What is soap?

A lot of soap out there isn't actually soap. Really. 

Here’s the deal. Washing our hands is such a part of everyday life that we rarely stop to think about it – unless the soap is running out. Then, we might buy the soap that’s on sale at the grocery store, has cute packaging that matches our sink counters, or displays the words “clean” or “natural” in bold letters. 

But until then, we go about our days. We might never really stop to think about it – we’re busy! But shouldn’t we take a moment to try? Afterall, this is a product we’re (hopefully) using multiple times a day. It matters.

So… what is soap?

Let’s go back to the beginning. Soap dates all the way back to 2800 BC, when Ancient Babylonians used animal fat and ashes to make a sudsy texture for cleaning. Soon the Egyptians, and eventually the ancient Romans caught on as well. By the 7th century, soap-making became a form of art – Meditteranean countries like Italy, Spain, and France took advantage of olive oil to make soap feel fancy (from their perspective, at least). 

The Middle Ages were a rough time where the art of cleanliness was mostly forgotten – yikes. The lack of sanitation led to lots of illness, and eventually the Black Plague. It took maybe four hundred years, but finally, people started to get it. By the end of the 19th century, soap became less of a luxurious commodity for the wealthy, and more of a necessary household item.

Today, we thank the gods of sanitation that we weren’t born in the 1400s. And we wash. our. hands.

That’s all nice... but what is soap?

The most basic form of soap is made by combining fats, oils, and an alkaline solution called lye. Mixing these items causes a chemical reaction called saponification. When it’s done reacting, the lye is gone and it leaves us with...soap!

In terms of ingredients, soap is simple. In fact, to be called soap, it needs to be simple – the FDA demands it. If it uses more than fats, oils, and lye for cleaning purposes, it’s not actually soap — and that’s when the FDA gets involved. If it’s real, the Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates it. 


So what are we washing our hands with? 

Check your labels on all of the “soap” products in your home. You’ll notice labels that say “hand wash” or “body scrub”...finding real soap is harder than you think. The majority of hand and body cleansers on the market are actually synthetic detergents – yes, even some of the “natural” products out there. Synthetic detergents isn’t a very natural sounding name, is it?

That’s because it’s not. Some popular ingredients used in detergents are parabens, sulfates (usually Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate), and synthetic dyes. These ingredients can cause skin sensitivity and irritation, hormone disruption, and more. 

Ever feel the need to put on lotion right after washing your hands? Some of that dryness could be from using detergents that wash all the oils off your hands, including the good ones that protect your skin. 

But seriously, just look at the labels of popular cleansers, even the “natural” trendy ones – what you find could be surprising. And even more surprising is what you won’t find—the word “soap”. 

At Keeper, we set out to make a soap that’s as real as the people who use it. We use hemp oil because it’s been cultivated for tens of thousands of years – super trusty! It’s a totally safe, all-natural byproduct of one of the fastest growing crops on the planet. And no, it doesn’t have any psychoactive effects ;)

Hemp acts as a moisturizer without stripping your skin of its natural oils. It also reduces redness and inflammation, has anti-aging properties, and leaves your skin feeling softer than ever. What’s more to love?

We take hemp oil and add other plant-based oils that smell nice, citric acid (to keep things gentle and foamy), and potassium hydroxide (lye – now that we’re all soap experts here). That’s it. 

Wash your hands worry-free. It’s how soap should be.