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Note: This page is a chapter from my book on Haircare, 'An ABC on haircare and much more'
Chapter 18 Shoddy Soaps
The Indian Soap makers Association / some members have started selling lower quality Toilet Bars in India after 1993. They ‘breached the Trust’ that the Public placed on them. This page is based on Published Details in Business World and Business India.
The common public has the notion that big Companies are more reliable in terms of quality of product, dependability and integrity. This is normally but not necessarily true.
This chapter should also be an aid to Haircare in a way. Not everything is known about Hair. That is why we have increasing hairloss and dandruff across the World. So know about Soap, the skin cleaner. That can be helpful to be judicious and analytical in hair products purchase.
The biggest soap seller starts the downtrend
Toilet bars, an inferior version of Toilet Soaps, are sold more in India after 1993
Hindustan Unilever lowered the TFM of some high volume soaps - Business World, 1993
Hindustan UniLever’s Brands
TFM % in 1985
TFM % in 1993
Percentage drop in TFM
The buyers, who trusted these brands and the company, were short changed. Lever should know that the low TFM Toilet Bars could not benefit the skins of the Users. It is cheating in a way.
[I think Lever prevented Dettol from using Red Colour on the wrapper. It claimed that Red colour is associated with Lifebuoy and that Lifebuoy is a trusted brand of the public.] When the TFM of Lifebuoy was lowered, the trust and quality went out of the window. How a common colour like Red can be allotted to Lever for Soaps is beyond my perception. Nehan of Tata Oil Mills had a red colour wrapper in1960.
The members of the Indian Soap Manufacturers Association are all guilty as per the details. They openly flouted the BIS norms. They created a new category of soaps and named it as ‘toilet bars’. Not the newspapers, self styled public champions, but Business World spilled the details
Bathing and Toilet soap has to mean one and the same thing because the desired end use is the same. The BIS acted dumb and indifferent. Its plea of helpnesses for sales of Toilet Bars is a joke. The Soap makers and BIS colluded to fool the Public. The perfidy continues for 20 years now. No one is ashamed.
Toilet Bars are inferior in Quality - one proof
'Godrej Soaps has always believed in providing its consumers with high quality products. The company has taken a conscious decision to manufacture & market only high TFM toilet soaps as against low TFM bathing bars which are being marketed by many FMCG companies in the Indian market'...
[Godrej's website News release dated 16-9-1999] High Quality soap means high TFM: The above contents mean that. Where was Godrej earlier? Godrej was part of the association / toilet bar brigade in 1992. Dr. Godrej was the chairman of the Association in 1993. And they were mute about Toilet Bars in 1992]
Hindustan Unilever, Nirma, Godrej, and so on, make Toilet Bars. Given that, it is presumptuous to assume that such quality downgrades do not occur in other products like shampoo, toothpastes and so on.
What is Toilet Soap?
Toilet Soap is the reaction product of a vegetable oil / glyceryl fatty acids, say coconut, Palm or Olive Oil and caustic Potash / alkali - roughly 5 kgs of oil reacted with one kg of caustic gives Soap, the Potassium salt of a long chain Fatty Acid.
Oil is 5 parts to 1 part Alkali. That is, Oil / Total fatty matter / TFM is about 83%.
Soap is a surfactant / emulsifying agent / anionic agent, that helps oil to mix with water and make it water dispersible / washable. When we wash our face with soap, oil and dirt get dispersed in water / washed out: the face becomes clean.
Other solid substitute / cheap extenders in Soaps are clay, silicates, talc, carbonates and so on to give body / hardness as well as cost reduction. Some fillers, more abrasive / harder than talc, may not be good in the long run. Mutton Tallow was a cheap substitute to oils in earlier days.
Glycerin is a by-product in Soap manufacture. It is a Moistursing agent / water holding chemical. It will lower the alkalinity and improve the transparency of the soap. Normally, Soap makers sell Glycerin separately. This by-product sales, reduces the basic cost of soap making.
Emolliency / suppleness
Emolliency means the ability to soften, supple, smooth, lubricate, less itchy, etc. Vegetable Oils are very good Emollients. Low TFM means the emolliency is compromised.
