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Soap in General

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Traditionally, soap is made as the result of a reaction between fat and lye. Many cleaning agents today are technically not soaps, but detergents, which are less expensive and easier to manufacture.

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      15.01.2010 13:26
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      Liquid beats solid!

      Next in the series of my very random string of reviews - I'm going to write about Soap in General! In general there are two types of soap - liquid and solid. I'm a big fan of liquid soap, but dislike solid. This is because solid soap is more effort to use (!), it seems more unhygienic because all the dirt and bacteria from your hands or body gets left on it...and if multiple people are using it, it can get kind of icky. Yes, plastic bottles of liquid soap are worse for the environment, but they seem to clean more and are less drying for my hands. Furthermore, they keep much longer too - there's no need to worry about the gooey sloppy bits that form on the bottom, the mess of soap dishes, the dropping of soap on the floor etc. Plus, you don't get nosey cats sniffing it or even sitting on it (maybe that's just my house).

      Within the liquid soap category, there are a couple of subcategories (are you convinced I'm mental yet?). These are hand soap and face soap. Hand soap is much more common, and if you shop around it's easy to get a 500ml bottle for £1. In our bathroom that lasts a good few weeks, and also saves on packaging and waste compared to buying 250ml bottles. You can also get soap refills if you want to be even kinder to the environment.
      Liquid face soap is favoured by many cosmetic and skincare companies, mainly because they sell it to you are part of a skincare routine, which is a good excuse to convince people to spend lots of money. Facial soap is often the first step in the skincare system of both midrange and higher end companies such as Garnier and Clinique. This can end up being the most expensive soap you buy, with prices ranging crazily from about £2 to at least £20.

      Some people insist on always buying the same brands of soap, whether that's because they love them, or they love the price or they don't like change. Personally, I'm not that fussy about anti-bacterial soap (it's actually quite controversial if you Wikipedia it) or soap of a particular brand - I tend to go for what's cheapest and what has the least packaging. It's actually surprising how different they can make a plastic bottle look and what crazy ideas design and marketing teams come up with. If you want your soap to have an under the sea theme, try PalmOlive. Disney soap? No problem! Plain packaged soap is actually quite difficult to find outside of supermarket own brands - and there are plenty of snobs out there willing to pay more to avoid their visitors seeing 'Asda' or 'Tesco' when they go to wash their hands.

      In my house at the moment, I have Bayliss and Harding liquid soap upstairs, Clinique facial soap, and Carex (not my buying) in the kitchen. For some reason my housemate's girlfriend decided to buy some soap as well (she's only recently discovered the pound shop), so we have some Radox, unopened in the kitchen. And in the bathroom cabinet there's also a bottle of Asda's own brand. Exciting stuff, no?

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        02.04.2008 18:14
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        We can't imagine life without soap.

        Can you imagine living without soap for a considerable length of time, say, three months? No soap would also mean no shampoo, no washing-powder, no detergent. Impossible? Of course, it isn't, but it wouldn't be life as we know it and think it should be and yet, soap and its siblings have been used in normal people's households only a bit longer than a century.

        Archaeologists have found soap-like material when working on excavation sites of ancient Babylon which date back to 2800 BC, from inscriptions they've learnt that fat was boiled and mixed with ashes which is the basic recipe for making soap but they couldn't find proof that the substance was used for cleaning, obviously the Babylonians used it to style their hair. (?)

        Different theories are discussed on how soap was invented or rather discovered, it could have happened anywhere where our forefathers and -mothers cooked meat over fire, fat dripped into ash and rain water turned the mixture into a kind of soapy soup which as people noticed cleaned better than simple water.

        The Romans claimed that the birthplace of soap was Mount Sapo (hence the name) near Rome where animals were sacrificed. When it rained, the water flowed down the slope carrying a mixture of melted animal fats and wood ashes with it right to the women who were washing their clothes in the river Tiber. They noticed that the clothes became cleaner when they got into contact with the stuff.

        In fact soap making was known to quite a lot of peoples in ancient times but most of them didn't combine taking a bath with using soap; going to the baths was more a luxurious pastime for idle people than a way of cleaning the body, soap was used as medicine for skin diseases or, as I've already mentioned, to style one's hair. It was only in the second century AD that a Greek physician recommended soap also for cleansing purposes. The idea spread slowly, however, although the first Roman baths had been built already around 300 BC.

