Medieval Soap Balls with Tutorial

Medieval Soap Balls with Tutorial

These simple rebatch soap balls are inspired by medieval or Tudors style mainly in period of King Henry VIII (1509 -1547­) herbal soap balls.

Tudors washed themselves a lot more often that what is generally thought. How often is not exactly known but the fact that recipes for soap and ‘hand or washing waters’ are included in household instruction manuals illustrate that there was definitely an interest in personal hygiene. Wealthy women in medieval time used a castile soap scented with naturally extracted flower oils added to cold soap and used for their daily wash. This kind of soap was not affordable for lower class of society, as it was imported and very expensive. The soap was made with olive oil rather than the animal fat soap or black soap.

Wealthy women in medieval time used a castile soap scented with naturally extracted flower oils added to cold soap and used for their daily wash. This kind of soap was not affordable for lower class of society, as it was imported and very expensive. The soap was made with olive oil rather than the animal fat soap or black soap.

Soap in medieval time was  luxury, especially white hard soap bars made from virgin olive oil, known also as Nabusi soap from Palestine and could be traced back in 10th century. This soap was regarded as luxury item in many western European countries, including England and was taxed as such keeping quality of soap out of reach of the general public. Black soap was more common for public and was made from tallow and potash ashes water. Black soap was for poor people and as shown by many price agreements was sold in small pots or jars or as bulk in vats as soft soap.

Soap manufacturing, selling and quantities was strongly regulated in medieval period England also after King Henry VIII death, when his daughter Elisabeth became a queen, and only few could buy and use olive oil or tallow for soap making. There is lot of interesting facts about this period soap makers and their monopoly in Harold Evan Matthews, pharmaceutical chemist’s book ‘Proceedings, Minutes and Enrolments of the Company of Soapmakers 1562-1642’, where he going trough hand scripts written by many scribers to trying describe this period soap making insides piece by piece like a puzzle.

Sodium lye water, which made soap harder and white was made from burning marine and marsh pants, especially barilla plant (grown around Mediterranean Sea coast) and it was not no available for everyone in medieval England and other parts in Europe. Well-known Castile soap from Spain or traditional Savon de Marseille in France is made from olive oil, as adapted for local conditions from original Aleppo soap, which was made from laurel oil and olive oil, but these was not white. Laurel oil was and still is very expensive and valuable oil, not affordable for most of soap makers. Still today even with all colorful and luminescent artificial and bright colors available for soap makers creativity expressing projects, most of customers prefer white or light shaded soap and particularly these made from high quality oils and still containing valuable moisturizers glycerin as byproduct in home made soap.  Industrial soap has no glycerin in them it is removed and sold to pharmaceutical companies or used in other cosmetic products. Natural handmade soap can be very different in their quality and properties, which depend from oils used in saponification process and additives like clays, salts and dried plants and their extracts. Some soap will be more suitable for cleaning other for body wash and some soap containing luxury oils would be a great facial bars.

If you wish to make your own soap at home you are lucky to find all ingredients necessary easily in local shop or online and best news is this hobby has no waste you always can remake soap you do not like or what is lost their scent. You can take your soap bars you do not like or if something went wrong in a process and rebatch them in simple and cold process. It is exactly what I did with these medieval style soap balls. Very similar technique only in bigger scale is still used by many french artisan soap makers. 

1.Use kitchen grater to grate your homemade soap, glycerin content is very crucial in this process so industrial soap will not be a good choice.

 

 

2. Add some essential oil or leave them unscented if you wish add tiny bit of distilled water (floral hydrolates - orange, rose or lavender is also very good option)

 

 

 

3. Squeeze soap with your hands until all soap shreds is well mixed

 

 

4. Divide in equal parts and make a balls in you favorite size

 

 

5. For smooth finish strong alcohol (it is optional) but gives nice shiny finish to your soap balls.

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