Soap as Main Character. Idea that changed the world

(opinion article)

It is difficult to imagine, or for that matter, to smell a society without soap.

It dates back to Biblical times, but the great soap-related hygiene revolution didn’t happen until the mid-19th Century when Ignaz Semmelweis, a sharp Hungarian doctor working in Vienna, noticed babies died more often after they were delivered by medical students rather than midwives. He realized medical students had often performed autopsies just prior, which contaminated their hands with microbes. He instigated a regime of hand-washing and infant deaths dropped substantially, making clear the benefits of hand-washing.

But what is soap? Soap is defined as a fat or oil that has been treated with strong alkali or sodium hydroxide. I mean animal fats and plant oils such as palm oil, olive oil and coconut oil that have been mixed with lye. Soap is a byproduct of whatever oily thing your particular culture likes to eat, basically. It wasn’t that soap was only animals, I’d say, but clearly, that early soap tended to come more from animal fat.

The first real recipes for soap appeared about thousands years ago, in Egypt. Crypts– they’re finding soap, and it’s often made from olive oil. In northern countries, where there are fewer of those sort of oily plants, they’re gonna be more animal-based. It was a product that was typically made at home.

It wasn’t really well understood, how soap works, but people did know that being clean was important, and not just because it made you look attractive, but because clean meant safe and healthy.

Lastly, it’s what we’ve been told to do to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Wash your hands! Maybe making soap it’s pretty easy and for us it’s not a big deal at all but we shouldn’t forget about how it changed the world one day.

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