History of Soap #2

Posted by kevin1234 on 11/27/2011 to Soaps
By the 1600s, most Europeans were using soap. Soap maker guilds were formed, who carefully guarded the secrets of their trade. Not only did they cook vegetable and animal oils with the ashes of plants, they also added fragrance. Their soaps were used for washing clothes as well as their bodies.

In France, Italy, and Spain, soap manufacture was one of the largest businesses of the time.  This was in part due to the fact that they had a steady supply of olive oil, a favorite for soap making. In 1622, King James the First accepted $100,000 per year from a major soap maker to allow the soap maker a monopoly.

Soap was considered a luxury item for some time. Taxes were heavy on soap products. So, many commoners were not able to afford it. When the taxes were lowered, almost everyone started buying soap and England became a more hygienic place.

In the American Colonies, in 1608, several soap makers came over on the second ship from England to Virginia. As the new colonies were very small, soap making was something each homemaker did for herself until professional soap making took off.
Until the late 1700s, soapmaking was done exclusively with the ashes of plants (lye).

But in 1791, Nicholas Leblanc, a chemist from France, developed soda ash (sodium carbonate), a derivative of table salt. This brought the price down for soapmakers and expanded the soap making business extensively. This led to the shift from soap as a pleasurable item to a must-have for every home.

RainShadow Labs Merry Holiday Schedule

Posted by Rain Shadow Labs on 11/21/2011
It is our specific intention to support the ease and abundance of our RSL community through the holiday season. It is with this in mind that we share with you the following important dates and closures for RSL.

RainShadow Labs will be closed for Thanksgiving, returning Monday November 28th

RainShadow Labs will be closed December 22nd  through January 2nd 2012 for our annual holiday closure

The last day to place an order for drop-fill orders that will need to ship before the Christmas closure will be November 30th

The last day to place stock orders to ship before Christmas closure will be December 13th

RainShadow Labs continues to be in service to our customers, our community, and our planet. We wish you all a beautiful and peaceful holiday season.

"A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work - he is the purpose of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to serve him."
  - Mahatma Gandhii

History of Soap #1

Posted by kevin1234 on 11/19/2011 to Soaps
Human beings have been concerned about cleanliness, to some degree, for as far back as we can tell. The earliest known proof of the existence of soap came from as early as 2800 BC. A soap-like substance was found inside clay cylinders in ancient Babylon. The cylinders had carved inscriptions on the outside that indicated that ashes were boiled with fats, the same method used today for soap making.

In ancient Egypt, the Ebers Papyrus of 1500 BC detailed the process of combining oils derived from vegetables and animals with alkaline salts to use for washing and for treating skin disease. In ancient Greece, bodies were washed with oil and ashes or oil and dirt, but actual soap was not made.

In Rome, the legend tells that the word soap came from Mount Sapo, a place where the ancient Romans sacrificed animals. Because the animals were sacrificed with fire, melted animal fat (tallow) would run down with the wood ashes into the clay soil of the Tiber River. The women, after discovering how helpful this clay mixture was, began washing their clothes at this site.

In 312 BC, the Romans built their aqueduct baths and bathed in large groups. During the 100s AD, Galen the Greek physician taught that soap was helpful for cleanliness as well as medicinal purposes. Back in Rome in the year 467 AD, when the nation fell, bathing ceased in much of Europe.

Europe fell into an unhygienic period leading to many plagues during the middle ages including Black Death in the 1300s. However, this condition was mainly exclusive to Europe. For example, the Japanese continued bathing daily during this period. Finally, in the 1600s, Europe became interested in bathing again and soap making became big business.

Soap Chemistry

Posted by kevin1234 on 11/9/2011 to Soaps
Understanding soap chemistry begins with a basic knowledge of the washing agent, water. Water has surface tension that can be noticed by simple observation. The reason water beads on a surface, rather than spreading flat, is that the water molecules underneath the surface water molecules pull at the surface molecules.

Unfortunately, this makes it more difficult to thoroughly wet a surface and thus to clean the surface. Soap is, in part, used to reduce the surface tension, allowing the water to spread more effectively. Chemicals that allow this to happen are surface active agents, termed surfactants.

Surfactants are also important because they help loosen soil, distribute the soil throughout the soapy water, and trap the soil until it is washed off. Lastly, surfactants are helpful because they increase the alkalinity of the water, aiding in the removal of acidic soils. Surfactants are what make the soap slippery, bubbly, and slimy.

Genuine soap is made from fats, oils, or fatty acids, combined with an alkali (alkaline substance) such as lye. The combination of the fat with the alkali produces soap with an addition of glycerin, a mild, moisturizing substance that makes true soap bars soft and helps the skin retain moisture after washing.

In natural bars of soap, the ashes of plants produce the alkali used for soap making (lye). But, in commercial production, alkalis used in soapmaking are derivatives of sodium or potassium. The most common are sodium hydroxide (NaOH), often referred to as caustic soda and potassium hydroxide (KOH), caustic potash.

The saponification process involves the heating of the fats and oils (scientifically referred to as triglycerides) and then adding the alkali. This triggers the chemical reaction that creates soap. In commercial production, the moisturizing glycerin is usually removed from the product and sold to lotion making companies, leaving the bar nice and hard, but also very drying. These bars are often sold as beauty bars, body bars, and the like, because they are technically no longer soap.

Typical Soap Ingredients

Posted by kevin1234 on 11/2/2011 to Soaps
In soaps, there are a variety of ingredients used for different purposes. Starting with the basic formula, alkalis are used for mixing with oils to make the basic soap. Alkalis also enhance surfactants, neutralize acidity in other ingredients, and increase the alkalinity of the final product. Examples are lye (made of plant ashes and used in natural soaps) and sodium carbonate (used in some commercially-produced soaps).

Abrasives are often added to soaps with the purpose of refining or smoothing skin. Coarser particles are for purposes like softening the feet, while very fine abrasives can be used on the face. Examples of natural abrasives are ground peach cores, sugar, and salt crystals.

Antimicrobial agents are added to many types of soap now, including dish soap and hand soaps. These antimicrobial products kill germs and inhibit the growth of germs on the soap and on the area washed. Triclosan is an example used in commercial production, with pine oil used in natural antibacterial soaps.

Colorants are added to make the soap attractive. Natural soaps often make use of food coloring to create aesthetically pleasing bars of soap for home use. Fragrances are also for the senses. Some are meant to sooth, like lavender, while others energize, like citrus.

Preservatives are used in commercial production of soap for preventing discoloration, oxidation, and/or bacterial growth. Examples are butylated hydroxytoluene and glutaraldehyde. Natural soaps do not usually have the years of shelf life commercial soaps do, but they do not contain chemical preservatives. Instead, natural soaps are generally made in fresh batches and purchased by consumers as they are used.