Soap is probably one of the most taken-for-granted items, because you can’t remember a time when it wasn’t around. However, this under-appreciated grooming accessory has a rich history dating back to ancient Babylon. The earliest recorded soap-making recipe, consisting of water, alkali, and cassia oil, was found on a Babylonian clay tablet that dates back to 2200 BC.
Not only is soap itself an old-timer, but contrary to popular belief, so is the idea of using it to bathe regularly. The ancient Egyptians combined animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to create a soap-like substance that was a part of their regular hygiene regimen.
Our modern version of soap is a direct descendant of the product made by Muslim chemists of the medieval Arabian world. This ancient ancestor of soap was perfumed and colored, and came in both solid and liquid form. A Muslim manuscript from the 13th century that was recently discovered documents several recipes for soap making, including taking some sesame oil, potash, alkali, and lime, and mixing them together and allowing them to boil. The liquid ws then poured into molds and left to set to create bar soap.
This handmade method eventually gave way to the mass produced product we know today. However, ther are some who feel that soap should only be made by hand. Anne-Marie Faiola, a supplier of soap-making products, is one of those people. In fact, she doesn’t understand why anyone would want to use store bought soap, which is usually packed with harsh chemicals and skin-drying ingredients, when they can make their own all-natural, healthy soap, and help save the environment:
“It’s easy to make your own home-made, eco chic soap with recyclable materials lying around the house, such as old yogurt containers, tofu containers, soy milk cartons, or paper coffee cups. The eco ingredient combinations are endless! Start with used coffee grounds for a “jolt in the morning” soap, powdered Spirulina (a blue-green algae) for a powerful vitamin and mineral packed soap, or soothing herbs such as lavender and chamomile to make a welcoming soap for the guest bathroom.”
Below is Anne-Marie’s recipe that you can try at home:
Eco Chic Soap
Herbs, oatmeal, coffee grounds, spirulina, clay, or charcoal
1 pound (16 ounces) Bramble Berry ‘melt and pour’ soap, organic base
1 ounce essential oil (we used lavender and eucalyptus)
Soap mold (or Tupperware, or anything you find, like an empty yogurt container, old tofu container, empty soy milk container, etc.)
1. Prep your herbs and make sure they are the right size for gentle exfoliation. Sharp herbs may be too abrasive on the skin.
2. Cut the ‘melt and pour’ soap into 1 x 1″ cubes.
3. Using your microwave, heat the soap in 30-second increments until the soap is fully melted.
4. Add .25 ounces to .50 ounces of essential oil. Remember, if
you use a yellow or orange colored fragrance, your soap base will look less
clear and look more yellow/orange.
5. Mix in your herbs or additives. Stir until the herbs seem mostly suspended.
6. Pour your scented and herbed soap into the mold. Don’t fill your soap mold all the way up. It helps for easy release to only fill it 85 percent of the way to the top.
7. Rub the alcohol across the surface of the soap to make it smooth.
8. Wait for the soap to harden, and then take it out of the mold, wrap it in saran wrap, and label.
Creating your own soap not only lets you customize the product, but it’s also a lot less expensive than the herb soaps you’d normally buy at your favorite drug store. Handcrafted soaps make great a hostess gift, or a wonderful surprise for a special someone.