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Natural Soap

Product analysis: Lavender and calendula soap

This product analysis focuses on Simply Soaps' range of soaps.

The market
Many people are becoming increasingly aware of the toxins that we absorb in the food we eat and the personal care products we use. Just as the organic food market has been growing steadily, more and more consumers are now looking carefully at the ingredients of the cosmetics and toiletries that they buy.

Simply Soaps sell their products at local markets, over the internet and through organic supermarkets.

Product function
The soaps made by Simply Soaps are designed to clean the skin using all natural ingredients. When you rub soap onto your skin's surface, dirt is attracted onto the tails of the soap molecules. It then stays in the lather until you wash it away with water.

The essential oils and herbs added to Simply Soaps' soaps make them ideal for particular purposes. For example:

Technical specification

Simply Soaps' soaps are made using high-quality ingredients from around the world that, wherever possible, are organic. Most are vegetarian or vegan, made from natural vegetable oils such as palm oil, coconut oil and olive oil. The company is constantly experimenting with innovative new combinations of herbs, spices, plant materials, exotic oils and essential oils to add to their soaps, including calendula leaves, banana, lemon and lime essential oils, geranium and rose petals, rosemary and honey.

All Simply Soaps' soaps are made by hand, in small batches (this is because the soap has a fairly short shelf-life).
1. Fats and oils are heated to the temperature at which they will react with the lye.
2. Lye is made by combining caustic soda with water.
3. The lye is added to the oil and the mixture is stirred continuously.
4. The mixture gradually thickens, slowly becoming opaque and 'tracing' (leaving the impression of a line of soap on the surface). This is saponification.
5. Colours and scents are stirred into the mixture.
6. The soap is poured into a mould and left for 24 hours to set.
7. The soap is turned out of the mould and cut into bars. It is then left to cure for about a month in a warm, dry place.
8. Any decorations, such as petals or fruit, are added to the finished soap.
9. The soap is ready for sale!

Safety is an integral part of Simply Soaps' products. They are safer to use than their commercially-produced counterparts because they don't use any synthetic chemicals that can irritate the skin and cause health problems.

Making soap can be dangerous - sodium hydroxide and freshly-made soap are both highly caustic (can burn). Simply Soaps' employees follow careful safety procedures when making soap, including wearing safety goggles, heavy-duty rubber gloves and a protective apron.

Once it has been made, the soap is left to cure for at least four weeks before it is used. Its pH is tested with pH paper before it is sold - for safety, it should be between 5.5 and 10.

Simply Soaps' soaps are not packaged. Instead they are sold in slices and wrapped in plain greaseproof paper for customers. The soaps are designed to be attractive, with petals, fruit and herbs enhancing their natural colour and texture.

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Practical Action - Technology challenging povertyEuropean Commission - Department for International Development

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