Grandma's Lye Soap
Do you remember grandma's lye soap?
Good for everything in the home
And the secret was in the scrubbing
It wouldn't suds and couldn't foam
Then let us sing right out for grandma's, for grandma's lye soap
Used for, for everything, everything on the place
For pots and kettles, the dirty dishes
And for your hands and for your face.
These are some of the lyrics from “Grandma’s Lye Soap” (1920).
News You Can Use
- Soap in some form or another has been known for over 2800 years. Various civilizations (including the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans) all have left evidence of soap making. The recipes were quite similar to one another, involving some forms of animal fats and wood ashes. This soap was not used for personal hygiene, but for cleaning equipment and for medicinal purposes.
- The original “lye soap” was harsh on the skin and hard on fabrics. Since the base material (a hydroxide) had not been removed from the final product, it remained behind to provide irritation to the skin. There were also no oils added for skin softening.
- Modern soap makers start with the fatty acids obtained from the animal fat instead of using the native triglycerides as the initial material. This process eliminates the formation of glycerol as a side product. The soap is treated with salt and water to separate the glycerin from the soap and to remove impurities. Perfumes are incorporated near the end of the process when the soap is cool. This approach minimizes evaporation of expensive oils.
- Watch a video that describes the old-fashioned way of making soap at the link below: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqe_LVp1iUY
- Watch a performance of “Grandma’s Lye Soap” at the link below http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjvTOidpNmI
Show What You Know
Use the links below to learn more about making soap. Then answer the following questions.
- How far back in time do the current basic processes in soap making go?
- What are the major ingredients of soap?
- What are the major sources of fats and oils for soaps?
- What does a detergent do that a soap does not do?