How are commercial/industrial soap bars better/worse than the ones we make?

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Saltynuts

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I've been doing some reading about this. It seems there are at least a couple differences between homemade soaps that we all make and commercial/industrial ones you guy at the grocery store:

1. The ones at the store have had most (all?) of their glycerine emoved. This I think helps make the bars harder. But I think glycerine is good for the skin, so is this a bad thing?

2. They use some milling process that apparently also helps make their soap bars hard. Does this like "compress" the bars? I will say I just made my second batch of soap, and used primarily olive oil, which I thought was supposed to be pretty hard on the scale of things, but the bars (like my first bards using only canola oil) came out SOFT. I sure could use some hardness!

Anything else that is radically different? Do they even use the lye method predominately?

Thanks for any discussion on this!!!
 
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With the milling, they take strands of soap (soap noodles) and compress them at a fairly high pressure. Sometimes more than once (hence some soaps are triple milled). I don't know exactly why from a science point of view, but the process takes what would be a fairly "meh" soap if done cp/hp and makes it much better.

Because of this, they also don't need the glycerine, so they remove it and sell it, making it all a bit more profitable
 

Babyshoes

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Also, many commercial soaps contain at least some synthetic detergents, in addition to or even instead of actual soap made from lye and oils.

As I understand it, some folks with skin sensitivities can react to these "syndets", making real soap far better for them.
 

TheGecko

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I've been doing some reading about this. It seems there are at least a couple differences between homemade soaps that we all make and commercial/industrial ones you guy at the grocery store:

1. The ones at the store have had most (all?) of their glycerine emoved. This I think helps make the bars harder. But I think glycerine is good for the skin, so is this a bad thing?

2. They use some milling process that apparently also helps make their soap bars hard. Does this like "compress" the bars? I will say I just made my second batch of soap, and used primarily olive oil, which I thought was supposed to be pretty hard on the scale of things, but the bars (like my first bards using only canola oil) came out SOFT. I sure could use some hardness!

Anything else that is radically different? Do they even use the lye method predominately?

Thanks for any discussion on this!!!

The majority of commercial bar soaps (not to be confused with 'beauty bars' sold in the bar soap section) are made similarly to how we make soap. They use what is called "Continuous Process". It starts with splitting the "fats"...most often Palm Oil, Palm Kernal Oil, Coconut Oil (cheap and available)...into fatty acids and glycerin. Molten fats and boiling water are pumped in one end, fatty acids and glycerin are pumped out the other...all day long. Sodium Hydroxide is mixed with the fatty acids then pour into large slabs and cooled in a freezer....think Hot Process. Once cooled, the slabs are cut into chunks and feed into a machine that makes 'noodles'. These noodles then go into milling machines when scent, colorants and other additives are mixed in and then the mixture is extruded into smaller blocks that go into a press to be shaped, stamped and they are packaged, boxed, put on pallet and sent to the store. Entire process takes about a day.

Glycerin is a by-product of the soap making process and is a valuable commodity which is why very little of it is added back in. It's a natural humectant and is good for the skin.

"Fats" fall into two categories...Soft Oils and Hard Oils. And as their category implies, lend their nature to your soap. A soap made with 100% Soft Oils will be physically soft and will need a long curing time...not only for water evaporation, but also for all the science (and magic) to take place. You would think then that a 100% Hard Oil soap would be the way to go, but not necessarily. A 100% Coconut Oil soap can be really drying on the skin...hence why it is made with a high Super Fat. A 100% Shea Butter soap is sticky. A 100% Cocoa Butter soap would probably last forever and not get you all that clean because it's too hard.

One of the oldest processes of soap making is the Kettle Process...what we would call Hot Process. As its name implies, fats and lye are cooked in a very large kettle, but it was considered to be inefficient and inconsistent...the process took four to eleven days and there was a lack of precise measurements.

