Home Chemistry What is the Quality of your Soap?

What is the Quality of your Soap?

Abhijeet Mahato
Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur

With the abundance of products and competition in the market, every manufacturer delivers ads on various media platforms. They are claiming their products to be best as it has got so many features and ingredients. Now, that’s a hell of a neck to neck competition. This leaves the consumers bewildered and in a dilemma to purchase which one among so many products.

In this article, we will focus on the soap industry of India. As soaps form one of the basic daily required substances, you must be aware of its qualities and grades.

What are Soaps?

In terms of Chemistry, soaps are water-soluble sodium or potassium salts of fatty acids. Soaps are made from fats and oils, or their fatty acids, by treating them chemically with a strong alkali.

Types of skincare soaps

As per Bureau of Indian Standards ( abbreviated as BIS ), there are two types of soaps in the market:

  • Toilet Soaps
  • Bathing Soaps

But, we are seldom using the words “toilet soap” and “bathing bar” interchangeably. In reality, there is a large difference between them. Toilet soap contains fattier material on the other hand bathing bars contain surface-active agents with low TFM (Total Fatty Matter).

Toilet soap is the soap used as a toiletry and the word ‘toiletry’ means – an object or cosmetic used in making up, dressing, etc. Due to the word toiletry, we misunderstood the concept of toilet soap. Cambridge dictionary defines toilet soap as “a sweet-smelling soap that is intended for washing the body.”

Similarly, dictonary.com defines toilet soaps as, ‘a mild and usually perfumed soap for washing the hands and face and for bathing.’

The bathing bars are nothing but entry-level soaps while toilet soaps are categorized into 3 grades based on their Total Fatty Matter (TFM) values.

What is TFM?

Total fatty matter (TFM) is one of the most important characteristics describing the quality of soap and it is always specified in commercial transactions. It is defined as the total amount of fatty matter, mostly fatty acids, that can be separated from a sample after splitting with a mineral acid, usually hydrochloric acid.

According to BIS, Toilet Soaps are categories as

Grade 1: Soaps should have 76% minimum TFM – This a high grade, thoroughly saponified, milled soap or homogenized soap or both, white or colored, perfumed and compressed in the form of firm smooth cakes, and shall possess good cleaning and lathering properties.

Grade 2: Soaps should have 70% minimum TFM – This is a thoroughly saponified, plodded soap of firm and smooth texture. It shall be white or colored, perfumed, and shall possess good cleaning and lathering properties.

Grade 3: Soaps should have 60 % minimum TFM – This is a saponified soap of firm and smooth texture. It shall be white or colored, usually red if cresylic acid is added and shall possess good cleaning and lathering properties respectively.

If a company calls its soap a toilet soap it needs to give its TFM (Total Fatty Matter) value in percentage. If a company calls it to soap a bathing bar then it need not give its TFM value. Let’s have a look over popular soaps in India.

1. Cinthol:

This is a good old product of Godrej. It has 79% TFM. It is a very nominal soap that neither dry out your skin nor makes it quite oily. It suits all skin type and it is dermatologically recommended for allergies, rashes, and other skin problems. For one bath per day, it comes almost for 25 days.

2. Pears:

The first transparent soap in India. This is called glycerine soap. The brown colored soap is wonderful and it fights pimples. But it easily attracts water and gets washed away. It lasts only for 15 days for one bath per day. It controls oil secretion without drying your skin. It has a very mild fragrance. Quite economical.

3. Dove:

It is not a soap but a bathing bar. It is one fourth a moisturizing cream. It makes your skin soft and smooth. It has a very good moisturizing property and does not leave a curdy matter even with hard water. Lathers well and leaves your skin super smooth. It can be used in any climate. They don’t give their TFM value since they don’t call their product a toilet soap but a bathing bar. It has a great fragrance. It is sometimes recommended by doctors for babies also. It is more moisturizing than many of the branded baby soaps.

4. Margo:

Though it is not very famous like the contemporary MNC soaps yet it is a very good one that has the properties of neem. This has passed the surprise quality check of BIS where many of the MNC soaps failed in terms of weight, TFM, etc. It has 71% TFM and is very affordable. Neem is the most readily available medicinal tree in India. This is the first soap to use neem as its major ingredient.

5. Mysore sandal:

This is a good soap which claims to have sandalwood contents in it. It has a very strong fragrance. It is grade 1 soap with 78% TFM. It is the favorite soap of south Indian states like Karnataka, Tamilnadu, etc.

6. Hamam:

It is the most trusted brand of Indian households. It has neem and other herbs. Though it is grade 3 soap with 65% TFM it is liked by many Indian homes. It has good cleansing properties and has a sweet fragrance. It is said to fight 10 skin problems like allergy, rashes, pimples, marks, etc.

7. Himalaya Neem and Turmeric Soap:

All Himalaya soaps are grade 1 with a Total Fatty Matter (TFM) of 76%. This one, in particular, said to control pimples and other skin ailments, rashes, etc. it has the goodness of neem and turmeric in it.

8. Medimix:

It is known for its economical price and herbal fragrance. It is the favorite soap of poor and lower-middle-class India. Even many upper-middle-class people use it. It is said to be handmade and contains many herbs. This is grade 3 soap with 60% TFM. It has also a sandalwood version and three flavors of glycerine versions.

9. Fiama Di Wills:

A very good soap with a pleasant fragrance. Another product of ITC. It’s a moisturizing soap but not very sticky.

10. Yardley London:

This is an imported soap from the UK, is custom made according to Indian taste. It has lavender, Jasmine, English roses, sandalwood flavors. It has a very mild fragrance that fades away quickly. It has a TFM of 78. It does not dry out your skin but is quite expensive.

11. Lux:

The secret of film stars. It is a grade 2 soap with a TFM of 70%. Its price is quite affordable and has a very great fragrance. Though it is grade 2 soap it is the most trusted brand for more than 2 decades in India. This has undergone many evolutions and is in today’s form.

The Data regarding various popular brands in India-

      So, next time you go out to buy a bar of soap for yourself, do check its TFM values for the best quality.      

Data Reference: https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/consumer/writereaddata/Toiletsoaps.pdf

Besides this, you can view our video and blog collections in the Video Section & Blog Section of the website.

Abhijeet Mahatohttp://scilynk.in
Abhijeet is a 4th-year Undergraduate Student at IIT Kharagpur. His major inclination is towards exploring the science behind the things of our day-to-day life.


    • Well, just wanted to compare the various brands to figure out the best suited. And, the follow-up work inspired me to write it out for a bigger audience. Your appreciation means a lot.

  1. though im a chemistry student i didn’t know about TMF so i have been using the wrong soap…but after going through ur article i searched for the best soap nd Amway is in top!…now im using tht…thanks brother


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