Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Traditional soap making

Here is a fascinating video showing the ancient process factories used to use to make real soap, not the detergent kind that mass manufacturing produces today:

Soap Making

The scale of this operation is something to behold. As well as the skill of the workers - using special mallets to imprint the soap, cutting with such accuracy. Before machinery, humans had to develop incredible manual dexterity. Now we just operate machines. So much has been lost. Not the recipe for this soap, though, which is from the tenth century!

and the ingredients? Just three: olive oil, water and "mineral salts." The mineral salts are one form of sodium hydroxide, coming from the Dead Sea. You can actually buy a bar of this on Amazon. (and the purchase does support a Palestinian company.)

Here is the description of how they make their soap:

"Nabulsi soap is a type of castile soap produced only in Nablus in the West Bank, Palestine. Its chief ingredients are virgin olive oil, water, and an alkaline sodium compound. The finished product is ivory-colored and has almost no scent. The compound is made by mixing the powdered ashes of the barilla plant which grows along the banks of the River Jordan with locally supplied lime (sheed). The sodium compound is then is heated with water and the olive oil in large copper vats over fermentation pits. The solution of water and the sodium compound becomes increasingly concentrated in a series of 40 cycles repeated over eight days. During that time, an oar-shaped wooden tool known as a dukshab is used to stir the liquid soap continuously. The liquid soap is then spread in wooden frames to set. After setting, it is cut into the classic cube shape of Nabulsi soap and stamped with the company's trademark seal. The soap cubes then undergo a drying process which can last from three months to a year and involves stacking them in ceiling-high structures resembling cones with hollow centers which allow the air to circulate around the cubes."

I learned about this kind of soap when I lived in Aix-en-Provence. This part of France is known for it's ancient soap making, and the soap really is a whole other product than what we think of soap today.This is when my skin learned to love the all natural ingredients, and when I learned I don't need to use any moisturizer if I am using soap that moisturizes.

Once you use this kind of soap, you will never go back.