Soaps have been made for millennia. Alongside making fire and cooking food, turning oils and fats into soap is one of the oldest and simplest chemical reactions known to humankind. It is believed that the first soaps were accidentally made by fat dripping into the ashes of cooking fires.
Soap is made by saponifying a fat or oil with an alkali. A fat or oil is a triglyceride, which means that three fatty acids of various carbon lengths are attached to a glycerin backbone. The alkali is either sodium hydroxide (lye) for bars or potassium hydroxide (potash) for liquids. Alkali is made by running electricity through salt water.
The saponification process is a simple one-step reaction with no waste generated: the glycerin is split off from the fatty acids, and the fatty acids combine with the sodium or potassium to form soap, while the hydroxide forms water. The result is soap, glycerin and water (no alkali remains in our soaps).
Unlike most commercial soapmakers, who distill the glycerin out of their soaps to sell separately, we retain it in our soaps for its superb moisturizing qualities. We super-fat our bar soaps for a milder, smoother lather and use natural vitamin E from and citric acid (both from non-GMO sources) to protect freshness. We do not add any chelating agents, dyes, whiteners, or synthetic fragrances— only the purest certified organic essential oils.
Quality soapmaking means choosing the right proportions of the right oils. Coconut oil is very high lathering but can be drying. Olive oil gives a soft and luxuriant lather but in small amounts. By using both coconut and olive oils in the right ratio, Dr. Bronner’s soaps offer the best of both worlds: high lather that’s soft on the skin. Our soaps also contain hemp and jojoba oils, which mirror the natural oils in the skin’s sebum, leaving skin feeling smooth after the soaps are washed away.
Our liquid soaps are three times more concentrated than most liquid soaps on the market, which means more soap per bottle and less waste in packaging materials.