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The History of Detergent & Soap

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Nicole Johnson

on 26 May 2015

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Transcript of The History of Detergent & Soap

Throughout the history of our civilization, the need for efficient washing of skin and clothes pushed many inventors and scientists to create many types of substances that facilitated that need. Because modern detergents found their footing only after the rise of technology and chemistry of the 20th century, our ancestors focused their attention on production of various soaps.
Prehistoric Times
This certainly cannot be documented; but it is quite possible soap could have been discovered even in prehistoric times. Early people cooking their meats over fires might have noticed after a rainstorm there was a strange foam around the remains of the fire and its ashes.
Ancient Babylon
The first archeological proof of existence of soap was found in ancient Babylon, in 2800 B.C. However the inscription found at the pots that were intended for boiling of animal fat with ash did not provide references of soap usage.
The Greeks
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. Clothes were washed without soap in streams.
Later On In Europe...
After the 17th century, public hygiene and cleanliness returned to Europe which brought the need for creation of many new cleaning products.
The Egyptians
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. They would often use these "creams and oils to soften their beards for shaving" (Joachim 54).
The History of Detergent & Soap
By: Nicole Johnson

The Israelities
Around the same period of time, Israelities
had developed laws governing personal cleanliness. Cleanliness was seen to be related to health and religious purification. Biblical accounts suggest that they knew that mixing ashes and oil produced a kind of hair gel.
The Romans
Roman Empire brought the use of soaps, oils and ash mixed gels to the height of popularity. During that time both public and nobility used cleaning product regularly, and many legends surrounded soap (which was by legend first discovered at Mount Sapo, where fat from sacrificed animals traveled down and was collected into pools of soap).
Fall of the Roman Empire
After the fall of Roman Empire in 5th century AD, the tradition of washing disappeared from Europe, which brought the 1000 years of uncleanliness, poor hygiene and several waves of deadly plagues (most notably Black Death in 14th century).
Industrially Made Cleaning
One of the first instances of industrially made cleaning detergent happened during First World War, when Germany economy was strained and left without easy access to soap. Which led to popularity with the use of detergent.
The 1930's
In 1930s, commercially available routes for creating fatty alcohols brought the rise of several detergent brands intended for industrial use (German BASF, DEFT and Procter and Gamble from United States with their famous "Tide" brand).
By the 1950s, soap was almost completely displaced as a means of cleaning clothes in developed countries.
Here are some of the most notable detergent related inventions in the last 60 years:

1950s - Creation of automatic dishwasher powders, fabric softeners

1960s - Prewash stain removers, enzyme presoaks

1970s - Multifunctional products (detergent + softener), liquid soaps

1980s - Detergents with support for cold water washing, concentrated washing powders

1990s - Aromatic gels, ultra fabric softeners, super concentrated powders and liquid detergents

2000s - Biodegradable and green friendly products, water conservation washing machines, laundry detergent "all in one" tablets
Works Cited
"Clean Living." Soaps & Detergent: History. American Cleaning Institute,
2015. Web. 14 May 2015.
"Detergent History - From Ancient Soaps to Modern Detergents." History of
Detergent. Soap History, n.d. Web. 14 May 2015.
Joachim, Jean C. "Appearance." Ancient Egypt: Dot-to-dot. New York, NY:
Sterling, 2006. 54-55. Print.
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