The Shocking Reality Business World 30-6-93 to 13-7-93 page 82 'Froth without Substance’
”Most brands of Toilet Soap contain less 'Soap' than five years ago and instead use more Detergent and other substances like Clay and Talc. ......... [Detergents are not supposed to be used in toilet soaps.]
‘Surprisingly however the 1800 Crores Toilet Soap industry is not worried. The reason is that the same BIS Technical Committee which set the earlier norms also provided manufacturers a loop-hole in September last year  when it created a new category of Soap called 'bathing bars' [wonderful, is it not?]
Why thieves cannot set a new standard for their activities like these companies who set a new standard for circumventing the ‘regulation’?
In March this year , the Health Ministry issued a Gazette notification making the quality norms mandatory for Toilet Soap manufacturers under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act. A final notification is expected soon.
Toilet Soap Standard was not better even earlier
Business World 30-6-93 to 13-7-93 page 82 'Froth without Substance’
1. "if the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) implements its norms, nearly 80% of the Soaps produced in the country each year [3.8 lakhs tonnes in 1992] would be declared Substandard and fail to qualify as Toilet Soap.".... Why norms and standards if you cannot enforce them?
2. "Even today, Soaps exported to Russia must have at least 80% Total Fatty matter"...
The above statements say categorically that the quality of Toilet Soaps sold in 1993 or earlier were not that good in TFM / other parameters. Why standards and Bureaus if they are ineffective?
Law of the Land
The Supreme Court had ruled "the object is to bring honesty and truth in the relationship between the manufacturer and the consumer". And "if the general impression conveyed is false, the most punctilious and scrupulous accuracy in immaterial minutiae will not render the representations true"
Corporate Ethics – Hindustan Lever’s ex Chairman’s preaching
Shri Prakash Tandon - first Indian Chairman of Hindustan Unilever in India - Convocation address - IIM, Ahmedabad, 1969.
In Business and in Life, there would always be occasions for Hard Choices and Soft options. One should go for hard choices if it is ethical and socially beneficial - recollection from memory, in my words.
The Double Standards
1. I think Lever prevented Dettol Soap from using Red colour as mentioned earlier. Their argument before the Court was Lifebuoy has immense appeal amongst the Public and Red is associated with Lifebuoy. Court accepted the argument. Read it again. People trust even their colour. They said that in Court. Yet, they betray that trust and make their skin harsh with Toilet Bars
2. Lever prevented Ariel from using the term 'based on Natural products'. It was a false claim by P & G. Lever said in Madras High Court that they are misleading the Public with these phrases. The same argument of misleading the public holds true for Lever. The quality of both Lifebuoy and Lux has nearly been mutilated. The loyal customers have been blinded with glaring, baseless claims.
Lever’s actions – shallowness stinks
Hindustan Lever had 40% share of the Toilet Soap market in 1993. Even as of 2014, they are the most dominant player. Should not Hindustan Lever, as the largest Soap maker in India, set a Quality benchmark for themselves first?
Dove is a bathing bar. Check the label. Dove used to be advertised on TV in 1996 and 1997 as high quality soap. It used to be imported from Dubai also. Bombay Customs stopped one consignment and demanded 'higher duty applicable to Cosmetics items'. Lever confessed to the Customs department that Dove is a Toilet bar and paid lesser duty to clear the consignment.
Are they not guilty of wrongly informing the Public on TV that Dove is a high quality Toilet Soap? Lie blatantly in public and confess the Truth in private? Duty case details will be with Bombay customs and not relevant here.
Source: Page 162 of Business India, dated July 28 to August 10, 1997:
"Rexona is toilet soap, but the small print on Hamam's packaging proclaims that it is a "Bathing Bar". Hindustan Lever, which makes both brands, uses vegetable oils to make Rexona
Synthetic oils are not permitted in the manufacture of bathing soaps, according to the Drugs & Cosmetics Act. In Hamam, however synthetic oils (which de-grease the skin / mineral oil) are used. It is a violation of the act.
Hamam: extravagant / unproven claim.
