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|| history of soap & detergents ||

|| soap & detergents industry ||

SOAP AND DETERGENT INDUSTRY. Traditionally, soap has been manufactured from alkali (lye) and animal fats (tallow), although vegetable products such as palm oil and coconut oil can be substituted for tallow. American colonists had both major ingredients of soap in abundance, and so soap making began in America during the earliest colonial days. Tallow came as a by-product of slaughtering animals for meat, or from whaling. Farmers produced alkali as a by-product of clearing their land; until the nineteenth century wood ashes served as the major source of lye. The soap manufacturing process was simple, and most farmers could thus make their own soap at home.

The major uses for soap were in the household, for washing clothes and for toilet soap, and in textile manufacturing, particularly for fulling, cleansing, and scouring woolen stuffs. Because colonial America was rural, soap making remained widely dispersed, and no large producers emerged. By the eve of the American Revolution, however, the colonies had developed a minor export market; in 1770 they sent more than 86,000 pounds of soap worth £2,165 to the West Indies. The Revolution interrupted this trade, and it never recovered.

The growth of cities and the textile industry in the early nineteenth century increased soap usage and stimulated the rise of soap-making firms. By 1840, Cincinnati, then the largest meatpacking center in the United States, had become the leading soap-making city as well. The city boasted at least seventeen soap factories, including Procter and Gamble (established 1837), which was destined to become the nation's dominant firm. A major change in soap making occurred in the 1840s when manufacturers began to replace lye made from wood ashes with soda ash, a lye made through a chemical process. Almost all soap makers also produced tallow candles, which for many was their major business. The firms made soap in enormous slabs, and these were sold to grocers, who...

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