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Unravelling the Mystery That Is Soap

Soap is the result of an amazing chemical process that happens spontaneously when you combine a fat with an alkali. The process is called saponification, which literally means “turning into soap.” Yes, it’s really that simple.

But who discovered this rather mysterious and magical transformation? Well, it’s easy to imagine that thousands of years ago, the first soap was probably made by accident by a group of people gathered around a campfire.

A bit of fat likely dripped into the ashes (the alkali), saponification occurred, and someone took notice. Or, maybe it started raining and people became interested by the bubbles forming near the fire. Either way, word spread about the new discovery, and the fad caught on. Soon enough, clean hands became the ‘in thing’ for dining.

For several centuries after, folks tried improving soap by combining ashes and fats, stirring it all together in a kettle, and forming little cakes. Even today, the underlying process soap makers use is basically the same. We have, however, mostly moved beyond animal fat and ashes, to palm and coconut oils mixed with a purified alkali. *We at Custom Amenities, ONLY use vegetarian friendly, 100% Vegetable Based Soaps – sourced via RSPO Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil). You will never find tallow or animal fat-based guest soaps here.

You see, the power of soap lies in its slipperiness. Soap makes the skin slippery, so dirt slides off, and that’s that. Its magic is in its simplicity. 

But beyond how it’s made, and what soap actually does, there’s one other question you may have asked yourself while scrubbing away in the shower. How do I choose the best hotel soap for my vacation property?

Here's what you should know and look for:

  • Know your soap basics. Soaps are a combination of fat* and alkaline salt (or lye). When mixed, a chemical reaction occurs called saponification -- a fancy way to say it turns into soap, which binds to grime and removes it. When fat and alkaline combine, they form crystals. Soap makers refine the dried crystals using a variety of methods including cold pressing, and machine milled.


  • Look for French-milled. The French invented the milling process in the 18th century and have perfected it. The process involves shredding cold-processed soap, then running it through three or more rollers to press it. Hence the name French-milled or triple-milled. This makes soap harder, so a bar lasts much longer, and milder for the skin. Because its texture is finer, triple-milled soap feels smoother on the skin, and makes a richer lather
  • Check the fat content. If the first ingredient is palm oil or olive oil that's a good start. Coconut oil is also a nice addition because it makes foam. When glycerin content is high, the soap is gentler.
  • Hold it together. Another test of a good soap is how well it wears down. If the bar falls apart when it's half used, it wasn't made well. A well-made soap is stable to the end.

  • Don't fall for heavy fragrance. If you are looking at stocking your vacation property with guest soap, the first thing you might do is smell it. Other soap makers often amp up the scent with heavily manufactured fragrances. But a soap's scent shouldn't overwhelm. Many natural ingredients, like almond and coconut, have no scent. If you smell coconut or something that reminds you of suntan oil, you can bet it's not natural. All our hotel amenity collections have been rigorously tested and developed with the effort to keep scents mild and unisex, (and in the case of TRUe, nonexistent) so as to make a universal hotel guest toiletry that complements your property and guest’s unique needs.

    Interested in trying some of our favorite french milled soap? We recommend the ESA French Milled Luxury Soap. These 34g soaps are the 'goldilocks' of soap bars: Not too big; not too small; just right! And when your guests go back for their next use, they're still there! The perfect size for bath and shower, but not too large for hand washing, these soaps feature an irresistible creamy lather.

     - Team Custom

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