Soap: The Making Of

Have you ever wondered how soap is made? You love a nice fresh bar, but where does it come from? There are so many soap varieties today that sometimes we forget what the purpose of soap actually is: to clean. The added moisturizers, sanitizers and fragrances can sometimes take away from the natural goodness of soap. But not at Sturbridge Yankee Workshop! Our soaps are made of all natural ingredients, essential oils, healthy shea butter moisturizing properties and are proudly made in the USA. They are all handcut into 4 ounce bars and then cured for 4 weeks, creating a perfect mild soap.

Our Milk & Honey Bar Soap, seen here to the left is just one of many delicious smelling soaps we have here at Sturbridge. This moisturizing bar has an old fashioned vanilla and oats scent. As with many of our bars of soap, the Milk & Honey Bar Soap is a super moisturizing body bar that is made with the finest all natural ingredients of pure saponified 20% shea butter, olive, coconut and palm oil. We have a range of scents from Honeysuckle and Lavender to Cranberry and Turkish Mocha Coffee. If scented soaps aren’t your thing, then consider our Unscented Soothing Bar Soap. Featuring the same moisture and healthy ingredients, this soap is perfect for someone with more sensitive skin. All of our soap bars are fine for hand or body use.

An added detail of Sturbridge Yankee Workshop’s soaps, is that they all have an exclusive label featuring various country designs. Whether that be a friendly cow as seen here or a couple of primitive looking crows, as seen on our Harvest Apple Soap, we know you’ll find one that suits your preference of style and scent.

A Brief History

Early soap making began in Ancient Egypt around 2800 B.C. near Babylon. The understood formula that they used consisted of water, various vegetable and animal fats and the addition of alkaline. Even from the very beginning, soap makers understood the chemical properties needed to create a bar of soap that would hold its form. Ancient Egyptians with means, would bathe regularly and thus soap was in high demand. Later on in Rome however, soap was a luxury usually only given to men. Soap making was a lucrative business throughout Europe starting as early as the 8th century and followed suit with the basic combination of animal fat, or tallow and other oils. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that we begin to see a finer, less rough soap in mass production. During this time is when we finally see an understanding by the mass public, of the necessity of hygiene. Soap was the answer to that need, as advertised in many of the first successful advertising campaigns around the turn of the century. Including none other than a thriving brand still today, Palmolive.

The Process

To start, different temperatures can be used to create a different outcome in the soap. There is the option of cold, semi-boiled or hot processes.

1. All soap requires the use of lye (alkaline), water and fats or oils.

2. The exact measurement of each depends on the desired saponification: the chemical reaction that creates the sodium or salt needed in the formation of soap.

3. The lye is easily dissolved in water and the oils are heated up separately.

4. Once both have reached the appropriate consistency, they are combined.

5. At this step, fragrance and other essential oils that create desired properties, are added.

6. The entire mixture is thoroughly blended and it begins to thicken.

7. The soap is poured into molds of the desired size and left to dry or “cure” for up to 2 days.

8. Remaining excess water will evaporate as the soap hardens and meets the accurate saponification. The majority of water must be removed in order for the soap to hold its shape.

9. Bars of soap could remain in this last step for up to 6 weeks, again based on the desired outcome.

The only difference between completing the above process for a cold or hot process, is the temperature at which the water is at, before lye is added. The higher the heat, the faster the saponification process occurs. Experienced soap makers and many in the soap making business say that a hot process is preferred to create a “neater” and smoother soap. Though in contrast, many at-home soap makers, producing smaller batches, prefer the cold process due to its more natural appearance.

Once you have your soap, it’s important to take care of it properly. Soap dishes provide a non slippery surface to store your soap, as well as it allows for the soap to dry out again between uses; providing a longer soap life. At Sturbridge Yankee Workshop, we have two options for you. Our Wooden Soap Dish is made of an all natural bamboo wood. Or maybe you’ll prefer our Ceramic Soap Dish which is a crisp white color and displays the message of “scrub a dub” and a tiny star design.


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