Day after day, we make use of soaps and detergent either for bathing, laundry, dishes and lots more but what do we really know about Soap? How did the name ‘’soap’’ come to be? How is it made? Let’s go down memory lane and bring to you the history of soaps and detergent.

What is soap?

The history of soaps dates back to 2800 BC when soaps were made by boiling animal fat or boiling vegetable oils with alkali metal and wood ashes. This method of making soap cost a fortune and it made soap become a luxury item, available to only the elites.

Basically, the cleaning object called soap is the result of a chemical reaction between triglycerides, i.e food fats stored in the body, and a base like substance such as sodium hydroxide in a process called saponification. Manufacturing soaps involves a lot, from the processing all the way to the packaging. The size, colour, smell, the complexity of its use or functions vary in manufacturing, including the quantity like large volume laundry detergents and small-sized bar soaps.

Classes of soap

There are several types of soaps but all of them can be classified under three main classes:

Bar Soaps

Liquid Soaps

Powdered Soaps

Bar Soap

Bar soap
Bar soap

 Regular and traditional bar soaps are made from the fatty acid of fats and oil which have a reaction with inorganic bases. Tallow, also known as animal fats are mixed with mainly coconut oil or palm oil in making Bar soaps. This mixture is then treated and processed further to get rid of impurities and other particles that the raw materials may contain, and additional ingredients such as glycerin, shea butter etc, are added for the desired smell, colour and functions.

Depending on the type, Bar soaps are used for washing clothes, dishes, bathing and also as beauty soaps as the case may be. They come in different sizes, shapes, colours, and their texture ranges for soft (easily dissolving in water)  some very soft (depending on the ingredients) and dissolves easily in water, some other very hard. soaps are used as cleansers and sometimes, as lubricants too.

Liquid Soap

Liquid soap
Liquid soap

The manufacturing process of liquid soap is more complicated than that of Bar soap.
Usually made with hot water,  this type of soap is the result of potassium hydroxide, dry and liquid ingredients blended continuously to achieve a uniformed mixture in terms of texture, thickness, colour and fragrance.

Liquid soaps come in different colours and its fragrance varies depending on ingredients used. Most liquid soaps are used for doing dishes but depending on the ingredients used by the manufacturer, its functionality can also be adapted for laundry and bathing as well.

Powdered Soap

powdered soap or detergent
powdered soap or detergent

As the name suggests, this type of soap comes in powder and dry form. The process of making powdered soap can be by spray drying, where both dry and liquid ingredients are combined into a thick flowable suspension, in a tank called Crutcher. The flowable suspension is then heated and pumped into the tank, a very tall iron-framed structure, and then sprayed through a short outlet or pipe to produce small droplets. The droplets fall from the hot air in the outlet or pipe and form hollow granulations as they get dried in the hot air.

The dried granulations are collected from the bottom of the spray tank and checked to ensure a relative uniformity in size. After confirming that the size is uniformed, the granulations are left to cool off and then ingredients such as bleach, colour, fragrance and enzymes are added to the granulations and dried again. The end product is the powdered soap or detergent we have today.

Agglomeration is another method of manufacturing powdered soap and it includes blending dry raw materials with liquid ingredients in a blender. The result of agglomeration is a higher density powder, unlike the spray dry method. 

The cleaning object called soap has come a long way! From the making to the colour, to the functionality, soaps have metamorphosed as technology, wants and need has caused them to evolve with the times.  

That is why we have soaps like beauty soaps, antiseptic soaps, medicated soaps, guest soaps. etc.

NB: Soaps are great cleaners because of their ability to act as an emulsifier, and although they are made from animal fats, they are not edible and may be harmful to your health.

If you liked this post, you will love our post on the right way to do laundry.

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