The discovery of the high-selling ivory floating soap in 1891 was a product of accident – a truth not known to everyone – when an employee forgot to shut off the soap making machine when he went to lunch. It turned out that the mixture sopped up too much air that caused the ivory soap, then simply known as the “White Soap” to float.
Procter & Gamble didn’t realize this until consumers began sending letters asking for more of the “floating soap”. The ivory soap ingredients were not altered in any way, but the longer mixing time made the mixture frothy and puffed-up. Besides this accident, William Procter and James Gamble wanted to create a standard for pure soap, which paved the way for a chemical analysis launched by an independent scientific consultant or chemist in New York.
This chemical analysis consequently discovered that in order for soap to be 100% pure, the ingredients would have to be a combination of alkali and fatty acids. However, ivory soap ingredients, which were 56/100 according to a calculation by Procter, did not reach up to the 100% pure soap standard. Rather, ivory soap ingredients contained 56 of these impurities: 0.28% carbonates, 0.11% uncombined alkali, and 0.17% mineral matter.
It must be noted that soap ingredients and other cosmetic products, in general, are listed descending order, that is, the first ingredient on the list is the most abundant substance, or the base, of the soap. Ivory soap ingredients include: sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate or sodium palm kernelate, water, sodium chloride, sodium silicate, magnesium sulphate, and fragrance.
A closer scrutiny
Let’s see what each of these ingredients is and where they come from to give you an idea of what you’re lathering on your skin. Sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, and sodium palm kernelate are natural compounds derived from tallow, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil, respectively. The next ingredient, magnesium sulphate is another name for Epsom salts while sodium chloride is known popularly as “table salt”. Sodium silicate is also known as soluble glass.
The only harmful substance among the ivory soap ingredients list is sodium silicate which can cause burns and eye irritation, and possibly toxic when ingested. However, the amount used in ivory soap ingredients is in minute amount to be a cause for concern. One missing ingredient is “glycerin” which is a natural moisturizer derived from plant oils.
Nonetheless, ivory soap ingredients are found to be the closest to the “all-natural soap” category, having used only a minimal amount of synthetic chemicals.