        When Rome fell in 467 AD the little hygiene people had been practising was forgotten, the Middle Ages aren't called 'dark' for nothing! Filth everywhere and unsanitary living conditions were partly responsible for the plague devastating many European countries. In 1399 Henry IV created the Order of the Bath: he ordered his noblemen to get into a water-filled tub at least once in their lifetime. Queen Elizabeth I was a more progressive woman, she took a bath every three months "whether she needed it or not." :-)

        The year 1852 can be seen as the beginning of the era of personal hygiene in Europe, the soap tax in England and France was abolished and soap became affordable, at the beginning only for the rich, though. When indoor plumbing and hot and cold running water became available for all, soap finally found its way also into the households of the lower classes.

        The Americans were a bit quicker, already in 1806 William Colgate founded a soap company followed by the entrepreneurs William Proctor and James Gamble.

        A soap like substance can be extracted from plants, e.g., soapwort, soap root, yucca, horsetail, fuchsia leaves, the agave, palm and olive oil. A certain Mr Johnson was so successful with a combination of the two latter substances that he named his soap Palmolive - now you know! The soap which is nowadays sold under this name is not made of the original substances, though, standard supermarket or drugstore soap is made of 80% tallow (animal fat) and 20% coconut oil (no ash any more) with added chemical sudsing agents.

        Dooyoo lists dozens of different soap brands, in what way do they differ from each other? Only in the chemical sudsing agents, different fragrances and colours. The lather may be firmer or more bubbly, in essence all soaps are alike. 80% animal fat, eh? I wonder what hardcore veggies make of this. I don't suppose that vets practise liposuction on obese cattle, the fat comes from slaughtered animals, of course. If veggies want to stick strictly to their principles, they have to turn to handcrafted soap consisting of vegetable oils, the production of these has become an ever growing niche market. These soaps are of superior quality, richly emollient but, sadly, very expensive. Obviously the makers of such soaps don't expect them to conquer the mass market, they offer their soaps as luxury articles in gift wrappings, a nice idea if you need a present for someone who already has everything or if you feel like indulging yourself.

        I've done my duty if you'll look at your bar of soap with different eyes the next time you go to the bathroom. Life without soap? Or back to the times when women washed their clothes in the river with a mixture of animal fat and ashes? Who says that the olden times were golden? Nah, better live now.

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          12.03.2008 13:32
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          Cussons in general is a reliable brand of soap products.

          PZ Cussons make a whole range of soaps designed to suit the whole family. I have tried many of these but always come back to their original Imperial Leather bar of soap with the gold, red and white label. Imperial leather products are well known and available all over the world.

          Joy beauty Soap is a perfumed variety made by Cussons for the West African market. It is marketed as a complete beauty treatment for the skin and claims to leave it soft and smooth. I haven't tried this variety because it is only available in West Africa but I am told that it resembles the Cussons Pearl bar which I have tried.

          The Carex range of antibacterial soaps and liquid cleansers is also made by this manufacturer. Carex is antibacterial, and contains moisturiser and powerful cleansing agents but is still gentle on the skin. It is available in UK but also in Thailand and the Middle East. I have used Carex liquid soap as an antibacterial hand wash in the kitchen. It is excellent for cleansing hands after handling meat and poultry and after gardening jobs.

          Cussons baby products are available worldwide and known for quality and value but I cannot comment on their suitability or use as I have no need to purchase them.

          Cussons Pearl is a white, perfumed bar soap which is marketed at women. It promises a rich creamy lather and a light perfume and is available in UK and Australasia. This is one of the Cusson's range that I don't like . The soap is creamy and feels good on the skin and it has a pleasant perfume but if brought my face out in spots so I had to stop using it.

          From time to time I have been tempted to try different soaps as they come onto the market but I have had problems with most of them. Finding the correct soap is often difficult for anyone with a very sensitive skin. Boring no perfumed soaps like Simple are often the only solution for many people. Personally I find that Cusson's Imperial Leather and their Carex range are reliable and pleasant to use. I don't buy any other brand, or range of soaps and won't even use those that are often found in gift packs.

          In general there is a need to be careful what soaps you use if you or someone else in the family has sensitive skin.

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