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How often does one think about 'soap'. It is, after all, a utility good. Something most of us look at 4-5 times a day. We use it while bathing, multiple times during the course of a day as a hand-wash, for washing utensils, laundry etc. It is interesting to note that anything solid in appearance that cleans is referred as 'soap' in our everyday language. Fact, way farther.
Merriam- Webster describes soap as 'a cleansing and emulsifying agent made usually by action of alkali on fat or fatty acids and consisting essentially of sodium or potassium salts of such acids'
Now, if you are non-science folk such as myself, soap is anything that is made by combining an alkali (things with PH of 7+) with fats or oils. The alkali reacts with fat molecules and form soap- something that cleans. It is a fascinating chemical reaction called saponification that produces considerable amount of heat on its own.
Soap making is an age old profession- with mentions found as early as 2600 BC, when soap was made by boiling vegetable ashes and animal fat.
Commercial Soap as we know today came into existence during the World War I, when German chemists found a way to make quick and cheap cleaning agents (detergent) for soldiers using a number of petroleum by-products. In fact, most of the 'soaps' today in the market are not soaps, they are detergents. If the packaging says bathing bar, it is very unlikely that it is a soap.
How to know if my soap is soap?
Look for oils, fats in the ingredients and alkali such as sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide.
What is Cold Process Soap Making?
Cold Process is a way of making soaps in which no external heat is provided to the mixture of alkali and oils. As such, the soap maker relies entirely on the heat generated by the chemical reaction of oils and alkali at room temperature to cook the soap mixture. Soaps made using this method take about 4-5 days to solidify from a cake-like batter and another 4-6 weeks to cure. Soaps are cured to ensure that the entirety of alkali has dissolved and broken all the oil compounds into soap.
We, at The Happy Bathing Co. use cold process method to make all our soaps.
It is a time taking, tedious process that requires ample skill and craftswomanship.
The result, however, is a nourishing, mild bar of soap that gently cleans away dirt and excess oils without sucking the naturally occurring oils in our skin.
How is this different from the store bought soap we use?
Like mentioned earlier, the commercially made soaps use petroleum by-products instead of oils to make cleaning agents. They are harsh for our skin. Often times, manufacturers extract naturally occurring glycerine from soaps (which is a by-product of saponification) and sell it separately, being an expensive commodity.
Herbal soap, natural soap, handmade soap, organic soap. What is all this about?
Except Organic, none of these words are regulated. Meaning, anybody can use them. To claim that a product is organic, one needs certification. Since soaps have an inorganic compound, i.e. alkali, it can never be organic per se. The other ingredients can be organic certified.
Natural soap- Any soap that has any naturally occurring ingredient is loosely referred to Natural Soap. Same with herbal soap.
Note: Not everything green is Herbal and not everything colourful is Artificial.
Hot Process and Melt & Pour Soap
As the name goes, Hot Process is the process of making soaps using the Cold Process method, with an addition of external heat in order to expedite the Saponification process. Soaps made this way are ready to use within a week.
Melt & Pour method is the equivalent of heating up pre-made food in microwave. Quite literally. A variety of soap bases available in the market are heated in a microwave or double boiler, additives of choice are added and poured in moulds. After solidifying in a couple of hours, the soap is ready to use.
*All images for the purpose of this blog written by The Happy Bathing Co. are sourced from Soapqueentv.