You can find examples of the process, still being made today:

Syrian Soap Company Uses Centuries-Old Methods (you'll see an example of using a press to shape the bar)

Nablus Soap Factory 2014 (here the bars are hand stamped and then stacked in towers to cure)

How Olive Oil Soap is Made in One of the Last Factories in the West Bank (this is another video for the Nablus Soap Factory)
 

Hoppy_Cosmetics

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I read the other comments, but from what ive learned from reading soap making blogs is that the easiest way to know the difference is wither or not it says "soap" on the label. True soaps by legal requirement have to say "soap" and has usually only around 5 or 6 natural ingredients listed, but most commercial soap just say bar or beauty bar on the label, with no mention of the word soap. These are classed as detergents, like dove beauty bar. Also, the list of ingredients is extensive, similar to the ingredients in melt & pour soap, with around 20 different unheard of ingredients.

As for your olive oil (castile) soap, if you want a harder bar, you could make a 2% superfat rather than the standard 5%. Someone correct me if im wrong.
 
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As for your olive oil (castile) soap, if you want a harder bar, you could make a 2% superfat rather than the standard 5%. Someone correct me if im wrong.
You could try Zany's No-Slime Castile which has 0% superfat. Search for it on the forum.

Of course, as stated by @TheGecko - a better balanced bar in terms of hard fats will also contribute to a harder bar. Think Palm Oil, Soy Wax, Cocoa Butter, Lard, Tallow, Shea Butter, etc (or combinations thereof)- totalling between 35 - 60% of your recipe. Coconut oil creates a hard bar too but is very soluble ( cleans very well) so don't confuse that hardness with longevity. Also because it is such a good 'cleaner' most people cannot tolerate it above 25%. It is generally used between 10 - 20%.
 

TheGecko

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I read the other comments, but from what ive learned from reading soap making blogs is that the easiest way to know the difference is wither or not it says "soap" on the label. True soaps by legal requirement have to say "soap" and has usually only around 5 or 6 natural ingredients listed, but most commercial soap just say bar or beauty bar on the label, with no mention of the word soap. These are classed as detergents, like dove beauty bar. Also, the list of ingredients is extensive, similar to the ingredients in melt & pour soap, with around 20 different unheard of ingredients.

As for your olive oil (castile) soap, if you want a harder bar, you could make a 2% superfat rather than the standard 5%. Someone correct me if im wrong.

Yes and no...depends on where you are from. In the United States, the regulatory definition of 'soap' (as defined by the FDA [food and drug administration]) must meet three conditions:
  1. What it’s made of: To be regulated as “soap,” the product must be composed mainly of the “alkali salts of fatty acids,” that is, the material you get when you combine fats or oils with an alkali, such as lye.
  2. What ingredients cause its cleaning action: To be regulated as “soap,” those “alkali salts of fatty acids” must be the only material that results in the product’s cleaning action. If the product contains synthetic detergents, it’s a cosmetic, not a soap. You still can use the word “soap” on the label.
  3. How it's intended to be used: To be regulated as soap, it must be labeled and marketed only for use as soap. If it is intended for purposes such as moisturizing the skin, making the user smell nice, or deodorizing the user’s body, it’s a cosmetic. Or, if the product is intended to treat or prevent disease, such as by killing germs, or treating skin conditions, such as acne or eczema, it’s a drug. You still can use the word “soap” on the label.
Two of the oldest soaps in the US are Palmolive and Ivory:

Ivory: Sodium Tallowate And/Or Sodium Palmate, Water, Sodium Cocoate And/Or Sodium Palm Kernelate, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride, Fragrance, Coconut Acid*, Palm Kernel Acid*, Tallow Acid*, Palm Acid*, Tetrasodium EDTA.

Palmolive: Soap (Sodium Tallowate, Sodium Cocoate, and/or Sodium Palm Kernelate), Water, Glycerin, Fragrance, Sodium Chloride, Hydrogenated Tallow Acid, Coconut Acid, Titanium Dioxide, Pentasodium Pentetate, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-DI-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, D&C Yellow 10, D&C Green 5.

