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Making a Milk Soap

All of us remember Mom’s warning: “Wash your hands first!» And it was great advice after all. It turns out that this simple ritual of washing hands is the oldest and most straightforward but no less effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from viruses and to spread germs. These modern bottles of hand sanitizers are good stuff to serve an urgent purpose, but I recommend using them only when you don’t have access to soap and running water.

At different times, the understanding of personal hygiene was different. Soap is a product that can be found in every household these days. But how did people wash before the appearance of soap? Our ancestors were very observant, and they realized what exactly helps to clean the skin better than just plain water. It was a simple solution for the beginning – sand, pumice-stones, clay, or ash. The ancient Egyptians washed with beeswax dissolved in water. Ancient Greeks wiped their bodies with fine sand. The Scythians ground cedarwood into powder, then added water and incense to it and rubbed their bodies with this mixture.

No one knows when and where the soap was invented. But people have certainly adapted to make soap from ash and animal fat even before our era. They most likely discovered a chemical reaction between animal fat and ash during the ancient way of cooking, which resulted in a substance that helps remove dirt from the skin. However, I like the Roman legend where the soap was named after Mount Sapo, an ancient animal sacrifice site. When the rain washed away the animal fat and ash collected under the altars to the Tiber River banks, where the women washed their clothes after rainfall, and their clothes turned out to be much cleaner. It was surprising but confirmed that one of the Sumerian clay tablets, dated 2200 BC, described the process of making soap.

Anyway, soap was brewed in Islamic Middle East and Roman Empire, in ancient China and Medieval Europe, and every nation had its secrets of soap making. The fruits, bark, and roots of plants were used for making soap. It was found that the juice of the Saponaria plant dissolved in water turns into a foam. The first European settlers in America brought Saponaria with them and widely used it for washing and cleaning. In rural areas, soap was brewed using a process developed during colonial times. By the early 19th century, soap making in America had become one of the fastest-growing industries.


In Ukraine, even in Kievan Rus’s days, every decent homemaker knew how to cook soap alike as to how to bake bread. This process was called «potash craft.» Hence the old saying, «there was a lard, it became a soap.» The lard was melted, the fat was collected in a tub, and flaxseed oil was added for softening. Then all this was filled with water infused with ash. And then everything that was at hand was added to the mixture – honey, herbs, flowers. The result was a mass that foamed on contact with water and helped to lift and remove dirt. Thus, it was possible to disinfect wounds and take primary care of the skin. 

During World War I, there was an urgent need for cleansers and disinfectants. German scientists have developed a new soap formula from various synthetic compounds. It was then that commercial soap as we know it these days came into being. Like so, most of the commercial soaps available in stores today are actually not soaps but detergents made from petroleum by-products. Many various stabilizers, preservatives, brighteners, lathering agents, odor enhancers, and colors are added to extend the soap’s shelf life, make it foams well, and smells good. 

But they cannot fully mask its petroleum-based contents. Only a product made primarily of natural ingredients, including vegetable and animal products such as animal fat or castor, olive or coconut oil, can actually be called «soap.»

Commercial soaps may not be suitable for some people with sensitive skin, skin rashes, or allergies to certain ingredients. So there is always an option to choose between handmade, homemade, and commercially produced soap. Many people are now turning towards organic and natural soaps. Those who are ecologically conscious or have specific skin problems immediately feel the difference when using natural soaps. Despite its long history, the chemical process of soap making has not fundamentally changed. Vegetable oils or animal fats are boiled with alkali to form soap and glycerin. The quality of the soap produced directly depends on the quality of the ingredients used.

Our skin is the largest respiratory organ of our body. These days we often face various allergies and related problems. Our bodies can not cope with everything we consume with food, air, water, etc. Soap can be made literally in any kitchen. And after a month or two of use your homemade soap, you will feel how your skin begins to breathe. Isn’t that a reason to try making your own soap?

Artisan soap makers may use a high-temperature process in which glycerol remains in the product. The reaction is nearly completed before the soap hits the mold. There is also a cold method that involves alkali, and glycerol also remains in the product and acts as a moisturizer. To facilitate the process of soap making, you can buy a ready-made soap base. 

Various additives may be included in the soap, depending on what kind of soap we want to get. Everything we eat and know that it is healthy can be added to the soap. Add oatmeal, flowers, bay leaf, olive oil, sea salt, white clay, activated carbon, coconut oil, lavender. There is a soap that is made with ash, and there is with the addition of hops. There is a soap with yeast, sea salt, and even beer. There is a soap with tar. 

As a person concerned with milk processing, I am fascinated with the idea of goat milk soap making. Goat’s milk has fantastic abilities due to its high content of alpha-hydroxy acids. Many anti-aging cosmetics contain this particular ingredient. Since the pH level of goat milk is the same as that of human skin, it will cleanse bacteria, prevent acne, relieve inflammation, and perfectly moisturizes. 

When you make your own soap, you can always choose the right ingredients for your skin type. Why not give it a try? 

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