A little bit of soap history

Antonio La Paralela
febrero 24, 2021
Tiempo de lectura: 3 minutos


Many of the great wonders of human existence have unknown origins, and soap is no exception.


Although the exact moment when it came into people’s lives remains a mystery, there are references to the manufacture of soap in Mesopotamia dating from the 3rd millennium BC, while soap manufacturing ruins have been found in Pompeii from the 2nd millennium BC.


The Greek Pliny the Elder was the one who reported in the 1st century that pure soap was a Gallic invention, according to him, and that it was used as a hair dye.


Continuing with Greek wisdom, the physician Galen stressed in the 2nd century the importance of soap as a medicinal treatment to prevent certain skin infections and diseases. However, we cannot overlook the Romans, whose Empire was one of the greatest spreaders of the use of soap, which could be why some legends attribute its invention to them.


As for the most mystical aspect of the history of soap, legend has it that on Mount Sapo, beside the Tiber River, many ceremonial rituals took place in which wood was burned and animals were sacrificed. The slaves in the area realized that the rain brought down a mixture of substances (animal fat and ashes) that could be used to keep their hands and clothes clean.


Throughout ancient times, soap mainly flourished in Mediterranean areas such as Spain and Italy, as they were regions marked by the extensive presence of olive trees and their oil.


With the Middle Ages came light and dark periods for soap. While in the seventh century, master soap makers safeguarded their recipes as if they were pure gold (the reason why only the wealthiest classes had access to this product), then came the time when the Church limited and prohibited its use, which only furthered the spread of disease and plague.


In Spain, however, the Muslim presence encouraged the rise of soap, since it was also the Islamic world that continued to research soap, and instead of using ashes, they introduced lime to the process. Thus, the first major soap factory was founded in Seville, giving rise to the soap that, four centuries later, would become known as Castile soap and that is known all over the world today.



Due to poor hygiene, perfumes gained an important role in personal grooming, as they masked bad odors. Fortunately, thanks to advances in chemistry, such as obtaining soda from common salt, or Luis Pasteur’s later demonstrations on the importance of true personal hygiene to reduce the spread of certain diseases, people’s consciousness evolved.


The advances brought benefits, and soap went from being a luxury item to an “everyday” product that was constantly evolving.

However, its industrialization in the middle of the 20th century saw natural components replaced with synthetic detergents, with the subsequent problems they cause for the environment. For this reason, it’s important to produce and consume soap that recovers its original essence, using natural components that do not generate pollutants.


Finally, we’d like to tell you about the chemical process used to make soap. Mount Sapo may come to mind, but the term SA-PO-NI-FI-CA-TION has nothing to do with the legends.


Saponification is the name of the chemical process by which a bar of natural soap is manufactured, that is, where fat combines with alkali and water to produce soap and glycerin.



There are two saponification processes, and you should know that the only one that maintains intact the properties of the vegetable oils (fat), essential oils, and glycerin is the so-called “Cold Process,” a method that keeps the temperature controlled throughout the manufacturing process. Next, to eliminate the alkaline part of the soap, there is a required curing period of at least four weeks, balancing the soap’s pH in a natural way.


After this brief immersion in the world of soap, now all you have to do is enjoy Per Purr’s varieties!


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