hist-brewing: Re: sanitation/detergent vs. soap

Jeff Renner nerenner at umich.edu
Mon Jul 31 20:03:21 PDT 2000

At 5:59 PM -0500 7/31/00, Sean Richens wrote:
>If you were reading the fine print at the time, Ivory Snow is now "new and
>improved" and is no longer soap.  I called Poo & Goo and told them off.

I'm sorry to hear that.  I suspect it was because flame retardent
children's sleep wear must be washed in detergent to maintain the flare

>I worked in a fat-derived-chemical plant as a student.  It turns out the
>only way to test whether an oil or fat will make a nice clear soap (like
>hair gel) is to try it.  Making soap in the lab, even with the fume hood,
>was a smoky, smelly and somewhat scary process.  What do the neighbours say
>about you making soap at home, Jeff?

In the mid 60's, I worked at P&G's Ivorydale Technical center for two
summers as a summer technicial, back when I thought I was going to be a
chemical engineer.  The first summer I worked in the pilot plant for
Safeguard and Zest bars, and Oxydol and (I think) Tide laundry powders, and
learned a good deal.  The old timers always said that the best cleaning of
clothes was with dead soft, near boiling water and soap.  Of course,
magical, luminescent "whiteners" and other additives in detergents added to
the perception of better cleaning, and with hard water, detergents are
really best.

In the piloT plant, we used refined fatty acids (no glycerine) and NaOH,
with the hot process.  With fats/oils (which contain glycerine), the cold
process works best, and that's what I use at home.  It's nothing scary at
all.  Oils (I use 2:1 olive oil:coconut oil, with a little castor oil as a
carrier for the essential scenting oils) and NaOH each at about 110F, mix
with an egg beater as I slowly dribble in the lye.  The only smell is when
I dissolve the lye - it fumes a bit, so I do it outside, and ahead of time
so it will cool from the heat of hydration.  My current favorite scent is
3:3:1 essential oil of rosemary:lavender:lemon; about 1 oz/ lb of soap.
The essential oils cost more than the other ingredients.

I made an experimental batch with 100% olive oil, and it saponified fine,
and set up OK as soft bars, but when you washed with them, they became
slimy - sort of like snot.  Not especially nice to shower with.


Jeff Renner in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA, c/o nerenner at umich.edu
"One never knows, do one?"  Fats Waller, American Musician, 1904-1943. 

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