Monday, May 4, 2009

The Discovery of Soap

The story told in 1,000 B.C. Rome, about the discovery of soap on Sapo Hill, has been repeated so often that mythical elements have taken on factual proportions.

This is how the story goes: Women did their laundry at the base of Sapo Hill and at a higher elevation animal sacrifices had taken place. The women noticed that their laundry was coming out cleaner when they washed it in the soapy clay substance that oozed down the hill into the water. It was later discovered that this cleansing substance was formed when the rendered animal fat soaked down through the wood ashes and into the clay soil.

This version of the story is told in The Natural Soap Book by, Susan Miller Cavitch

So, from this discovery, soap was made much the same way by our grandparents. Water was usually collected in a rain barrell filled with wood ashes making lye, or Sodium Hydroxide. Some of these earlier soaps were harsh or lye heavy, because they did not have accurate ways to weigh or measure the lye. Today Sodium Hydroxide is much more consistent, and is easier to make a mild and gentle soap where all of the sodium hydroxide has saponified fully with the oils.The end result is a bar of soap with no sodium hydroxide present. Soap makers today do a process called superfatting, where they add more oils than are needed to react with the sodium hydroxide. This method leaves extra oils in the soap, therefore becoming more moisturizing to the skin.

I hope you enjoyed this step back in history to learn a little about how soap was discovered.

Saturday, May 2, 2009




Just in time for the gardening season. Well....actually here in Vermont we can't plant too much yet, because there is still the threat of frost, but some seeds can be planted early, like peas and onions. My garden isn't as big as it used to be, I have cut the size down some because it kept getting away from me in the summer. I am very lucky that I come from a large family and there is always a surplus of extra vegetables from one of my brothers or sisters.

I have been busy trying to get my flower beds cleaned out, so you can actually see the new shoots coming up through the ground. I love having flowers around and I enjoy my fresh herbs for cooking too. the spirit of gardening, I am offering my Gardener's Scrub bar as the May soap of the month.

Cornmeal is added to this bar of soap as an exfoliate. Exfoliates help to get rid of debris that collects on the skin's surface. They add texture to the soap's lather increasing the cleansing qualities. The grainier lather gently scrubs away the dirt and dead skin cells while stimulating the healthier cells below. This soap is excellent for scrubbing away the stubborn garden soils from the little cracks in your hands. A blend of lemongrass, rosemary, and orange essential oils in this recipe help to create a wonderfully clean scented fragrance that will make any "green thumb" enjoy cleaning up after digging around in the soil.

With a bar of this soap next to your sink, you can go ahead and play in dirt all day long if you want!