Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Who invented soap?


Although the Romans are most often credited with the discovery of soap around 1000 B.C. - directions for soapmaking have been found on Sumerian clay tablets dating around 2500 B.C. Legend says that a mixture of animal fat and wood ash from a sacrifice somehow made it into the Tiber River on Sapo Hill where women were doing laundry. They discovered that the clothes came cleaner because of this substance. Our modern word "soap" was derived from "Sapo" from where this solution was believed to originate.

It is questionable whether the people of the time were conscious that soap was being produced. The recipes don't mention that soap is produced, and the soap is never actually separated from the solution. In fact, the first concrete evidence of knowledgeable soapmaking is found in ancient Rome. The ruins at Pompeii revealed a soap factory with finished bars. However Romans, famous for their public baths during this time, did not use the soap because it was too harsh for the skin and used only for clothing.

It wasn't until the 18th century when bathing came into fashion again that soapmaking techniques began to resurface. Prior to that, bathing was in disfavor due to superstitions that it was dangerous and unsanitary. A new demand for "domesticated soaps" (soaps used for bathing) resulted in new discoveries in the soapmaking process. Soap was produced throughout Europe and ingredients began to differ based on the region. Colonial America, however, was the exception. Soap companies did not begin to appear until the early 19th century.

19 comments:

  1. it doesnt actually say who invented it. this article sucks.

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    1. It does :p I have to do a report on soap fo a school project :$

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  2. I need a specific year that the modern day soap was patented or invented.

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  3. Interesting, but way to vague.

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    1. very true, but history is vague really when you consider that what we know as 'facts' are constantly being updated and new things rediscovered ... There are some interesting comments with further details by other contributes that might be of interest.

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  4. Well, like most products that still exist today, the origin is still a mystery and there is no exact date... we can only assume and create theories according to the depications and findings we come across throughout the years.

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  5. it does'nt really tell the name of the person who invented it just tells about ladies finding it

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  6. Dear Anonymous, if you had any clue what history is, you'll find that most inventions do not have a known inventor.. some knowledge would have been forgotten and then 're-invented' centuries after... Just like most inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci; Most still believe he invented the machines he depicted ... but if you had to search well, you'll find that the Chinese invented these machines hundreds of years before!... an guess what?!!! no name!

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  7. Our Stone-age ancestors no doubt discovered that rubbing their greasy hands (after eating meat containing animal fats) in ashes (containing lye), and rinsing with water cleaned their hands, and the resulting solution (soapy water)could be used to wash other things.

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  8. These article seems to have risen quite some interest. I tried to go into depth regarding who invented soap, but still came across vague answers.

    Who ever wishes to contribute in giving more details regarding this subject, please do so... it's better then just saying this article 'sucks' ... who ever has that opinion, please enlighten us!

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  9. I would like to hear your opinion on my "cave-man" theory. You seem to have an interest in the history of soap as I have had since discovering as a child the ingredients that basic soap is made of.

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  10. HI Connors. Well, i doubt that the actual cave man was conscious about the fact that he needed to wash for hygiene purposes.

    Probably, the most logical 'explanation' to the discovery of soap, is the actual explanation i gave in this article... where fats of the sacrificed animals and ashes from the burned carcasses/wood, would have been 'transported' to the river (with rain and wind).

    Moreover, 'soap' in that form doesn't actually lathers (it's not the lather that cleans!)... so it was an unconscious discovery.

    Between Stone Age to Romans, there's a big historical leap. Lately I've also been to Egypt, and whilst going through their treasures, everyday tools and objects, i was amazed at how ancients Egyptians were so advanced... I saw folding chairs and folding camping beds, many cosmetic items/containers which their design and function barely changed today,surgical tools, and obviously some really amazing jewelery. They also were really keen on cleanliness, so i wouldn't be surprised that ancient Egyptians discovered the soap as we know it.

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  11. I like a good challenge.

    First, our ancestors from 5,000 BC to 40,000 BC were very similar to modern humans, if not just like us. It's not hard to assume that they disliked greasy hands just as we do, and would use what they had (at hand) to try to remove the grease from their hands.

    We all know that plain water does not work on grease. I know that rubbing greasy hands in dirt (from experience working on my car) helps, but doesn't do the job completely and leaves a dirty film of grease.

    It is not a stretch to imagine that many of our wood-burning ancestors would reach for the ash pile instead of dirt and realize that not only was the grease removed but also any previous dirt (and that their hands and wrists looked and felt much better than the rest of their bodies).

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  12. Here is some evidence of pre-history, and the pre-Greek of the ingenuity of humans.

    460 B.C and 377 B.C. Hippocrates was left historical records of pain relief treatments, including the use of powder made from the bark and leaves of the willow tree to The father of modern medicine was Hippocrates help heal headaches, pains and fevers.
    By 1829, scientists discovered that it was the compound called salicin in willow plants which gave you the pain relief.

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    1. WOW are you a nerd good luck in your life nerdii!!

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  13. I'm sorry for the grammar, but I copied it from a website,and I believe the gist of it is true.

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  14. I forgot to mention that salicin is aspirin.

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  15. Very interesting info Connors :) ... Love the Hippocrates part :) .

    I agree with you that our ancestors weren't that different from us! And maybe yes, at a certain point, they might have discovered that rubbing their hand in ash, eliminated grease... yet again, who actually created that bar of soap?

    You cannot just mix ash with fat to create soap. The ash must be purified with water first. Moreover, the purified ash needs to be added to a certain amount of fats... inaccurate amounts will result in either 'lye heavy' soap which burns the skin, or soap that's is too fatty to be able to wash with.

    So who discovered the 'recipe' which most resembled soap today? I think this is what most people would like to know.

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  16. Aleppo Soap is the first hard bar soap made in the world. It predates Christianity, making it between 2-3 thousand years old. See this article:

    ''Aleppo Soap, The True Natural Soap'' http://www.naturalcosmeticnews.com/new-products/aleppo-soap-the-true-natural-soap/

    And this reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleppo_soap

    Soap making technology spread from Syria across North Africa and entered Europe with the conquest of Spain (then known as Castile) by the Moors from Morocco where it was known as Arab Soap.

    After the reconquista of Castile (Spain) the soap became known as Castile Soap. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castile_soap

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