I want to tell you a story about two soap bars – let’s creatively call them A & B. On the surface they don’t look too much different – both handmade, both naturally coloured and scented but that’s where the similarity ends.
One bar is significantly smaller than the other (82 grams compared to 112 grams) but that can be a little hard to notice because they both come in a kraft box. We often don’t think of the weight when buying soap, just the price per bar. However, if we were to calculate their price per gram and they both weighed 100 grams A would be $7.31 and B would be $5.13.
A and B are not fictional bars of soap. A is one I purchased when travelling recently and B is a bar I made to sell here at Washpool. I love to try other soap so I used A during my trip away but was shocked to find that I used up the whole bar in just four days. I was travelling alone so I had no-one to blame for mis-treating or over-using the bar of soap. I also had time to reflect on the fact that our family had recently been away from home, sharing a bathroom, and didn’t finish the one bar of soap we had in the shower (five people – including 4 females if you feel that’s relevant- eight days).
I’ve been thinking about A & B a lot lately. In the past, we have talked about the things you can do to ensure your bar lasts as long as possible but we haven’t really talked about what WE do to make sure your bar provides good value.
You see, A was made with three soft oils – Olive, Coconut and Rice Bran. These are all economical oils to use in soap making but they are also the most water soluble. The fact is, they don’t resist water well and wash away quickly. They’re perfect for keeping the cost of production down but they are not great for customer satisfaction. (I should add that I’m not a fan of rice bran oil in soap. Although economical, it is both imported and refined – unlike the Australian olive oil and organic virgin coconut oil we use).
Historically, the most water resistant oil for soap making was tallow, which was eventually replaced by palm. Both contribute mildness and longevity to a formula. Just like it’s not healthy to become vegetarian by simply omitting meat from the diet, it’s not a good option to make soap by simply leaving out the problematic oils. The hard, water-resistant oils must be replaced by something in the formula – and this is why we use large percentages of shea & cacao butter. These two butters give the bar structure and longevity.
Not convinced? Today we conducted a little experiment. We trimmed back our bar (B) to exactly weigh 82 grams, the same as bar A. We dropped them into exactly the same amount of water (400 grams) and let them sit for 45 minutes. We then shook the jars for 2 minutes, removed the bars and weighed them.
A – started at 82 grams weighed 67 grams
B – started at 82 grams weighed 84 grams (so we can speculate it absorbed some water)
Now, the soap lost from bar A is gone and can’t be recovered but we know that with careful drainage bar B will dry out ready for use again.
One hour later:
A – now weighs 65 grams (representing a loss of 20% of its’ weight)
B – now weighs 80 grams (representing a loss of just 2% of its’ weight)
Often when I’m talking about quality soap I tell people that if the first ingredient on a bar of soap is olive oil you’re on the right track, as olive oil definitely contributes to a gentle, moisturising soap bar. However, like most things in life you can have too much of a good thing. A good soap will include olive oil (for gentle cleansing) and coconut oil (for lather) but the very best soap will include luxury Shea and Cacao butter (or grass-fed tallow) for rich lather and longevity.
We formulate soap bars that are not only fantastic for your skin but will give you the best possible hardness and value for money.