What’s the deal with handmade soap? Why are they better than Dove or any of the other commercial brands?

Short answer: handmade soap is a million times kinder to your skin, better for your health in general, and has minimum ecological impact too. 

Longer version: Commercially made soaps are harsh, petroleum-derived detergents rather than real soap, often made with leftover animal fats from the industrial meat industry or recycled cooking oils that have already been used in the food industry (hello french fry grease and used popcorn oil!). They contain all kinds of synthetic, chemical ingredients, like preservatives, which often cause dryness, sensitivities and itchiness. 

In the soap making process, glycerin is a naturally occurring byproduct and is a really silky, moisturizing part of a handmade soap bar. The commercial soaps, always looking for a way to increase profits, remove the good stuff for use in the cosmetic business, leaving the soap much harsher and drying.

When you realize that 99% of what you put on your skin gets absorbed into your body, you want to choose products with less ingredients altogether and more natural stuff that soothes your skin.  Fewer ingredients equals less chance for irritation, higher potency nutrient benefits, and smaller overall ecological impact too. Have you seen the ingredient list on a bar of Dove “Beauty Bar” soap? You need a degree in chemistry just to read it --

sodium cocoyl isethionate (derived from coconut oil)
stearic acid (synthetic sodium salt)
coconut acid
sodium tallowate (soap from animal fats)
sodium isethionate (detergent)
sodium stearate (synthetic sodium salt)
cocamidopropyl betaine (synthetic surfactant; may cause irritation)
sodium cocoate or palm kernelate (we use sustainably harvested palm oil)
fragrance (artificial scent)
tetrasodium EDTA (preservative)
trisodium etidronate (preservative)
BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene; cancer suspect agent; may cause reproductive defects; harmful if swallowed; eye, respiratory tract and skin irritant)
titanium dioxide (whitening agent)
sodium dodecyl benzene sulfonate (suspected gastrointestinal and liver toxin; possible neurotoxin; waste water hazard)

Do you really want to wash up with all that in the shower? Soapworks Studio soaps have just a short list of food grade vegetable oils, a bit of natural colorant often derived from actual food, and a scent which is most likely botanical essential oils, although we do use a few high quality fragrance oils by demand also.

Why are Soapworks Studio soaps better?

We’ve taken that whole handmade soap thing and kicked it up a notch. If Emerill were here, he’d give it a “BAM.” We choose the highest quality ingredients, organic and free trade when possible, and local and sustainable when available too. We’re constantly sourcing better stuff to put in our products, because we’re putting this stuff on ourselves too.  These are some of the smoooothest, longest lasting soaps you’ll find anywhere, with really fun seasonal ingredients. Who doesn’t love to lather up with pumpkin and cinnamon in October, or suds with tomato, cucumber and yogurt in the heat of summer?

How are your soaps made?

We handcraft our soaps in the time-honored traditional way, called the cold process method – cooked on a stove-top and stirred by hand. All of the products are made in small batches with great care ensuring freshness, quality, and the highest standards. 

The soap bars are all vegetable-based, utilizing food-grade olive oil, organic coconut oil, sustainably harvested palm oil, plus luxurious nourishing organic shea butter. All of the formulations are super-fatted, meaning they have higher levels of unsaponified oils, creating a glycerin-rich, highly moisturizing bar for all skin types and sensitivites. The clouds of rich, luxurious lather are soothing and healthy for your skin.

Colors and textures are created from organic herbs, spices, actual food (like pureed pumpkin), grains, clays, minerals and sea vegetables. No synthetic dyes, preservatives, fixatives, germicides or extra fillers are ever added. The unique scents are made primarily with pure botanical essential oils and a few of them contain the highest quality fragrance oils. To learn more, we added a whole page just about the ingredients we use.

Why should I pay $4.50 for a bar of soap when the supermarket brands are so much cheaper?

For starters, a bar of Soapworks Studio soap will last at least twice as long as a bar of supermarket soap, usually outlasting that stuff by three times or more.  And then you factor in a whole bunch of extra body lotions and creams you need to buy to counteract all that dryness and/or itchiness. Or doctor’s appointments because you’ve developed skin issues like dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis – many of which have been caused by harsh soaps, or cruel laundry detergents and dryer sheets. So you spend a few cents more up front on a bar of really good soap, but you feel great, your skin is healthy and you’ve saved a ton of money on long term effects down the road.  What’s the better deal?

