One Thousand Scents

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Crazy Good: Dr. Bronner Lavender and Citrus Liquid Soaps

The thing about soap, as opposed to detergent, is that it binds with minerals in water to leave what the marketers for Zest soap used to call "sticky soap film", which isn't just adspeak--it's an exact description. If your water is anything but soft, which is to say if it has any minerals in it at all, sticky soap film adheres to everything you wash with soap: clothing, dishes, skin. Detergent, on the other hand, being mostly synthetic surfactants, washes away cleanly, which is why Zest, which was the first solid bar-form detergent sold as a soap replacement, was so successful. (It's also why most bar soap, laundry detergent, and dish soap nowadays is detergent rather than soap.)

Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap is, as the label says, soap, not detergent. When you wash your skin with it, you get a film so tenacious it feels as if you've been freshly laminated. (And I don't have hard water, either.) I wouldn't use it on my face; I sure as hell wouldn't use it on my hair. (The film is not a huge problem once your skin has been towel-dried, but it's still off-putting if you're used to the clean slickness of a detergent.)

So that's a con. What about the pros?

It smells great. Not strongly scented, but pure. The Lavender soap smells like lavender; the Citrus smells like lemons, limes, and oranges. Real oils, nothing synthetic (like the Original Source products I was lauding a while back). In fact, it's all-natural, if that's a selling point to you--it isn't to me. I like synthetic things; modern perfumery, music, and technology wouldn't exist without them. The scent doesn't really hang around on your skin, or maybe it does but can't fight its way through the soap film. Still, while you're using it, it smells awfully good. (There are others I haven't tried: a Peppermint that will apparently set your skin a-tingling if not actually burning, and a Rose that gets mixed reviews on Makeupalley but that I will have to try anyway if I should stumble across it.)

It is insanely concentrated. It's a very thin liquid, like the hand soaps you see at the dollar stores that are diluted 'cause they're cheap, but this isn't dilute at all. A tiny little squeeze, a wee puddle the diameter of a nickel, is enough to wash your entire body.

The label is hilarious. Dr. Bronner was, and there's no getting around this, sort of a social/religious nut, and his labels are densely packed with minutely printed loonery. I have the two-ounce bottles, so there isn't room for much religion amidst all the instructions and suggestions for use, but there's still some: "Within 9 minutes you feel fresh and clean, saving 90% of your hot water and soap, ready to teach the whole human race the Moral ABC of All-One-God-Faith! For we're ALL-ONE OR NONE! ALL-ONE! ALL-ONE! ALL-ONE!"


The labels are also, and I'm going to give them a lot of credit for this, expensively three-colour printed onto the bottles rather than being glued-on paper. Dr. Bronner evidently wanted to make sure his little billboards were legible right down to the last drop.


  • I used to use Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Liquid Soap in the summer. It was nice in the heat.

    From your pictures, it looks like they have toned down the loopy commentary on the bottles. I always liked that they suggested uses for it, like: washing your clothes AND brushing your teeth!

    That said, I need to get me some!

    By Blogger Furriner, at 9:23 AM  

  • Well, those ARE the two-ounce bottles. I'm confident that the big 32-ounce ones are still covered with all sorts of mad ramblings about socialism and religion. Such as this right here.

    I am fairly sure I would not want to brush my teeth with castile soap.

    By Blogger pyramus, at 7:45 PM  

  • i love this stuff...the lavender, of course. i mix it about 1 part to 6 and put it in those mousse-making hand soap thingys. i have used it to wash clothes, add some baking soda for that action. i'm with you on the soap film mess, though.

    By Blogger stellaglo, at 1:25 PM  

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