Fun fact about me: I make homemade soap.
I wish I could say I got into soapmaking for the craft, but it really happened out of necessity. As someone who suffers from both tumid lupus and eczema, my skin is sensitive to everything.
My dermatologist suggested I switch to a natural soap to help combat rashes and hives. That was eight years ago, and I’ve produced soap ever since.
Brandon was amazed the first time he used a bar of homemade soap. He swears it makes everything from his skin to his beard feel softer. He’s right. After using it just once, I realized commercial soap was the source of my dry, itchy skin.
I taught myself the hot process soapmaking method by watching YouTube videos and reading. During my research, I discovered that soapmaking in America was once a household chore.
Colonial women produced soap by combining potash lye with fats or oils. They cooked the mixture over a fire to create soap.
The soaps they made were harsh cleansers used for cleaning rather than bathing. Soap wasn’t used on the skin until germ theory became widely accepted after the Civil War.
Soapmaking disappeared from chore lists in the 1880s because commercially available soap was both high quality and affordable. It remained that way until World War I when a German scientist discovered a soap alternative: detergent.
The popularity of synthetic detergents soared and overtook traditional soap by the 1950s. Now most of the commercial soaps available are detergent bars rather than soap. They are often stripped of the glycerin that helps the skin maintain moisture.
Traditional soapmaking survived in rural areas. In Western North Carolina, people continued producing homemade soap. Mamaw once said soap was made after the hogs were slaughtered and lard rendered.
Like throwing pottery and patchworking quilts, soapmaking became a utilitarian craft. With natural, skin-loving ingredients, today’s soapmakers produce luxurious works of art.
It’s a blessing that traditional soapmaking endured as an artisanal craft. I know my skin is thankful for it! And even though I don’t use lard, it makes me feel a little closer to my roots when I cook a batch.
Have you ever used homemade soap before?