All the additives, colorants and scent aside...they are still 'soap' as they contain "alkali salts of fatty acids"...specifically: Sodium Tallowate (Tallow), Sodium Palmate (Palm Oil), Sodium Cocoate (Coconut Oil), Sodium Palm Kernelate (Palm Kernel Oil).

Dove classified as a "beauty bar" because it doesn't meet any of the conditions above. And 'sides, it contains 1/4 moisturizing cream and doesn't dry out your skin the way soap can (said with tongue in cheek).

Melt & Pour. I just so happen to have some M&P...the ingredients are: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Palm Oil, Coconut Oil, Safflower Oil, Glycerine, Purified Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Sorbitol, Propylene Glycol, Sorbitan Oleate, Oat Protein, and Titanium Dioxide. Except for a few added ingredients...alcohol, glycerin and an emulsifier to make it so it can be melted...it meets the regulatory definition of 'soap'.

That isn't to say that all M&P is 'soap', some of it is a 'detergent'. But like anything else, you need to educate yourself and read the labels.

Super Fat has nothing to do with how hard or soft you bar is...physically. I use a 5% SF for two reasons...to make sure there is no Sodium Hydroxide left in my soap in case I screw up and the 'free' oils make my soap a little more moisturizing. Also, there is a difference between a bar of soap that is physically hard and a bar of soap that lasts a long time (longevity). Commercial soaps are 'hard' bars of soap, but they don't last as long a well-balanced bar of artisan soap.
 
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The majority of commercial bar soaps (not to be confused with 'beauty bars' sold in the bar soap section) are made similarly to how we make soap. They use what is called "Continuous Process". It starts with splitting the "fats"...most often Palm Oil, Palm Kernal Oil, Coconut Oil (cheap and available)...into fatty acids and glycerin. Molten fats and boiling water are pumped in one end, fatty acids and glycerin are pumped out the other...all day long. Sodium Hydroxide is mixed with the fatty acids then pour into large slabs and cooled in a freezer....think Hot Process. Once cooled, the slabs are cut into chunks and feed into a machine that makes 'noodles'. These noodles then go into milling machines when scent, colorants and other additives are mixed in and then the mixture is extruded into smaller blocks that go into a press to be shaped, stamped and they are packaged, boxed, put on pallet and sent to the store. Entire process takes about a day.

Glycerin is a by-product of the soap making process and is a valuable commodity which is why very little of it is added back in. It's a natural humectant and is good for the skin.

"Fats" fall into two categories...Soft Oils and Hard Oils. And as their category implies, lend their nature to your soap. A soap made with 100% Soft Oils will be physically soft and will need a long curing time...not only for water evaporation, but also for all the science (and magic) to take place. You would think then that a 100% Hard Oil soap would be the way to go, but not necessarily. A 100% Coconut Oil soap can be really drying on the skin...hence why it is made with a high Super Fat. A 100% Shea Butter soap is sticky. A 100% Cocoa Butter soap would probably last forever and not get you all that clean because it's too hard.

One of the oldest processes of soap making is the Kettle Process...what we would call Hot Process. As its name implies, fats and lye are cooked in a very large kettle, but it was considered to be inefficient and inconsistent...the process took four to eleven days and there was a lack of precise measurements.

You can find examples of the process, still being made today:

Syrian Soap Company Uses Centuries-Old Methods (you'll see an example of using a press to shape the bar)

Nablus Soap Factory 2014 (here the bars are hand stamped and then stacked in towers to cure)

How Olive Oil Soap is Made in One of the Last Factories in the West Bank (this is another video for the Nablus Soap Factory)
You're info is most informative & it sounds like you've had the chance to view this entire soap making process firsthand! That would be interesting to see in person.

As much 'Work' Time & Money' it takes to create a handmade bar soap' i'd like to think its far superior then commercial bar soap?, its kinda disheartening to think it's not much of a difference between the the two!.
 

