Monday, June 29, 2009

What is Soap and how does it work?

Ever wonder what soap is made of and why it works?

Soap is simply made, though the chemical reaction is complex. Chemically, an acid (the fats and oils) and a base (a solution of sodium hydroxide and water, also called lye) react to produce soap and glycerin. The process is called saponification, and as the fats, oils and lye solution come into contact with one another, they react and are saponifying, or making soap. The mixture gradually changes from a separated mixture of watery lye and lighter fats and oils to a thicker more uniform mixture. The soap mixture is ready to be poured (for most recipes) when it has thickened to the point in which a bit of the mixture is drizzled on the surface and it leaves a trail (a pattern) for a moment before disappearing. This stage is called a "trace" since only a trace of the pattern remains when the soap is ready.

A variety of acids, bases and several types of processes produce soap, but homemade soap is made using easily accessible materials and a simple process called cold process. Once the sodium hydroxide (lye) solution is added to the fats and oils, no external heat is required as the chemical reaction produces enough heat to keep the soap making going. "Cold" does not mean cold; it was only called this when comparing it to the more common hot soap making temperatures produced when heat is applied.

The two most critical chemical components of the soap making process are contact and heat. The acid and the base must first come together before they can react. The heat keeps the movement and fluidity, while stirring ensures it. Soap is ready to pour once the ingredients have been evenly dispersed in a thick, stable emulsion.

How does soap clean?

Soap cleans in two ways: it helps wet the surface to be cleaned by permitting water to reach more of the surface; and it connects the dirt to the water, permitting the dirt to rinse away.

A soap molecule consists of a chain of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms that are arranged with a distinct head and tail. The head is attracted to water and the tail is attracted to dirt and oil. Soap cleans because these opposing parts connect dirt to water, permitting it to be washed away.

Soap also helps water to wet better. Water beads up on fabric and skin because it's molecules are tightly bonded and resist being broken apart. The molecules cling to one another in droplets and do not soak the surface. This is where soap intervenes by breaking apart these droplets and help them wet the skin or fabric. When soap molecules are combined with water, their hydrophobic tails squeeze together in a small space, in an effort to get as far away as possible from the water and as close as possible to one another. The heads of the soap molecules are attracted to the water and form a spherical wall around their fleeing tails. The soap forms a film on the surface of the water that holds the heads and tails in position. The action of these heads and tails on the water's surface breaks the surface tension and forces the water into the fabric or skin allowing the soap's lather to develop.

Once the soap molecule has helped water do it's job, it then removes dirt and grease. The oil loving tail of the soap molecule is attracted to oil and grease. It first embeds it's tail into the dirt. As the water loving head of the soap molecule pulls toward the water, the dirt is dislodged as it remains attached to the tail of the molecule. The tail of the soap molecule then holds the dirt in suspension, away from the skin or fabric, until a rinse washes the dirt and the soap away.
You can visit my website for more information on soap.
DeShawn Marie Handmade Soap, What is Soap and how does it work?

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  • Handmade Soap, The history of soap making

    Ever wonder how soap was discovered? or how it came to be what it is today?

    The origins of personal cleanliness date back to prehistoric times. Since water is essential for life, the earliest people lived near water and knew something about its cleansing properties - at least that it rinsed mud off their hands. A soap-like material found in clay cylinders during the excavation of ancient Babylon is evidence that soap making was known as early as 2800 B.C. Inscriptions on the cylinders say that fats were boiled with ashes, which is a method of making soap, but do not refer to the purpose of the "soap." Such materials were later used as hair styling aids.

    Records show that ancient Egyptians bathed regularly. The Ebers Papyrus, a medical document from about 1500 B.C., describes combining animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to form a soap-like material used for treating skin diseases, as well as for washing. At about the same time, Moses gave the Israelites detailed laws governing personal cleanliness. He also related cleanliness to health and religious purification. Biblical accounts suggest that the Israelites knew that mixing ashes and oil produced a kind of hair gel.

    The early Greeks bathed for aesthetic reasons and apparently did not use soap. Instead, they cleaned their bodies with blocks of clay, sand, pumice and ashes, then anointed themselves with oil, and scraped off the oil and dirt with a metal instrument known as a strigil. They also used oil with ashes. Clothes were washed without soap in streams.

    Soap got its name, according to an ancient Roman legend, from Mount Sapo, where animals were sacrificed. Rain washed a mixture of melted animal fat, or tallow, and wood ashes down into the clay soil along the Tiber River. Women found that this clay mixture made their wash cleaner with much less effort. The ancient Germans and Gauls are also credited with discovering a substance called soap, made of tallow and ashes, that they used to tint their hair red.

    As Roman civilization advanced, so did bathing. The first of the famous Roman baths, supplied with water from their aqueducts, was built about 312 B.C. The baths were luxurious, and bathing became very popular. By the second century A.D., the Greek physician, Galen, recommended soap for both medicinal and cleansing purposes.

