June 30th, 2011
a soap whore.
There are people out there who make soap – thousands of them! And I have become their love slave. (In a manner of speaking…)
People are making soaps in their kitchens/garages/cabins/converted sheds, doing it the old-school way, which is to say that for the most part, these soaps not only smell lovely, but are free from all of the added chemicals that the Big Companies like to throw in to things so that we can all be on the express train to eczema/asthma/cancer. No Triclosan! Really, you don’t need Triclosan to fight bacteria. You don’t need Sodium Lauryl Sulfate to create pounds of suds in your hair and your soap to get clean, you’ll get clean without that crap. And not only do we not need all this shit, it’s actually not good for us, and it sure as hell isn’t good for our waterways either.
So, in my everlasting quest to live healthier and simpler, I started checking out some soapmakers on Etsy.
These folks are no joke. They’re not just selling huge blocks of industrial-looking soap – although there is some of that out there, I promise you it is just as artisanal. There are huge chunks, delicate ovals, puritan squares…just soap of all descriptions, shapes and scents.
So of course, I had to go nuts buying soaps.
And I’ve quickly learned some things that I will share with you:
- Just because 2 sellers are selling a soap with the same name or fragrance, does not mean they are making the exact same soap. Some people know what they’re doing, and some people are clearly just fucking around. Some people heavily scent their soaps, some people have a lighter hand. So just because you liked Jane’s gardenia soap doesn’t mean you’ll like everyone’s.
- Shipping is the new way of fleecing people. On Etsy, everything has to have its own shipping price, and I understand – I think – that it can be hard to estimate how much it’s going to cost to ship packages of varying weights, and the sellers don’t want to fleece themselves either. Some sellers will tell you that if they can get lower shipping prices or use a flat rate package they’ll refund the overcharge, which is nice and even extra work for them. But still? Seeing $22 as a shipping charge for 10 bars of soap seems – insane. And not all of them promise to refund.
- If you get on the site and look through soaps as often as I do – at least once a day, at least – you will start to see the same scents over and over and over. Most of these people are buying fragrance blends from one or two of the big soapmaking suppliers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the artisans that figure out how to really create a nice blend using different notes on their own? You have to admire those guys.
- You have to check the size of the soap. I am now to the point where I am refusing to buy anything smaller than 4 oz. The cost of the bar + the cost of shipping doesn’t make it worth it.
- I’m also checking to see my price per ounce. I was in Whole Foods the other day and they were selling soap at $19.99 a lb, which I thought was madness – until I did the math and realized that that made a 4 oz bar $5, which is pretty much the going price on Etsy – before shipping. I like to keep it at roughly $1.00 an ounce but I do make allowances for shipping as long as it doesn’t get ridiculous.
- Sales! The Soap Whore is turning into the Sales Whore. Some shops run discounts for buying “in bulk” which can mean anywhere from 3-8 bars of soap. Shops will also have coupon codes, which you find out about by checking their shop announcements, their FB pages, or their blogs. Use those codes, man, use those codes!
- By all means explore, but you will start to narrow down your favorite soapmakers, and you’ll want to communicate with those people. I bought a big shipment from one soapmaker who included several samples and an extra bar with my order – a real plus given that her soaps don’t come cheaply. Because I’ve been vocal with her about how much I love her soap, she’s given me a coupon code that that I can use whenever I shop from her. She also keeps bars aside for me at my request, so that she won’t run out before I get to make my purchase. Another soapmaker sent me free samples of a soap idea she’d been working on after we’d chatted back and forth for some time. Great customer service and good relationships are wonderful when paired with a good product, so I’ll be patronizing these soapmakers for a long time.
- Heartsy, which is like Groupon for Etsy, has not only garnered me great deals, but has introduced me to some shops and sellers I would not have known about otherwise. Thistledelight and Amathia are two soap artists I was able to discover inexpensively, and I’ll definitely go back and pay full price for their craft, unless…
- I become a real Soap Whore and start making my own soaps. I’ve learned more about soaps than I thought I ever cared to know, and have already begun making my own laundry soap, which I assure you, is much much easier than you would expect and not at all time consuming. But while the idea of delving deeper into soap seems fascinating and rewarding, it’s also rather daunting, especially with two little ones at home. With them constantly underfoot in our “cottage,” I’m not sure when I’d find the time to play around with hot oils and lye and experiment with fragrances, especially when what little free time I do have is already supposed to go to writing. Or crocheting. Or yoga. Or meditating. Or exercising. So maybe for now, I’ll leave the soapmaking to the people who know and love what they’re doing.
- Oh! Did I mention my skin is looking awesome? Some dry patches that were stubbornly hugging my legs and arms have magically cleared up since using the handmade stuff. And I love that I don’t have to buy special soap for the kids’ supposedly more sensitive skin – personally, I think we could all do with putting less toxic crap on our skin. We all use the same soaps and they’re just as excited about the new soaps as I am.
Well, enough about soap. I seem to be a tad obsessed with it of late, but I think what I love is the simplicity of it, the self-sufficiency of it, and the knowledge that I’m doing yet one more thing to keep myself and my family healthy. (And the planet, can’t forget the planet!) That’s all pretty damn awesome.