Soap is an everyday staple in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms everywhere. We use soap daily and never give a second thought to its unique history and origins. It’s practical if not downright boring, right? Not so fast! Soap is a product that has been around for thousands of years and soap makers have been striving to perfect it since its humble beginnings. As one of those soap manufacturers, Mid-Michigan Soaps has decided to take a closer look at the history of soaps throughout history.
The earliest use of soap, or at least a soap like substance dates back to 2800BC in Babylon where excavations unearthed a soap-like material produced by a process of boiling fats with ashes. In 1550BC the Ancient Egyptians washed themselves with a combination of animal and plant oils and alkaline salt. A Roman myth says that soap gained its name from Mount Sapo. After a rain, material consisting of animal fats and ashes would wash down into a lake where women were washing clothes. The women discovered that the substance greatly enhanced their cleaning efforts.
Soaps before the second century were probably not used for cleaning due to the fact that they were coarse, foul smelling and irritated the skin. They were more commonly used for medical purposes such as cleansing scrofulous sores and treating skin disease. After the second century soap became more widely used in washing clothes but it took quite some time before it was perfected enough for people to want to use in for cleanliness and personal hygiene.
Soaps and soap operas! When Proctor & Gamble started advertising, it took to the airwaves and primarily aimed at soap operas to attract women and housewives. Of course, these daytime dramas only gained the name “soap operas” because the P&G was so successful at targeting its product to this audience, that it wasn’t long before dozens of soap companies followed suit.
Soap and dynamite have something in common. Throughout the 1800’s soap’s popularity began to “explode”. Better soaps and better plumbing led to more frequent bathing which in turn led to the discovery that there are health advantages to good hygiene. Manufacturers had to step up production and brought glycerin back into the soap making process. It was about that time that dynamite was invented using the ingredient nitroglycerin, which is basically glycerin with nitric and sulfuric acid.
The town of Port Sunlight which was dedicated to soap production still stands today. Port Sunlight is a picturesque tourist attraction near Liverpool whose origins lie deeply in the soap business. In 1888, the Lever Brothers, named the village Port Sunlight, after his most successful brand of soap. Lever was a kind and generous boss who built his soap empire by supporting his workers through campaigning for improved working conditions, shorter working hours and better education. Their company brands included Lifebuoy, Lux and Vim. The town is just as quaint as ever and home to just 2,000 residents.
Ivory Soap was a mistake. In 1879 Procter & Gamble was producing a popular soap called “White Soap. One of the workers accidentally mixed too much air into a batch of soap and despite the mistake, it was shipped out. People loved it and suddenly there was a huge demand for it. They switched the name from “white soap” to “ivory soap” and spent $11,000 on a national advertising campaign. The Ivory Soap campaign revolutionized the marketing of soap.
Soap is a multi-billion-dollar industry that was originally brought about by the awareness of the importance of hygiene and great marketing. Today, soap is more than a necessity, it’s a luxury. Soap comes in all different sizes, shapes, colors and fragrances. From its coarse and abrasive beginnings soap has evolved to a soothing and gentle staple of everyday life.
Organic soap makers like Mid-Michigan Soaps, strive to produce the finest quality soap products that are luxurious and healthy. We use all-natural ingredients and no harsh or toxic chemicals. We offer a wide variety of soap products from hand soap to bath salts, and laundry detergent to sun screen. Check out our products here.