Soap Making

History of Soap Making in Singapore

History of Soap Making in Singapore

History of Soap Making in Singapore

After researching and writing on the history of soap and soap making and famous ancient soaps around the world, the team at Singapore Soap found a gap that we couldn’t fill.

While there was abundant information available about soap makers around the world, there is none on the history of soap making in Singapore.

While Singapore is a fairly young country/nation, there must be some records of our predecessors making soap locally in Singapore right?

As proud Singaporeans (kaypoh also la), we decided to dive into the National Archives of Singapore and write an article about our Singaporean soap-making pioneers.

Prominent Soap Makers in 1950s Singapore

The soap-making industry in Singapore from 1950s onwards was buoyant.

Not only did these Singapore soap-making factories make soap for local consumption, but they were also exporting their surplus to regional markets.

Some of the prominent leaders in the soap making industry then were

There could be more soap makers in Singapore then but we were unable to locate sufficient information to make references.

If you are aware of any other soap makers during Singapore’s early days or wish to contribute any relevant pictures, do reach out to us by leaving a comment after the article and we will attempt to research into it!

Lam Soon Oil & Soap Manufacturing(s) Pte Ltd

Labour Brand Laundry Soap by Lam Soon

Does Knife brand cooking oil sound familiar to you?

Did you know that Lam Soon, the creator of Knife brand cooking oil, was once a prominent soap maker in Singapore during the 1950s?

Lam Soon was founded by Ng Keng Soon, in 1929. As Singapore was then considered part of Nanyang or the southern seas, he named his company Lam Soon, using the hokkien word for south and part of his name.

Lam Soon’s original factory, which doubled up as the family home, was based at 519 Balestier Road in the 1930s-40s and produced soya sauce, canned food, cooking oil and soap.

The company was run as a sole proprietorship known as Lam Soon Cannery, trading in copra and canned food.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Lam Soon started expanding into the oil and soap manufacturing and distribution business before it was incorporated as a company in 1950.

In 1950, Lam Soon Cannery Company was incorporated as Lam Soon Private Limited and relocated to a new factory in Jalan Jurong Kechil with more emphasis placed on manufacturing and establishing the most modern margarine and soap plants of its time in Singapore.

In the fifties, Lam Soon was the most modern plant that manufactured cooking oil, margarine, soap and other cleaning products at its Jalan Jurong Kechil factory.

Following the death of the founder in 1955, the company was succeeded by two of Ng Keng Soon’s sons, Whang Tar Liang and Whang Tar Choung.

In 1963, Lam Soon was granted pioneer status by the Singapore government for the manufacture of beauty soap, marketed under “Orchid Brand” which was very popular in the 1960s.

In 2000, the Whang brothers divided the business between Hong Kong (Whang Tar Choung’s family) and South East Asia (Whang Tar Liang’s family). The company is currently run by Whang Shang Ying.

Lam Soon is now a fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company based in Singapore marketing well-established FMCG brands with operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The company initially started with marketing the Axe and Labour brand soap and Labour brand cooking oil before branching into the making of palm oil-based detergents and margarine.

Ho Hong Soap Factory Ltd

Lim Peng Siang and Lim Ho Puah

Ever heard of a bank founder making soap?

Ho Hong Soap Factory, Ltd was the brainchild of Lim Peng Siang, a co-founder of the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC).

Ho Hong Soap Factory

The Ho Hong Soap Factory, incorporated on September 29, 1928, was located at Peng Siang Quay, adjoining the Ho Hong Oil Mills.

Peng Siang Quay is located slightly downstream from Zouk where Ho Puah Quay and Peng Siang Quay used to be. They were named after Lim Ho Puah and his son Lim Peng Siang respectively.

According to the ‘British Economic Development in South East Asia, 1880 – 1939’, the soap factory was separated into two sections – the household soap section and the toilet soap section.

Based on records, Ho Hong’s soap was produced by the hot process method via two large circular soap kettles with a capacity of 40 tons each.

