Historically Speaking: The Beginning Of Soap

When was soap first made? In our latest series - historically speaking - we're tackling some of the ancient history behind hand washing.

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The word “Sapo” is the Latin version of “soap”, and is likely based on the early Germanic language.

Many different nations created different types of soap, some harsher than others, before even coming into contact with one another. It was a phenomenon discovered by humans in a variety of places across the globe.

No one is quite sure when soap was first made, but the first evidence of soap production dates to 2800 BC in ancient Babylon. In fact, a Babylonian clay tablet, dated back to 2200 BC, was found with a recipe for soap! It included water, alkali (which is a sort of salt base), and cassia oil.

Egyptian papyruses from 1550 BC shows us that ancient Egyptians used soap as well, combining animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts.

Ancient China also created a type of soap from the seeds of Chinese honey locust, a type of plant.

The olden Israelis had a style of soap made from burnt ashes, and the Gauls, which inhabited parts of Germany, created a milder soap from animal fats – but used it exclusively for shampooing.

Just because soap was made didn’t mean people washed their hands with it. In fact, people apparently used it to bathe. In most cultures, the rich bathed often, and the poor much, much less. For the people in those ages, soap was just something to wash the body with occasionally – it didn’t hold any special meaning when it came to their hands.

Soap has come a long way from the first Babylonian version, and today we’re proud to use it to wash our hands free from dangerous germs and viruses.

Here’s our animated video on our Youtube Channel, explaining this article exactly!

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Podcast: Deep dive into the future of handwashing Max Simonovsky, Co-Founder & CEO of Soapy