„Look how she rubs her Hands!“

Life is easier with liquid soap

Poor Lady Macbeth! Constantly washing her hands would have been so much easier if liquid soap had already been by invented then. Instead of which, she had to scrub her soft hands with large pieces of curd soap. Almost as soon as King Duncan had been murdered, she was overcome by her conscience – and yet her ongoing attempt to wash away her guilt from her hands did not help her much. Would it have been different if she had been able to pump light and airy soap from an attractive dispenser? Presumably not. But even though it’s too late to save Lady Macbeth, liquid soap and soap dispenser pumps have revolutionised the way we wash.

Synthetic liquid soaps do not have a negative effect on the pH value of the skin and they feel pleasant on the skin, since they replenish moisture and are often better tolerated dermatologically than their predecessors. On the subject of these “soap ancestors”: remember soap on a stick, which looked like a doner kebab and can still be found in places long since forgotten by civilisation? Soap shavings like parmesan came off in clumps in your hand and then blocked up the basin. This doesn’t happen with modern liquid soap – nor does it leave behind any limescale rims in the wash basin, since liquid soap is made of an emulsion of synthetic surfactants in water. Unlike soaps based on fatty acids, these do not form poorly soluble lime soap with the calcium in tap water, which then deposits unattractive limescale rims in wash basins and baths.

Seifenmühle © Bullenwächter, Seifenmühle, CC BY 3.0


Then there is the hygiene aspect: liquid soaps tend to be used in public places, since they can easily be dispensed in the right quantity from soap dispensers. This prevents contamination of the surfactant with pathogenic germs – and the skin does not come into contact with lumps of soap that may contain germs. Even more safety is guaranteed by the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI), which coordinates the standardisation of products and the nomenclature of their ingredients.

All of this means that liquid soap is a wonderful invention. But why did it take so long to arrive?

After all, just a few decades ago, bulky and stone-hard lumps of soap hung from magnetic holders, spoiling the look of bathrooms. The astonishing thing is that liquid soap already existed in the 19th century. A certain William Sheppard had liquid soap patented for the first time in 1865. The patent mentions “improved liquid soap” so liquid soap must already have existed by then. In those days, liquid soap was reserved for use in industry, and later also in hospitals and public institutions. Series production for household use was still a long way off. It was not until 1980 that the Minnetonka Corporation of Minnesota launched “Softsoap” on the market – and their competitors Colgate and Proctor & Gamble were already working on their own liquid soaps for household use. The big breakthrough came with the first dispensers. Without a suitable pump – and suitable pumps were only made by a few manufacturers in the USA – all efforts to turn liquid soap into a great success would fail. Minnetonka made a really smart move by buying all the plastic pump dispensers in the country and enjoying a monopoly in the liquid soap market – until Colgate-Palmolive bought the company in 1987.

Since then, liquid soap has become indispensable in households all over the world. And its resounding success has led to a wide variety of pump dispensers made of plastic, glass or stone, with high-quality plastic pumps, which – just like the soap itself – were first invented and then improved. Over time, emco bath has also developed a range of attractive and functional soap dispensers.

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