Hoppy_Cosmetics

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Yes and no
Thanks for all the info. Im from Scotland in the UK. Alot of random blogs contradict each other, and i got my original info from one of those, but i mainly just follow The Nerdy Farm Wife, Humblebee and Me, and Bramble Berry now. I used to use palmolive soap, i liked the fact it had olives on the packaging! I also used to use imperial leather, i loved the smell.


its kinda disheartening to think it's not much of a difference between the the two!.
On a personal level, i think there's a massive difference between the two. The handmade soap im using just now from etsy is a bastille soap with only olive oil, coconut oil, and carrot puree, aswell as the lye and water used. Its the best soap ive ever tried, so i won't be buying commercial soap again, unless i need to.
 
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Thanks for all the info. Im from Scotland in the UK. Alot of random blogs contradict each other, and i got my original info from one of those, but i mainly just follow The Nerdy Farm Wife, Humblebee and Me, and Bramble Berry now. I used to use palmolive soap, i liked the fact it had olives on the packaging! I also used to use imperial leather, i loved the smell.



On a personal level, i think there's a massive difference between the two. The handmade soap im using just now from etsy is a bastille soap with only olive oil, coconut oil, and carrot puree, aswell as the lye and water used. Its the best soap ive ever tried, so i won't be buying commercial soap again, unless i need to.
Yes I gotta say I agree, Handmade soap is absolutely the best.
The beauty of being able to create handmade soap' you can now replicate the Etsy soap you love & improve it to your personal specs 😉🧼💫.
 

TheGecko

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You're info is most informative & it sounds like you've had the chance to view this entire soap making process firsthand! That would be interesting to see in person.

Lots of reading and You Tube LOL

As much 'Work' Time & Money' it takes to create a handmade bar soap' i'd like to think its far superior then commercial bar soap?, its kinda disheartening to think it's not much of a difference between the the two!.

Yes and no. Whether you are a Phoenicians using goat's tallow and wood ashes in 600BC, using the Kettle Process in London in 1875 or loading an 80' Hydrolizer on a factory floor on the East Coast in 1970 or emulsifying your batter with a stick blender in sunny Southern Cali in 2021...it's still the same process: fats + alkali = soap. So there isn't a lot of difference...there.

There isn't a lot that can be done about the cost of artisan enterprises, it's the nature of the beast. When I first started making soap, I was buying my oils and butters by the pound and it was expensive. As I started making more soap, I started buying larger quantities. And as I started making even more soap, I was able to buy even larger quantities. My first batch (10 bars) of Chocolate Espresso cost me $4.00 for the FO, my last batch cost me $2.74. When I finish this bottle, it will cost me $1.25. And if I ever get big enough where it costs me $0.61...I'll be on a beach someone sipping drinks with umbrellas and hot cabana boys. LOL

Where the difference comes in...love. Okay...a little too sappy. The majority of soap makers I have spoken to...from here, from You Tube, from correspondence, from a few I have met in person...got into making soap because they wanted something better...whether just for themselves or for their families. Yeah, if we can put a few bucks in our pocket, maybe supplement our retirement (my goal) or actually make a living from it...that's fantastic, but it's not the goal.
 

Zany_in_CO

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And if I ever get big enough where it costs me $0.61...I'll be on a beach someone sipping drinks with umbrellas and hot cabana boys. LOL
Smack Laugh.gif
Smack Laugh.gif
Smack Laugh.gif
 

TrueGold

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Hello all, new here and just adding my 2 cents:

Many commercial supermarket soaps are loaded with ingredients that the average consumer doesn't really know about such as SLS and SLES which are sulfates that can irritate your skin.

Homemade soaps can also contain these ingredients if you use, for example, a M&P base that has it. I'm a M&P soaper but I believe with CP/HP you can control what ingredients you want to place in it, therefore, potentially sticking to just 'natural' ingredients. I have recently been testing a M&P certified 'organic' base (PF Free, Sulfate Free, Cruelty Free) and have found it to be great on my skin so far.

