Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/118

This page has been validated.

manufacturing methods by which soap is made on the large scale, and if I give a rough idea of the general processes employed it will be sufficient for the purpose.

Carbonate of soda is first converted into hydrate by dissolving it in water and then boiling with quicklime. Quicklime consists of calcic oxide, and this, when put into the vat containing the sodic carbonate in solution, combines with water, forming calcic hydrate, which then reacts with the sodic carbonate, forming calcic carbonate or chalk, which being insoluble sinks as a mud to the bottom of the vessel, while sodic hydrate remains in solution.

The solution of sodic hydrate, called caustic lye, is made in different strengths, and tallow is first boiled with a weak lye, and as the conversion into soap proceeds, so stronger lyes are used until the whole of the fatty matter has been saponified. If a strong lye had been used at first, the soap as it formed being insoluble in strong alkalies would have coated the surface of the fat and prevented its complete conversion.

If at the end of the saponification process the alkaline solution is sufficiently strong, the soap will, on standing, separate as a fluid layer on the surface of the spent lye, which contains the glycerin set free during the saponification; but in any case separation can be rapidly brought about by adding salt to the liquid, when the soap, being insoluble in salt water or brine, separates out and is removed and placed in molds to harden. The block of soap so cast is then cut first into slabs and then again into bars. A soap made in this way with tallow or lard as the fatty matter would be "white curd," while if yellow bar is required, rosin is added to the mixture of lye and soap after most of the fat has saponified.

When rosin is boiled with alkaline solutions, a compound is formed by the direct union of the resinous acids with the alkali, which strongly resembles ordinary soap, so that the yellow soap is really a mixture of fatty and rosin soap, and when the ingredients are of great purity the product goes by the name of "primrose" soap. Bar soaps so made on a large scale are, as a rule, the stock from which the various forms of toilet soap are made by processes intended to render them more attractive for personal use, but generally the consumer gets far better value for his money, and far less injury to his skin, by using a good "white curd" or "primrose" soap than by employing a high-priced toilet soap, while cheap toilet soaps, especially cheap transparent soaps, should be studiously avoided.

The demand made by consumers for cheap soaps, which in many cases are sold retail at prices considerably below the wholesale market price for a true soap, has given rise to the introduction of highly watered soaps, caused to set hard by the addition during manufacture of sodic sulphate, which enables the manu-