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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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  • Number of pages: 2

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Soap and other self-cleansing products have been around for ages and it's such a simple object we use multiple times a day. We use soap for personal hygiene and trust it to kill the bacteria we encounter throughout the day. Soap is the term for a salt of a fatty acid or for a variety of cleansing and lubricating products produced from such a substance. Soaps can be used for cleaning anything. Household uses for soaps include washing, bathing, and other types of housekeeping, where soaps act as surfactants, emulsifying oils to enable them to be carried away by water. In industry, they are used as thickeners, components of some lubricants, and precursors to catalysts. Soap is a product made from natural ingredients that may include both plant and animal products, including items as: animal fat, such as tallow or vegetable oil, such as castor, olive, or coconut oil.

The first concrete evidence we have of soap-like substance is dated around 2800 BC., the first soap makers were Babylonians, Mesopotamians, Egyptians, as well as the ancient Greeks and Romans. All of them made soap by mixing fat, oils and salts. Soap wasn't made and use for bathing and personal hygiene but was rather produced for cleaning cooking utensils or goods or was used for medicine purposes. An excavation of ancient Babylon revealed evidence that Babylonians were making soap around 2800 B.C. Babylonians were the first one to master the art of soap making. They made soap from fats boiled with ashes. Soap was used in cleaning wool and cotton used in textile manufacture and was used medicinally for at least 5000 years. The Ebers papyrus (Egypt, 1550 BC) reveals that the ancient Egyptians mixed animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to produce a soap-like substance. According the Pliny the Elder, the Phoenicians used goat's tallow and wood ashes to create soap in 600BC. The Celts made their soap from animal fat and plant ashes and they named the product saipo, from which the word soap is derived. Early Romans made soaps in the first century A.D. from urine and soap was widely known in the Roman Empire. According to Roman legend, soap was named after Mount Sapo, an ancient site of animal sacrifices. After an animal sacrifice, rain would wash animal fat and ash, that collected under the ceremonial altars, down to the banks of the Tiber River. Women washing clothes in the river noticed that if they washed their clothes in certain parts of the river after a heavy rain their clothes were much cleaner.  

In the early beginnings of soap making, it was an exclusive technique used by small groups of soap makers. The demand for soap was high, but it was very expensive and there was a monopoly on soap production in many areas. Over time, recipes for soap making became more widely known, but soap was still expensive. Back then, plant byproducts and animal and vegetable oils were the main ingredients of soap. From the 16th century finer soaps were produced in Europe using vegetable oils (such as olive oil) as opposed to animal fats. Many of these soaps are still manufacture, both industrially and by small scale soap makers. The English began making soap in quantity for commercial sale. They brought it to America and commercial soap-making in the American colonies began with arrival of several soap makers on the second ship from England to reach Jamestown, VA. Soap making, and use remained consistent. Due to a better understanding of the role of hygiene and the promotion of popular awareness of the relationship between cleanliness and health, industrially manufactured bar soaps became available in the late eighteenth century.  

The big leap in commercial soap making was two discoveries by French chemists Nicolas Leblanc and Michel Chevreul around the turn of the 19th century. In 1791, French chemist Nicolas Lablanc patents a process that uses common salt to make sodium carbonate, or soda ash – the alkali obtained from ashes that combines with fat to form soap – yielding large quantities of inexpensive commercial quality soda ash. Making soap cheaper and more available. This process became one of the most important industrial-chemical processes of the 19th century. The process was simple, cheap, and direct, but because the French Revolution had begun by the time Leblanc completed his experiments in 1790, he never received his prize. In 1811, Michel Chevreul identified relationships between glycerin, fats and acid- the basis of modern fat and soap chemistry. This marked the beginning of modern soap making. With the discovery of another method of making soap ingredients, soap became even less expensive. Chevreul went on to make soap from lard and potash, from which he crystallized potassium stearate, a substance he called “margaric acid” from the Greek for “mother of pearl” because of its milky drop appearance in aqueous solution. Since that time, there have been no major discoveries and the same processes are used for the soap making we use and enjoy today.

Advances came as the science of chemistry developed because more was understood about the ingredients. And by early 20th century, soap finally made its debut as a mass-consumed commercial product, thanks to the massive marketing efforts put forth by Proctor & Gamble (P&G). By 1890, P&G was selling more than 30 different types of soap. Fueled by full-color print ads in national magazines, consumer demand for P&G soaps continued to grow. As a matter of fact, P&G spent more than $400,000 a year during the early 1900's – so much so that the radio serials were to know as the ‘Soap Operas' because of the profitable sponsorship of the soap manufacturers. In the mid-nineteenth century, soap for bathing became a separate commodity from laundry soap, with milder soaps being packaged, sold and made available for personal use. Liquid hand soaps were invented in the 1970s and this invention keeps soaps in the public view.  

Today, there are many different soaps made for a vast array of purposes. Soap is available for personal, commercial and industrial use. There is handmade, homemade and commercially produced soap, soap used to wash clothes, dishes, cars, your pet, soap for your carpet, soaps are a lesser used product these days, as alternatives to soap are the main choice. Soap changed the world we live in today. What started as fats boiled with ashes to clean wool and cotton, went to hand soaps of many different fragrances next to every sink in the U.S. to wash your hands. We use it every day to kill bacteria and stay healthy. Such a simple invention with such a big purpose. here...

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