How are our Homesteaders going to clean themselves? Or their stuff?

What is soap? According to my very basic research it is a mixture of:

  • fat or oil
  • water
  • an alkali or basic salt

Seems simple enough but it’s going to take a lot of research and work to come up with a simple solution. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • We don’t want to import soap from Earth so it needs to be made from 100% local materials or materials that can be easily recovered and reused again to make more soap. We don’t want to have to constantly resupply soap production feedstock.
  • It’s got to be “organic”. Obviously, we won’t have a ready supply of petrochemicals on hand. 
  • It has to be easily removed from waste water.
  • The materials recovered from waste water must be easily used as feedstock for other processes.
  • The process to make soap needs to be as simple as possible. The less equipment and energy needed, the better.
  • The process also needs to eliminate or minimize toxic byproducts. Production is going to take place inside the habitat.
  • The soap needs to be hypoallergenic.
  • However, the soap needs to be highly customizable as well. People like scents.
  • We’ll probably need several types to address various concerns. This page is concerned with hand/body soaps. Shampoo, laundry, and dishwashing will probably require different soaps so they’ll get their own research. It would be great if there was “one soap to rule them all”.
  • Solid, powdered, and liquid soaps should be available.
  • It needs to be a product that Homesteaders will want to use. 

I’ve briefly looked into soap-making processes. Here’s what I’ve found:

  • Old school. Way back in the day, settlers combined ash from hardwood fires with leftover animal fat to make a crude soap. I doubt this will work because Homesteaders won’t have access to large quantities of either of these materials.
  • Castile soap – olive oil, high sodium plant ash, and brine. Homesteaders may have to grow plants specifically for soap production. The brine (salt water) is also a problem. Salt isn’t a locally available resource.
  • There are things called soap plants. Apparently, the juice can be used as a type of soap. Other plants seem to have soap-like properties as well. We’ll need to really look at these because they may just be the answer.

Here are some resources I’ve looked at. Feel free to help out.

That’s it for now. Let me know what you think and if you’re interested in helping out with the research.

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