On 27th November 2012, I heard in passing that 'Dermatologists recommend Hamam' for pimple cure / prevention or something similar - If true, they should get Noble prize. Allopathy does not offer a simple cure for Acne / Pimples. Read the last 2 sentences in the above section on Rexona
[Important points have already been presented. The following details have only analytical interest to prove the charge]
Hindustan Lever / soap makers did not correct themselves even after 10 years
Firms pass on Sub-standard Soaps to buyers - Times of India / PTI Jan 21, 2003, 07.35pm IST NEW DELHI:
It is a 2003 news report put out PTI / Press Trust of India. The Soaps makers are still indulging in their dirty old tricks - Quality not improved
1. Crores of gullible consumers, nationwide appear to have been taken for a ride by leading soap manufacturers, with a study revealing that most brands are underweight [offence under weights and measurements act] and fatty content is less than declared.
2. Total fatty matter (TFM) in soaps is much less than declared, some like Lux did not even declare it, most branded soaps are underweight, bathing bars are unknowingly purchased as toilet soaps, comprehensive tests revealed here.
3. Hamam, Pears Oil Control, Lifebuoy Gold, Lifebuoy International, Santoor and Rexona are all 'bathing bars', not toilet soaps which have higher TFM, a survey by Voluntary Organisation in Interest of Consumer Education (VOICE) said.
"Lux, the most popular of all soap brands, stood fourth in the ranking of 12 brands” ...tests released today by Consumer Affairs Minister Sharad Yadav.
4. The survey revealed that quality of a 'swadeshi' soap Margo is much better than those brands manufactured by MNCs. Godrej All Care and Margo got first and second rank respectively. [I have used Margo from1961 to 1964 for the face - because of pimples. Neko soap of Parke Davis Company did not work for me. It is not advisable to take soaps as ‘remedies’ but only as an aid for a clean face]
5. Even though it is mandatory for toilet soaps to declare their TFM content, the most important quality indicator for a soap, Lux did not declare it at all. Why no action was taken?
6. It revealed that all the 12 brands in the 75 grams, 100 grams and 150 grams were underweight and many even crossed the three per cent tolerance limit prescribed by authorities. Those with weight below tolerance limit included Godrej All Care, Liril, Palmolive and Cinthol. [Under weight product sales is cheating in simple term. You got lesser quantity]
7. Higher TFM ensures that soaps are least harmful to the skin and do not cause dryness, yet the actual content in Liril was only 72 per cent against the declared 77.5 per cent, in Godrej All Care it was 76 per cent against the claimed 82.5 per cent.
The percentage of fillers like talc is higher in bathing bars. They use detergents as bases and minimum TFM content is only 40 per cent
Sunlight and Lifebuoy Soap around 1958 – what a fall?
I used Sunlight Soap from 1952 onwards. In 1957-58, its price was around 25 paise for 100 Gms. There will be a clear message, on the inside of the wrapper, which would say something like this "Sunlight Soap is made out of safe ingredients. Rs 5000/- reward will be given to anyone who finds something harmful in the soap".
Lifebuoy was my Toilet Soap from 1952 to 1969. The above message of Lever may have been in Lifebuoy. I was an user of both these soaps for over 20 years. I think the message was in Sunlight soap only.
Sunlight Soap was a washing soap. The soap will be soft. Just with fingers, you can separate out a small part. It would easily remove coffee and other stains on clothes. The term 'bar' was used for Tata Oil Mills 501 washing soap. It really used to come as a bar [say 10 soaps] without any outside wrapper. Shopkeeper would cut a piece with butter knife. They were all soft, vegetable Oil based soaps at that time.
Det of Swastik Oil Mills was the first washing detergent in India in 1959 / 1960. After that came Rinso from Lever, followed by Surf. Now in 2010, I cannot remove the routine stains with the so-called quality / high priced detergents of Lever and P&G. The stain does not vanish with an extra additive. Occasionally, I use 'special chemicals' for stain removal.
Soaps and hair cleaning
If any of these Companies are making Shampoos / hair products which are cleaners for a very delicate and less known and visible area like hair root, can we trust them? It appears to be a risky decision if the above facts are accounted
[Do not use the present day Toilet Soaps / bars for hair cleaning. Vegetable Soaps leave a scum / insoluble matter on the scalp. With added Aluminum, Calcium or Magnesium salts as fillers, hair cleaning will be difficult with Toilet bars. Hair can get stuck in the scum and one has to cut out the hair]
Prostitutes renting the Flesh are said to be engaged in immoral trade
Where is Morality in this flesh cleaning trade?
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