Date      Description
During excavation of Ancient Babylon, there was found soap-like material in clay cylinders indicating evidence that soap making was prevalent.
Egyptians bathed regularly. The Embers Papyrus, a  medical document, described combining "animal and vegetable oils" with alkaline salts to form a soap-like material for treating skin disease and washing.
These people are credited with discovering a substance called soap, made of tallow and ashes, that they used to tint their hair red.
Ancient Germans and Gauls
Soap got its name from Mount Sapo where animals were sacrificed. When the rains came, the rains washed a mixture of melted animal fat, or tallow, and wood ashes down into the clay soil along the Tiber River. Women found that this clay mixture made their wash cleaner with much less effort.    
The Greeks bathed for aesthetic reasons and did not use soap. They instead used blocks of clay, sand, pumice and ashes, then poured oil on themselves, then scraped off the oil and dirt with a metal instrument known as a strigil.  They also used oil with ashes.  Then, rubbed the skin with herbal mixtures. Clothes were washed without soap in streams.
This was a period when cleanliness and bathing started to return fashionable in much of Europe.  Still, there were areas of the medieval world where personal cleanliness remained unimportant.  Daily bathing was a common custom in Japan during the Middle Ages.  In Iceland, pools warmed with water from hot springs were a popular gathering place on Saturday evenings.
17th Century
467 A.D.
A Greek physician, named Galen, recommended soap for both medical and cleansing purposes.
About 312 B.C.
The Roman civilization advanced as did bathing.  The first famous Roman baths were supplied with water from their aqueducts.  Baths were luxurious and bathing became very popular.
2nd Century A.D.
After the fall of Rome and decline in bathing habits, much of Europe felt the impact of filth upon the public health. This lack of personal cleanliness and unrelated unsanitary living conditions contributed heavily to the great plagues of the Middle Ages and especially to the Black Death of the 14th century.
Soaps were sold individually wrapped with a uniform weight.
By 1850
There were several soapmakers which came on the second ship from England to reach Jamestown, VA. For years, soapmaking stayed a household chore.  Eventually, professional soapmakers began regularly collecting waste fats from households in exchange for some soap.
The English began making soap during this period.  The soap business was so good, that in 1622, King James I, granted a monopoly to a soapmaker for $100,000 a year.  Into the 19th century, soap was heavily taxed as a luxury item in several countries.  When the high tax was removed, soap became available to ordinary people, and the cleanliness standards improved.
12th Century
By the 7th Century
Soapmaking was an established craft in Europe and soapmaker guilds guarded their trade secrets closely.  Vegetable and animal oils were used with ashes of plants along with fragrance.  Gradually, more varieties of soap became available for shaving and shampooing, as well as bathing and laundering.
These countries were early centers of soap manufacturing due to their ready supply of raw materials, such as oil from olive trees.
Large scale commercial soapmaking occurred during this year when a French chemist, Nicholas Leblanc, patented a process for making soda ash, or sodium carbonate, from common salt.  Soda ash is an alkali that combines with fat to form soap. The Leblanc process yielded quantities of good quality, inexpensive soda ash.
William Colgate opened a soap factory in New York.
Science of modern soapmaking was born.  Michael Eugene Chevreul, a French chemist, discovered the chemical nature and relationship of fats, glycerin and fatty acids,  His studies established the basis for both fat and soap chemistry.
Mid -1800's invention
Advancement of soap technology was the invention by a Belgian chemist, Ernest Solvay. His ammonia process, which also used common table salt, or sodium chloride, was used to make soda ash.  Solvay's process further reduced the cost of obtaining this alkali, and increased both the quality and quantity of the soda ash available for manufacturing soap.
These two discoveries and with the development of power to operate factories, made soapmaking one of America's fastest growing industries.  At the same time, its broad availability changed soap from a luxury item to an everyday necessity.  With this widespread use came the development of milder soaps for bathing and soaps for use in the washing machines that were available to consumers by the turn of the century.
The chemistry of soap manufacturing stayed relatively constant until this date, when the first synthetic detergent was developed in Germany in response to a World War I related shortage of fats for making soap.  Known today simply as detergents, synthetic detergents are non-soap washing and cleaning products that are "synthesized", or put together, chemically from a variety of raw materials.  The discovery of detergents was also driven by the need for a cleaning agent that, unlike soap, would not combine with the minerals in water to form an insoluble substance known as soap curd.
Early in the 1930's, the soap making process began to take a foothold in the U.S. but it didn't really take off until after World War II.  The war-time interruption of fat and oil supplies, as well as for a cleaning agent that would work in mineral-rich sea water and in cold water, had further stimulated research on detergents.
William Colgate introduced a perfumed soap, Cashmere Bouquet.
Since those early achievements in detergent and builder chemistry, new product activity has continued to focus on developing cleaning products that are efficient and easy to use, as well as safe for consumers and for the environment.  Here is a summary of some innovations:
Sales of detergents in this country had surpassed those of soaps. Detergents have all but replaced soap based products for laundering, dishwashing and household cleaning. Detergents (alone or combined with soap) are also found in many bars and liquids used for personal cleaning.
By 1953
The first detergents were used chiefly for hand dishwashing and fine fabric laundering.  The breakthrough in the development of detergents for all-purpose laundry uses came in that year. In this year, a detergent was introduced containing a surfactant/builder combination.  The surfactant is a detergent product's basic cleaning ingredient, while the builder helps the surfactant to work more efficiently.  Phosphate compounds used as builders in these detergents vastly improve performance, making them suitable for cleaning heavily soiled laundry.
Automatic dishwasher powders, liquid laundry, hand dishwashing and all-purpose cleaning products, fabric softeners (rinse-cycle added) and detergent with oxygen bleach.
Ultra (super concentrated) powder and liquid detergents, ultra fabric softeners, automatic dishwasher gels, launder and cleaning product refills.
Prewash soil and stain removers. laundry powders with enzymes and enzyme presoaks.
Liquid hand soaps, fabric softeners (sheet and wash cycle added), multifunctional products (e.g., detergent with fabric softener)
Detergents for cooler water washing, automatic dishwasher liquids, and concentrated laundry powders.
Any of the "A Brief History of Soaps" facts may not be used without crediting Katies Soaps and e-mailing our web master for permission.
Katies Soaps believes in giving all its clients a background knowledge in the area of soap.  We hope you have benefited from the above information.
There is a heightened awareness of from synthetic additives in commercial skin care products.  Knowledgeable consumers are turning to all natural products and soap.  Large companies are still advertising natural ingredients in their products.  Just because products are listed as natural, this does not make it all natural. With Katies Soaps, rest assured, you the consumer, are getting ALL natural ingredients in your bath and body products and all our products are handcrafted.
Many soaps available today in Supermarkets are actually detergents, which are made with Petroleum by-products.
2800 B.C.
1500 B.C.
Bible times
Early Greeks
Roman Legend
Italy, France and Spain
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This page was last updated: February 20, 2012
Moses gave the Israelites detailed laws on personal
cleanliness, and also laws governing health and religious purification.  Biblical accounts indicate they knew that by mixing ashes and oil it produces a kind of hair gel.
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