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Soap is the oldest cleanser around. Cleanliness is critical in everyday life and especially in emergency situations. We are encouraged to store a year’s supply of soap. How much you need depends on the number of people in your family and how often you bathe. Clean hands prevent the spread of illness. As you touch surfaces, objects and people during the day, you pick up germs on your hands. You can infect yourself with these germs as you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. The Mayo clinic recommends that you always wash your hands before and after preparing food or eating, treating wounds, giving medicine or caring for a sick or injured person or before inserting or removing contact lenses. In addition, wash after using the toilet or changing a diaper, touching an animal, blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, treating wounds or handling garbage, household or garden chemicals and SHAKING HANDS with others. Also, wash your hands whenever they look dirty.
To wash your hands, use soap and water: wet your hands with running water, apply the soap, lather well. Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds (hum the chorus of “Happy Birthday.”) Remember to wash the backs and between the fingers and under the nails. Rinse well and dry with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer. Can you turn off the faucet with your elbow? [1]
Soap is created by a chemical reaction between oils, water and lye. Lye is a strong alkali in the form of either sodium or potassium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide is used in making solid soap, potassium hydroxide is used for making liquid soap. [2]  They are not interchangeable in the soap making process. Although lye is used to make soap, there is no lye left after saponification is complete. There is no such thing as a bar of soap that was made without the use of lye. Both animal and plant oils can be used in the soap making process, each adding different qualities to the soap.
Most of the soap available in the store today is not really soap at all, but detergent. Detergents are a petroleum based product. There are many ingredients in commercially produced soap that irritate your skin with conditions like psoriasis and eczema. Homemade soap often relieves skin conditions as it is milder and doesn’t contain the potentially harmful chemicals found in conventional bars.  One of the big differences between commercial and handmade soap is glycerin. A clear liquid, glycerine absorbs water from the air and keeps skin soft and healthy.[3]
Most commercial soap manufacturers remove the glycerine from the soap making reaction and sell it to manufacturers of lotions and moisturizers, which your skin desperately needs after using the harsh detergent soap. They also use synthetic lathering agents, artificial colors, and anti-microbial chemicals, some of which are known to cause cancer. [4]
The alternative to these harsh soaps is to purchase or make handmade soap. They may cost more but they are actually good for your skin and good for the planet, not releasing pollutants into the water system. There are three ways to make soap: the “melt and pour” process creates clear, glycerine-based, transparent soaps. These come in a kit which you can uses to make cute soap shapes with your children.
The other two methods are a “cold process and a “hot process.” The cold process takes the most time, and gives the highest quality soaps. This process involves the mixing of oils or fats and lye. This reaction creates glycerine. Herbs and essential oils can be added following the saponification process. The molded soaps need to cure for 4-6 weeks to allow the moisture to escape. The “hot process” adds a cooking step to speed the process. These soaps are ready to use in days instead of weeks.
If you are interested in making your own soap here are two links to help you get more details.
Handmade All Natural Soap (using cold process) and Basic Slow Cooker Soap Recipe (using hot process).


Billie Nicholson, editor
July 2016

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