How long will a bar of your soap last in the shower?

My customers are often amazed at how long a bar of my soap lasts, right down to the very thinnest sliver. As a standard rule of thumb, they will last 2 to 3 times longer than a commercially made soap.  But obviously this depends on how many people are using that same bar, how long their showers are, and how they handle it too – like if they are using a good soap dish that lets the soap dry out between uses. The blend of oils we use ensure that it will be a hard, durable bar of soap. They weigh approximately 4.5 ounces at the start, but continue to lose a bit of water weight due to evaporation as they continue to cure. Although the bar may weigh just a tad less, these bars will have a bit more longevity too.  Grandma used to unwrap her bars of soap and leave them in the linen closet for a year before she used them, just so they would last longer. We don’t recommend that, since we are using fresher and foodie ingredients, plus we want you to enjoy the scent while it still has a lovely fragrance.

What is the shelf life of a bar of your soap?

Commercial soaps have a shelf life of forever, like a twinkie. We use fresh, natural and sometimes food ingredients in our soaps, but no chemical preservatives, so we recommend that you use them within about six months. That way they are at their absolute peak. If you wait for a year, they are still pretty fabulous, but some of the lighter scents will begin to fade. I’ve had some soaps in storage for several years that are still scented and wonderful. But I’ve also had soaps in the summer heat begin to turn a little “off” due to the high content of nutrient oils in them. These are still perfectly fine to use without causing irritation, just not as lovely in scent or color.

Does your soap leave scum in my bathroom?

Good handmade soaps do leave a natural residue on bathroom surfaces, yes they do, it’s true. It’s a super easy clean-up with warm water and any basic cleanser, which we find doesn’t take any more time and effort to clean your bathroom than usual. Any body soap product that claims not to leave a residue is most likely a detergent, probably with a bunch of additives. If it’s stripping the natural oils of the soap off your bathroom sink, it’s certainly stripping it off your body too.

Is your soap antibacterial?

Yes! But not in the way the advertised commercial antibacterial soaps are. Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that using regular soap and water for a full minute removes 99.5% of all germs that any antibacterial soap does. In addition these antibiotics have been proven to be so harmful that Triclosan in particular has been banned from all products in the state of Minnesota. The overuse of antibacterial products of all kinds is a major factor in the rise of those deadly antibiotic-resistant superbugs.  By killing off all bacteria, we are destroying the good bacteria as well, which are proven to boost our health and immunity, and fight disease too. Good old soap and water keeps our natural ecosystem and wellness in balance and perfect harmony.

Are your products vegan?

Everything we make is 100% vegetarian or vegetable-based. And yes, all of our soaps are vegan, except for the Oatmeal & Goat Milk soap, which uses both milk and honey in the recipe.  Any other “honey” named soap is for fragrance description only and doesn’t actually have honey in the ingredients.

Our lip balms, Shea Butter Balm, and Healing Salve use local beeswax in them.

Everything else – bath salts, aromatic sprays, etc. are most definitely vegan.

Do you do animal testing?

No way!! Never ever ever. Though some people have used the soaps on their dogs with great results. And other customers have used the aromatic sprays on their pets with pleasant smelling outcomes too.

Which soap is the most moisturizing?

All of our soaps are richly moisturizing and are formulated with the same blend of base oils. Every bar is loaded with extra emollients, especially lush shea butter, to soften and soothe skin. However, if someone is extra sensitive or looking for the absolute most-est one, we recommend the Oatmeal & Goat Milk because the addition of fresh, organic goat milk, real honey and powdered oatmeal has the benefits of those classic beautifiers that even Cleopatra bathed in. And the Bergamot Shea Butter soap has a smidge more shea butter than the standard recipe, if you want to take it up a notch.

Which bar is best for sensitive skin?

We’ve gotten lots of compliments on the gentle nature of our soap bars from loads of sensitive skin customers.  We usually advise people with concerns to stick to the all-natural ones that use natural essential oils instead of fragrance oils.  (The ingredient listing for each bar will have a special note if they are all natural.) And we also make a Pure Soap, which is 100% color free, fragrance free, additive free – it’s just the plain soap with absolutely nothing else in it.

I’ve heard that we should boycott palm oil because the industry is devastating the tropical forests and orangutan populations in Indonesia.  Do you use palm oil?

