soap Chemistry


It is hard to say when soap was first invented. Some suppose that even prehistoric man (or, more probably, woman) had a primitive form of it at their disposal. Whether the hunters and gatherers had soap is debatable, but it is certain that soap was available to the ancient Babylonians. Soaps have been excavated in clay cylinders that date back to 2800 BCE. By 1500 BCE. Egyptian medical scrolls recommend a soap made from alkaline salts and animal and vegetable oils for skin conditions.

Later, the ancient Romans discovered the cleaning power of soap accidentally. At Mount Sapo, where animals were sacrificed, rain mixed animal fats, wood ashes and clay into the soil. Incidentally, women washing their clothes by the stream found it was much easier to wash their clothes with some of this clay mixture. Legend links Mount Sapo with the process of soap making (saponification). Interestingly, although Romans are famous for their baths, they actually did not use soap to wash. They coated themselves in oils and then used a scraping tool called a strigil to clean their bodies. However, bars of soap were found in the ruins of Pompeii and archaeologists believe soap was used for laundry and occasionally on the body.

Now for the chemistry. Check out this link. The whole nine yards…


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