The Down & Dirty...Handmade Soap Vs. Commercial Soap

The Down & Dirty...Handmade Soap Vs. Commercial Soap

Nobody really knows when or where soap begins and dirt ends…just kidding. Historians do debate when and how soap was first invented. Reportedly soap first came into existence somewhere around 2800 BC, thank you Babylonians. By mixing water, wood ash (lye), and tallow (animal fats) ancient soap makers found they could clean fabrics, wools, and textiles. Soap binds to dirt and particles. When rinsing soap off the grime and unwanted dirt are rinsed away with the soap.

In the 8th Century, body washing became quite the fad amongst royals and soap was considered a luxury. It became one of the hottest commodities on trade routes. Aleppo soap began in Syria and is still made today. Castile soap was created in Italy using vegetable fats or olive oil and is known to be the first white soap. Be on the lookout for a 100% Castile soap made by 8nfinity Homestead in the Spring of 2021. These soaps require a full year of cure time before they’re ready to use.

Liquid soaps were not invented until 1865. A liquid soap created by using palm and olive oils was created by the BJ Johnson Soap company, later named Palmolive. By experimenting with synthetic detergents, manufacturers found emulsifiers bridge the water and oil particles that enable the dirt to become captured in oil, and thus extracted from clothes.

Liquid hand and body soaps entered the product market in the 70’s. Similar synthetic detergents and chemicals were added to soap for human use. The surfactants in body soap work to strip dirt and grime from the skin. Unfortunately, these detergents and surfactants strip the skin of its natural oil barrier as well. Through new technologies and chemical advances commercial soap makers started adding various ingredients such as dyes, fragrances, hardeners, and synthetic lathering agents. On the other hand, handmade soap created with oils, liquid and lye does not contain these harsh ingredients and qualifies as ‘soap.’ As is the case in most large-scale manufacturing, creating a faster and cheaper method of bringing product to market became the status quo. In fact, most commercial soap sold on the market today isn’t soap at all, but detergents made with petroleum by-products. Since these "soaps" are detergents, by law they cannot be labeled as soap. Chances are that when you see a soap called a "body bar” or “body wash” it is not soap at all. Commercial soap manufacturers also found that glycerin, the moisturizing property in soap, could be extracted. Manufacturers use the extracted glycerin to sell in other higher priced products like moisturizers and creams to reintroduce the moisture to your skin removed by using their “soap”.

Today’s consumers have a heightened awareness of both the health and environmental impact of commercially produced soap. As buyers and bathers we want safe products to use on ourselves and our family. Doing our part to protect Mother Earth helps to ensure the longevity of our planet for generations to come. Homemade soap contains more natural ingredients and therefore leaves less of impact on our precious resources. Homemade soap is typically created in someone’s kitchen versus a large manufacturing plant. Most importantly, and I might be a little biased here, but ask any handmade soap maker and they will all tell you that they truly love making soap. Their reasons might be as different as the soaps they create, but without a doubt these “soapers” are artists and creators.

But wait…isn’t homemade soap made with lye…isn’t that dangerous? The answer is YES lye is especially dangerous and corrosive in its natural form. Let me dazzle you with a little magic and wizardry. When you mix lye with liquids and oils a reaction known as saponification happens. During saponification the lye, liquid, oil mixture becomes…are you ready…SOAP! That’s right…the original ingredients have been chemically altered to becomes a completely different product. The finished soap has no trace of lye.

Handmade soap is made with skin-loving oils, such as coconut oil, olive oil and avocado oil. The combination of oils, and butters, is what makes each bar completely unique. That is the beauty and joy in handmade soap making. Each oil, butter, type of liquid, and unique additive can independently, or combined, turn an ordinary bar of soap into something special that can suit every individual need. This kind of customization is a fantastic way of expressing yourself, your personality and your values. Other natural ingredients like oatmeal, earth clays, milks, beer, wine and purees can be added to handmade soap. You won’t find those quality ingredients in your bar of store bought soap.

Still not sold on homemade soap? Remember earlier when I mentioned glycerin? Handmade soap still contains that glycerin that commercial manufacturers extract. Glycerin is a humectant that attracts moisture from the air to the skin. It’s produced naturally during the soap making process. It’s one of the things that make handmade soap so amazing.  When you purchase a homemade, handmade, artisan soap you are supporting a small company and small business.

These are just some of the differences of homemade soap versus commercial soap. Only you can decide what’s best for your skin. If you have read this far…WOW…thanks for the commitment. If you have never tried handmade soap I encourage you to do so. If you want to learn more about switching to handmade soap, please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.

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