History of Soap

As history has shown, personal hygiene hasn't always been a high priority on the to do list. But its importance towards health and well-being has been noticed by many ancient civilizations. From Europe to Asia, some societies have had a pioneering yet primitive version of the creamy bar visible in nearly every bathroom or toilet today.

Each with the own origin story, Rome’s discovery of soap rose from their ancient tradition of sacrifice. Their belief at the time was sacrifices to their gods resolved in prosperity and good health. According to legend, soap was named after Mt Sapo - a sacrificial site. After a sacrifice, rain would wash wood ash and animal fat into the Tiber River. Women who were washing clothes noticed that clothes washed closer to sacrificial sites were much cleaner, especially after heavy rain. Thus, the discovery of primordial soap.

However, it is said that soap did not originate in Europe - the unintentional mixture of animal fat and lye; but the beginning of the sophisticated process of soap making can be argued to originate from Babylon, nowadays know as Iraq. Excavations of this ancient city uncovered clay barrels containing a soap-like content, which had inscriptions stating that the contents were animal fats and charcoal boiled together. These barrels dated well before 2800 B.C demonstrate evidence of the civilization using an ancient soap making method.

There are also Biblical accounts of the Israelites making soap gel from ash lye and vegetable oils showing that the importance of personal hygiene was realised. Scripture reads that Moses gave the Israelites laws governing personal cleansing through the use of ‘borith’ - Hebrew for soap - shortly after their Exodus.

Soaps significance didn’t reappear until 12th century England, with bathing habits declining throughout Europe due to the fall of Rome in 400 C.E,  soap began to pick up traction and its importance realized all through Europe, with Spain using goats fats, olive oil and Beech tree ash which resulted in the rise of fragrant soaps.

Talk about cleaning up the streets!