Soap has a superpower.
There are special properties in it's structure.
Soap making starts with an oil
We then use a chemical reaction to turn the oil into soap
The oil is reacted with a caustic substance - generally sodium hydroxide for bar soap and potassium hydroxide for liquid soap.
Different oils make different types of soap
For example, Olive oil soap is moisturising with a light lather, Coconut oil has a rich lather but is drying.
Even though different oils make different soaps they all share a common molecular structure.
It is a special molecular structure that gives soap its super power.
One end of a soap molecule binds tightly to water - the other end binds tightly to dirt.
The individual molecules allow us to use water to carry dirt away.
The cleaning power of soap is simple but valuable and it helps us in so many different ways.
Cost usually determines the oils used in soap
When whale oil was cheap we used it to make soap
These days Palm oil is cheap and we use it to make soap
But cheap oils can have hidden costs
It was never sustainable to use Whale oil to make soap
It is also not sustainable to use Palm oil to make soap
When tropical forest is cleared to grow Palm oil ecosystems are damaged or lost.
Soap is such a wasteful use for Palm oil
When we use soap we waste it - we wash it down the drain. Soap made from Palm oil means we are washing forest ecosystems down the drain.
Reducing the use of Palm oil in soap supports ecosystems.
Tropical forest ecosystems are complex and irreplaceable. It is just not sustainable to keep losing them.
Replacing Palm oil in soap is not easy.
A replacement oil needs to be cheap.
If we tried to use Coconut or Olive oil to replace Palm oil the extra demand would make soap unaffordable.
- readily available,
There is no benefit to clearing different ecosystems to grow a different oil - like Soya oil.
- and sustainable.
The lesson from Whale oil and Palm oil is that environmental sustainability is essential.
Oil from farmed insects is a sustainable replacement for Palm oil in soap
The Black Soldier Fly is being farmed across the globe to meet a demand for protein. The oil that is produced makes a beautiful soap.
© fifoam 2023. All rights reserved. Background Photo: King George Sound, Albany Western Australia