What was the first civilization to master soap making? Why, the Babylonians of course! Around 2800 BC the recipe consisted of fats boiled with ashes. Soap wasn't used for bathing or hygiene purposes back then, but rather to clean cooking utensils. Today's more discerning (and better smelling) consumer has many more choices, including milder soaps made with all natural ingredients. And if you want to make your own, here are some easy to follow instructions at the following sites:
Two Ways To Make Soap: Melt & Pour and Cold Process
Ten Steps To Soap
Make Your Own Laundry Detergent - No Phosphates And HE Washer compatible!
Handmade Soap (Without Lye)
Another Lye-free Soap Recipe