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All About Soap


Historically, soap was made from vegetable oils, such as olive oil, aromatic oils (such as Thyme or Laurel oil) and lye (al-Soda al-Kawia) and were first produced by Muslim chemists in the medieval Islamic world. Some theories maintain the Romans first discovered Soap when the fat from the roasting meat trickled through the ash from the fire into the river, making foam. Either way, the basic formula for soap hasn’t changed since then.

Olive oil soap is the most famous of soaps – well known as Castile Soap in Spain and Italy and Marseille Soap in France. Traditionally soap could only called Castile if it was made from all or predominantly Olive oil.

Unfortunately, these days in Europe much of what is sold as “Castile” or “Marseille Soap”, has Palm oil added to it or is even mostly made from Palm Oil!

Valor Originals* VALOR soaps contain a blend of around 72-76% Organic Olive Oil with added Cold pressed Organic Coconut Oil (from a single island plantation in Fiji, of wild grown coconuts) plus additions of Certified Organic Castor Bean, Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter and Australian cold pressed Avocado Oil. Every recipe has slightly different ingredients and qualities of course. Our formulas provide a soap that is gentle on skin and the environment…oh, and it lathers beautifully and lasts as well!



Around 95-98% of soap available today has PALM OIL in it. (And soap is just a drop in the bucket in terms of overall palm oil usage). SEE “What’s the Fuss about Palm Oil” for Information about Palm Oil.


Many so called “handmade” soaps are actually made from premade “Soap Mix” (just like instant “Cake Mix”).

WHY? Its Simple!  However: When pre-made soap base is used, the maker is not controlling what ingredients have gone into the soap – it may have olive oil in it for example, but where did it come from? What sort of oil was it? – refined, bleached, or deodorised? What is the actual percentage in the soap mix?

Some so-called olive oil soaps may only have 5 or 10% olive oil in them, but still be labeled “Olive oil soap”.

A soap seller at a market once told me her soap was “just made – so fresh!” This tells me it is made from a melt’n’pour base (like using a packet cake mix OR it is not cured – not a good idea to use as it may be damaging to your skin.

Note:  Waterlife and Valor soaps are made from raw ingredients – not a pre-made soap base.  Our soap is cured for a minimum 6-8 weeks before being sold.


Genuine soap is made with “Lye” (Sodium Hydroxide).   Lye also know as Potash, was originally made from wood ash from fires, but is now made commercially. If it is being sold as “soap without Lye”, then it will have a detergent base such Sodium Laurel Sulphate or similar, in it.   It is not true Soap.

It is WORTH NOTING, however, properly made soap has no “Lye” left in the final product. It is transformed in the saponification process.

Some soaps don’t list Sodium Hydroxide or “lye” as a separate ingredient, but rather listed as the end product name…E.g. Sodium Palmate (Palm oil and Sodium Hydroxide), Sodium Olivate (Olive oil and sodium Hydroxide) etc


The main end product of saponification is Glycerin. In commercial soap manufacturing, much of the Glycerin is removed after the soap is made, (then reused in face creams etc), while the soap is re-milled into a bar form. Waterlife soap retains ALL of the nourishing glycerin, which makes an incredibly gentle soap for using on your face or anywhere!


Hand made Artisanal soap is different from commercially made soap, which has been “milled”. “Milling” means the natural glycerin has been removed from the soap and it has been pressed back together by heavy machinery – making a harder bar, but usually more drying to the skin.

We also don’t add chelating, emulsifying agents or preservatives as properly made soap will last well, getting harder with time, though better not to leave it in humid environments as it may ‘sweat’ glycerin.

Handmade soap may not be as stable as soaps with chemical additives, so its better to use it – not have it lying around in a drawer!

A similar story to those photographs of McDonalds buns that still look pristine after 10 years!