    After the fall of Rome in 467 A.D. and the resulting decline in bathing habits, much of Europe felt the impact of filth upon public health. This lack of personal cleanliness and related unsanitary living conditions contributed heavily to the great plagues of the Middle Ages, and especially to the Black Death of the 14th century. It wasn't until the 17th century that cleanliness and bathing started to come back into fashion in much of Europe. Still there were areas of the medieval world where personal cleanliness remained important. Daily bathing was a common custom in Japan during the Middle Ages. And in Iceland, pools warmed with water from hot springs were popular gathering places on Saturday evenings.

    Soap making was an established craft in Europe by the seventh century. Soap maker guilds guarded their trade secrets closely. Vegetable and animal oils were used with ashes of plants, along with fragrance. Gradually more varieties of soap became available for shaving and shampooing, as well as bathing and laundering.

    Italy, Spain and France were early centers of soap manufacturing, due to their ready supply of raw materials such as oil from olive trees. The English began making soap during the 12th century. The soap business was so good that in 1622, King James I granted a monopoly to a soap maker for $100,000 a year. Well into the 19th century, soap was heavily taxed as a luxury item in several countries. When the high tax was removed, soap became available to ordinary people, and cleanliness standards improved.

    To read more about the history of soap and how it came to be what we know it as today visit the link below.
    DeShawn Marie Handmade Soap, The history of soap making

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  • Wednesday, June 24, 2009

    Jasmine Jubilee Handmade Soap

    Today I am making my Jasmine Jubilee Soap.  I love the smell of fresh Jasmine.  When I decided to create this soap many years ago I searched all over to find the perfect Jasmine.  It literally took me 6 months to find the oil I wanted to use to create this soap.  Since I couldn't afford to travel at that time to find my own Jasmine I ordered samples from all over.  I had samples arriving every week from India, the Phillipines, China, etc.  The winning Jasmine came from India after many months of smelling I fell in love with this oil and created my Jasmine Jubilee soap (pictured below)

    The photo below is of a Jasmine flower in India.  They look quite simple, but put off an aroma that is to die for!

    Once I had this oil in my hands I worked for many more months coming up with the color and design of my Jasmine Jubilee Soap.  I find in the Summer people tend to like floral soap more and lately Jasmine has been one of my most popular soaps.  I'm not complaining about that since my home is now filled with this aroma ;-) So I just wanted to say thank you for all of you that have been ordering this soap as it is one of my favorites to make and I love when my home smells so delicious.

    You Can Find Me in the Shower… at Social Honeycomb

    The Lucky Winner!

    I recently participated in a giveaway at The Spotted Duck Blog and wanted to share Shelley Greenberg's Spotted Duck Blog with my readers along with the write up from Amanda Gravel of Social Honeycomb Blog who happened to be the lucky winner of my soap. Please drop by their blogs and say hello. Both of them are very cool and fun blogs.

    Below is a picture of the soap I gave away and the happy winner :) Thanks to both Amanda and Shelley for this opportunity and for their continued support of my craft.

    You Can Find Me in the Shower… at Social Honeycomb

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    Updating DeShawn Marie Handmade Soap Website

    Well some of you might know that I've been at this craft for quite a while. Going on 13 years now. I've had store fronts, sold wholesale, sold internationally, designed gift packs for Broadway plays and more. Getting caught up in all of that doesn't leave much time for focusing on things like websites ;-) So I've finally taken some time to do some improvements to my handmade soap website at

    I'd really appreciate some input from my fans, readers and customers. It's not perfect yet LOL, but it's getting closer to what I would like it to be. I would really appreciate if any of you would take the time to drop by and let me know what you like or don't like about it. Also if you have any suggestions or ideas?? It still has a ways to go and I know that in certain browsers it shows up differently. If there is anything that you notice is really annoying or out of place please take the time to let me know :) There's a little something in it for you later this week.

    Anyone who takes the time to do this will automatically be entered in to win a special prize later this week. Stay tuned for details. In the meantime take a look at my site and make comments on this post. Thanks in advance for your help xoxo, DeShawn

    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    Saturday, June 06, 2009

    Fromage Blanc made at home

    I've recently discovered cheese making and have been having a ball with it. I never realized you could make fresh cheese in a day. I had always wanted to try and make my own cheese, but thought it must take a lot of time and work. Then there is the aging, waxing, etc. Well I was wrong. You can make your own fresh Fromage Blanc in a day right at home and eat it the very next day. It's delicious!

    First you heat up 32 oz of whole milk to 165F degrees. Here is a photo of the beginning stages of cheese.

    Turn off the heat at 165F and add 1 cup of buttermilk and 2 tsp. of lemon juice. Wait 10 minutes and you should see curds forming like this photo.

    You then pour the curds and whey into a strainer lined with cheesecloth.

    Let strain completely. Little by little you will see the cheese solidifying.

    When it looks like this you can cover it up and put it in the refrigerator overnight.

    In the morning take it out of the refrigerator and mix 1/2 tsp of salt into it. Then scoop it in to ramekins. Smooth it out with a spatula and cover with plastic.

    You can eat it right then, but I usually like to wait until the evening so that the flavor has a little more time to develop.

    I've really had fun with this over the past week. I thought some of my readers might be interested in trying this themselves so wanted to pass this along to you all. I've almost enjoyed it as much as my soapmaking, but the fun part is you get to eat this!! Let me know if any of you try it. Would love to hear about it if so.