The soaps were marketed under the “Elephant”, “Palm Tree” and “Ho Hong” brands.

Prior to the Company producing household soap, the market price of the best grade Europe-made soap was $7 per case of 20 bars, but the price was later reduced to $4.80 per case.

As the company’s “Palm Tree” soap is made from vegetable oils only, the Mohamedans and Indians are able to use this soap freely.

Sadly, we are unable to obtain any pictures of these soaps or the soap factory then for our readers.

Background of Lim Peng Siang

Lim Peng Siang, son of Lim Ho Puah, was born in Amoy (now Xiamen) in the Fujian province of China in 1872.

His maternal grandfather was Wee Bin, founder of Wee Bin & Co., a trading firm in Singapore famous for its import of products from China and the Dutch Indies then.

Lim came to Singapore from Amoy at an early age and was educated at St Joseph Institution for about a year before starting work at Wee Bin & Co. Shortly after joining his father in Wee Bin & Co., Lim founded Ho Hong Co. in 1904 with a modest capital.

The firm’s diversified business interests included banking, shipping, oil, rice and cement.

Some of the companies under the Ho Hong conglomerate other than Hoo Hong Soap Factory, were Ho Hong Steamship Co. Ltd., Ho Hong Oil Mills Ltd., Ho Hong Parboiled Rice Mill and Ho Hong Portland Cement Works Ltd.

Lim’s banking businesses included Chinese Commercial Bank and Ho Hong Bank. He established the former in 1912 with several other merchants, including Lee Choon Guan and Lim Boon Keng.

Five years later, in 1917, Lim set up the Chinese Commercial Bank with Lim Boon Keng and Seow Poh Leng, among others.

In 1932, the two banks merged with the Oversea-Chinese Bank to form OCBC (now known as OCBC Bank).

Lim was a prominent and well-respected leader of the Chinese business community in Singapore and a philanthropist who contributed time and money to charity through donations and engaging in fundraising activities.

Lim’s business conglomerate contributed significantly to Singapore’s economic and social growth. It created jobs for thousands of people and encouraged thousands more to migrate to the Straits Settlements in search of better opportunities.

Lim was a Chinese merchant who made significant contributions to Singapore’s economic and social developments in the early 1900s.

Gim Cheong Soap Factory Ltd

Gim Cheong Soap Factory located at Holland Road was started by Mr Lim Geok Koon as a sideline to his importing business of salted fish from Thailand.

In 1936, after leaving school (Raffles Instituition), Mr Lim Keng Siong (son of Lim Geok Koon), took over the soap making business.

At its peak, the soap factory is said to have produced 6000 cartons of a dozen types of soap every month.

Among the 12 different types of soap, the most popular and the best quality one were the Ayam brand and Swan brand translucent soap, which took the young Mr Lim years of experiments before it was successfully produced.

It said that he had to battle with international giants and compete with locally established soap manufacturers, like Ho Hong Soap Factory (as above) and Lever Brothers.

According to Mr Lim, he had personally experimented with lots of different formulas to produce a good quality soap.

His products sold locally in Singapore were also exported to West Asia, Africa, Afghanistan, Seychelles Islands, Hongkong, Brunie, Labuan and Papau New Guinea.

Sadly, the soap factory was closed in 1980 after the factory premise in Holland Road was acquired by the government as Mr Lim decided not to redevelop it.

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About Singapore Soap

Singapore Soap is a wholesale supplier for soap making supplies, candle making supplies and manufacturer of natural castile soap, melt and pour soap bases, liquid soap bases and hand sanitizer in Singapore. We carefully source and select quality and cost effective ingredients to ensure our customers receives only the best quality products at the most economical wholesale price. You can also learn to make your own DIY soap with our soap making lessons in Singapore. We conduct soap making classes for soap makers to learn how to make soap. Join our easy-to-learn classes and learn the benefits of why handmade soap are better and healthier for you.

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