We have had several inquiries about the ingredients used in our soap, and we are adding this page to our web site to clarify the whole issue of what we start with and how it is changed into soap and glycerin.
We have four formulations that we use to make soap. There are two different formulations for our bar soap and two for the liquid. So what are the raw materials that we use to make our soap?
Soap is made by reacting oils (which are triglycerides) with a strong alkali or caustic, such as sodium hydroxide. The result of the reaction is soap and glycerin. Triglycerides added to sodium hydroxide makes soap and glycerin. That is the science.
The art of soap making, on the other hand, lies in the selection of the oils used to make it. Every different oil will create a soap with a unique character, and the same is true with every mixture of oils. Much experimentation has gone into finding just the right mixture of oils to create the soap that we want to offer to our customers.
In fact, our recipe is a trade secret because so much effort and time has gone into selecting just the right combination of oils in just the right ratio to create the best soap in the world. But by Federal Trade Commission guidelines, we are allowed to tell you the raw materials that are used. (And by Federal Trade Commission guidelines in the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, we are required to tell you what is in the final product.)
Lets start with the bar soap. We have two formulations for our bars, and the only difference is in the selection of the oils. Our Original formulation, the one we started with over thirty years ago, uses tallow, coconut oil, and olive oil. That combination of oils creates a bar of soap that is the best we have found in all the world. We won't tell you the ratio of those oils, though, because that is the trade secret, and that ratio is what makes our soap better than all the others.
The second formulation used to make our bar soap includes palm oil, coconut oil, and olive oil. As you can see, the only difference between the two recipes is a substitution of palm oil for tallow. Why did we add this second recipe to our inventory?
When soap was made in Colonial America, the traditional oil that was used was either lard, which comes from pork fat, or tallow, which comes from beef fat. From Pilgrims and Puritans to all the homes and farms across America during the westward expansion for over three hundred years, soap was made from lard and tallow, because those were the oils that were available. From New England to Gold Rush California, from sea to shining sea, soap was made the same way. Even today, most commodity soaps are made from 80% tallow and 20% coconut oil.
As America became more settled, animals were no longer a part of every household, and other oils became available for making soap. One of these is palm oil, which comes from Malaysia. Palm trees (not the same as coconut palms) are grown for the oil that comes from the fruit of the tree. This oil can come either from the kernel of the palm (called palm kernel oil), or from the fruit of the palm itself (simple palm oil). We have chosen palm oil because it is less expensive than the palm kernel oil, and it makes great soap.
Liquid soap is also made from oils and caustic, just the same as bar soap, but the difference is in the type of caustic that is used. Sodium hydroxide, used to make bar soap, creates a soap that doesnt dissolve in water very fast. That is one reason why our bar soap lasts so long in the shower. But you cannot dilute bar soap with water and make it into a liquid soap. That is where the use of a different caustic comes in.
When we use potassium hydroxide rather than sodium hydroxide as the caustic to convert the oils into soap and glycerine, a soap is made that is easily dissolved in water, and that is how we make our liquid soap.
The classic oil used to make liquid soap is coconut oil. Liquid soap made from coconut oil is crystal clear, but it is also a little drying to the skin. So in our recipe we combine olive oil with the coconut oil, and we get a soap that is gentle, cleans well without drying your skin, and has all the great glycerin to help moisturize your skin as it cleans.
We also developed a liquid soap made from olive oil that is true to the original meaning of the term Castile. The 100% olive oil soap can be used by people who are allergic to coconut products. This formulation is exceptionally mild and produces a rich creamy lather of tiny bubbles.
That is the story of the ingredients used in our soap products. We would love to hear from any of you as you use our soap.