Yes, we do use palm oil in our soap recipe. While it is used in smaller quantities than some of the other base oils, it is essential to our soap's creamy, luscious lather as well as the longevity and hardness of the bar. No other vegetable oils can replace the quality that palm oil brings to soap. And like all crops really, it's not what is grown, but how it's grown.

And yes, the palm oil industry is destroying the wildlife and the tropical forests in their efforts to grow their local economies, primarily in Indonesia. While the food industry accounts for over 95% of the palm oil use, the soap and skin care industry has their own stake in the issue. No matter how small our cottage business is in that big picture, our beliefs and personal responsibility are at the heart of what we do, and we take extra care to purchase ingredients and supplies from sources that promote environmental sustainability. The palm oil that is used in our soap recipe is RSPO certified (Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil) as 100% sustainably grown. This organization is working to protect the environment by utilizing previously cleared land and protecting conservation of valuable forests, increasing yields and harvest through better agricultural practices, and protecting the rights of workers and small farmers too. For more complete information, see our blog post on the issue.

What do you use to fragrance your products?

We use a combination of natural essential oils and high quality fragrance oils. Whenever possible, we like to utilize nature’s brilliant gifts by using top grade essential oils, distilled from pure plant material. If you are concerned about using all natural soaps, there are many of these on our list. Check the ingredient list where the scent will be essential oils only and they will have the “All Natural” tag.

We also use synthetic fragrance oils in some of our soaps and products. We strive to give our customers the best of both worlds, and want to include some of the seasonal fragrances (pear, vanilla, lilac) that are much loved and anticipated. These oils are manufactured especially for skin care and cosmetics and are proven to be safe. We are constantly searching to find the best possible ingredients, including phthalate-free fragrance oils when we can, and always using the highest quality on the market.

Do you make a liquid soap?

Short answer: no. There seems to be two camps – the bar soap folks and the liquid pump soap folks. We’re in the bar soap camp because we believe they are healthier. Plus we just plain like to hold onto something substantial in the shower - not some plastic “puff”. There’s no use going back and forth on the debate between which one is less messy or easier to use – it’s really just a personal preference and both sides go their own way. We’re sticking with the solid form.

Of note, however, most liquid “soaps” are not soap at all, but a lot of water mixed with a detergent, preservatives, clarifiers, emulsifiers, stabilizers, surfactants, fragrances, etc., which are often harsh and drying. 

Where can I find Soapworks Studio products?

The full, up-to-the- minute line of Soapworks Studio products can always be found here on this web site.  We sell our items primarily through craft shows, street fairs, festivals, and mail order -- through the seasonal newsletters and this web site.  For the full list of shows we are participating in, please check out the Events tab. 

Are there any retail stores in my area that carry Soapworks Studio products?

Unfortunately, due to the fleeting nature of many of the seasonal Soapworks Studio products and the small quantity we produce, we're unable to do a large wholesale business. Preferring to keep the collection small, special, freshly made, and in harmony with the seasons, we promise that we are able to offer you excellent quality at a reasonable price.

Having said that, there are just a select few shops which carry Soapworks Studio Products, and they are listed under the “Stockists” button at the bottom of the page.

If I don’t do that whole internet shopping thing, is there another way to order your products?

Yes, you can also call the studio during office hours (9am-5pm Mon-Fri) at 206-322-4503 and order directly by phone using your credit card. You can also send in the order form attached to the most recent brochure, with a check or credit card number for payment.

Do you wholesale your products?

Due to the seasonal nature of our products, and the limited quantities we produce, we are doing just a small amount of wholesale at this time.  For more information, please see our "Wholesale" section at the bottom of the page.

I don't see your (blank) soap on the list anymore?  or I used to buy your (blank) spray and it's not listed here?  Do you still have it?

One of the most unique aspects of the Soapworks Studio business is the seasonal focus. We are always experimenting with seasonal scents and ingredients, and creating new product ideas that are available just for a short window of time.  While our regular menu remains standard, four times each year as the seasons change, we announce a new menu of seasonal scents and products. These are made in smaller quantity and available for a limited time, until the item is sold out. If you find something you can't live without - stock up! 

However, the fragrances that become huge hits or get requested often, usually show up again. I plan my new scents around requests and customer feedback, so it's always great to hear from you. Aromatic spray fragrances can almost always be made out of season as a custom order, so don't hesitate to call. And out-of-season soap scents are also sometimes still available - just quietly resting here at the studio - it never hurts to ask.