The main difference is:
COMMERCIAL SOAP – Your $upporting big/bigger companies
HANDMADE/HOMEMADE SOAP – Your $upporting local small businesses (that I personally think often drives growth and innovation in the industry, for many reasons outside this topic :) )


Adz
 

gloopygloop

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I started making soap 21 years ago because the soap I bought from shops whether it was really good expensive stuff or not just made me itch and dry to a point of depression. I found a handmade soap in a department store which I tried and found it so nice to use, no itching! then the journey of learning to make, but thats another story. I think the shop bought soap must be very high in CO which is why its so drying no matter what quality you buy plus the glycerine being taken out, if its the manufactured hard soaps they do seem to be high in CO and after a few uses's they take the skin with them LOL!
 

LBV

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I found that most commercial hand cleaners reacted with my skin. The only product I used was sunlight soap which didn't dry out my hands. I decided to make my own when I discovered that sunlight soap uses palm oil - something I do not ethically agree with. I make my soap out of olive oil, beef tallow, coconut oil and castor oil. I add salt to the water to make a brine bar which makes the bars nice and hard. I have friends who buy my soap as they like the fact that it doesn't disintegrate in the dish.
 

Ladka

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I make my soap out of olive oil, beef tallow, coconut oil and castor oil. I add salt to the water to make a brine bar which makes the bars nice and hard. I have friends who buy my soap as they like the fact that it doesn't disintegrate in the dish.
The ingredients you use are also those I like to use in my soaps . But what do you mean by it doesn't disintegrate in the dish?
 
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Lots of reading and You Tube LOL



Yes and no. Whether you are a Phoenicians using goat's tallow and wood ashes in 600BC, using the Kettle Process in London in 1875 or loading an 80' Hydrolizer on a factory floor on the East Coast in 1970 or emulsifying your batter with a stick blender in sunny Southern Cali in 2021...it's still the same process: fats + alkali = soap. So there isn't a lot of difference...there.

There isn't a lot that can be done about the cost of artisan enterprises, it's the nature of the beast. When I first started making soap, I was buying my oils and butters by the pound and it was expensive. As I started making more soap, I started buying larger quantities. And as I started making even more soap, I was able to buy even larger quantities. My first batch (10 bars) of Chocolate Espresso cost me $4.00 for the FO, my last batch cost me $2.74. When I finish this bottle, it will cost me $1.25. And if I ever get big enough where it costs me $0.61...I'll be on a beach someone sipping drinks with umbrellas and hot cabana boys. LOL

Where the difference comes in...love. Okay...a little too sappy. The majority of soap makers I have spoken to...from here, from You Tube, from correspondence, from a few I have met in person...got into making soap because they wanted something better...whether just for themselves or for their families. Yeah, if we can put a few bucks in our pocket, maybe supplement our retirement (my goal) or actually make a living from it...that's fantastic, but it's not the goal.
I'll be SB here in sunny CA' & hopefully supplement retirement' I'd prefer a tequila shot' minus the cabana boys, coming up on our 45th wedding anniversary i've learned time is a Blessings' promised to no one. I digress.

I Respectfully disagree' w/ your opinion. HP soap gives much skin loving softness to the skin & I do believe CP soap does as-well but @ a lessor degree, having said this' I' personally believe Handmade soap is far superior to Big Commercial Company's' despite the possible science behind the theory.

I do agree Youtube & this group are both fantastic in learning the art of Soaping' & Skincare.
 

TheGecko

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I Respectfully disagree' w/ your opinion. HP soap gives much skin loving softness to the skin & I do believe CP soap does as-well but @ a lessor degree, having said this' I' personally believe Handmade soap is far superior to Big Commercial Company's' despite the possible science behind the theory.

Have to, also respectfully, disagree with your disagree. Whether you are making HP or CP...it is STILL fats + alkali = soap (speaking solely of true soap).

Now if you want to discuss which is 'better'...HP or CP...to what degree or purpose? Whether I use my recipe in a crock pot or a bowl...the results are STILL the same...soap. You would need to provide me with scientific proof that HP produces a more "skin loving softness" than CP.
 

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