A brief history of soap making and the difference between Cold Process & Melt and Pour soap.
The name ‘soap’ is said to have derived from Rome, around 1,000 BC in a small village called Sapo Hill. The ladies of the village were washing clothes in a small tributary of the river Tiber, below a religious site where animal sacrifice took place. They noticed that the clothes became clean upon contact with the soapy clay which was dripping down the hill and into the water. It was noticed later that this cleansing agent was formed by the animal fat soaking through the wood ashes and into the clay soil.
During the Eighth Century the Spanish and Italians began making what was more like modern soap from Beech Tree ash and Goat fat, whilst the French are credited with replacing the animal fat with Olive oil. Soap as we know it today did not come about until the 18th century, when Nicholas Le Blanc, a Frenchman, discovered a reliable and inexpensive way of making sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), or lye as it is known to the soap maker, which forms the base with which soaps are made to this day.
The traditional method of soap making is called the ‘cold process’. Cold process soap is made by combining oils (cocoa, shea, olive etc) and sodium hydroxide (lye or caustic soda), which causes a chemical reaction called saponification. In the process, you get to choose the oils, scents, colorants, and any other ingredients. It’s our preferred method at WiDEYE as we get to ensure every ingredient we use is as natural, sustainable and ethically sourced as possible. Having the ability to control this process from start to finish allows us to make sure we are using the best possible ingredients for your skin. We are also able to use fresh ingredients such as goats milk and our cucumber & aloe decoction as we control the saponification process. It’s a generally more natural way of making soap.
Another popular method of soap making is called the ‘melt and pour’ method. Melt and pour soap is a great option for beginners. All you need is a premade base which you melt down, then you can customize it with your favorite colors and scents, and pour into a mold. Once you get the hang of the process, you can experiment with advanced techniques like layers and swirls. As the base is premade, it means you don’t have to worry about the saponification stage or any handling of the lye. As soon as the soap has cooled in the moulds it is ready to go. It’s great for making soap at home with kids! It is harder to be vigilant with your ingredient sourcing this way, as the bases are pre-bought, which is why we prefer the cold process method.
Soaps are a wonderful way to switch out packaging from your routine, the ingredients are generally better for your skin (we don’t use SLS in our soaps) and what is going down the plughole is much nicer than the regular chemicals you might find in high street shower gels. Plus, the bars last much longer and keep your bathroom smelling sweet.
You can check out all the wonderful soaps our talented team make here!