Whether it gets lathered onto a sudsy wash cloth, squeezed onto a loofa or scrubbed right on the skin, most people use soap in one form or another, especially here in the United States. Americans loves the slippery stuff so much that one-third of the world’s soap is used by Americans, according to Global Soap.
Soap is an often overlooked part of everyday life that some people have developed a passion for experimenting with. Trying different ingredients, processes, scents and dyes, there is a growing community getting creative with the bathroom staple.
When Julie Goettge successfully quit smoking in the 90s, she delved into the world of aromatherapy to help keep herself on track, she said. Her senses were hooked, and by hanging around other friends in Athens who were also into aromatherapy, she discovered what would be a lifelong project: perfecting handmade soaps.
The first batch in 1996 weighed about 12 pounds, Goettge, owner of Four Seasons Soaps and a research administrator at Ohio University, said. She hand-stirred the mixture of ingredients for four hours. She had a lot to learn.
“Throughout the years I’ve tweaked my recipes and now I have my time down to like ten minutes with a mixer,” Goettge said.
“Soapers” blogs, research and even soap conventions have helped Goettge acquire tips and tricks to get her products just right.
The Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild, the biggest organization to help shape Goettge’s soap making, formed in 1998 when an initially small handful of soap-makers wanted to connect. Ever since, thousands of “soapers” travel from all over the US to the annual HSCG convention to hear what new secrets and soapy stories the experts have to share.
“I’ve met people from Australia, from Pakistan, from China, Japan, Canada, all over the place,” Goettge said.
With an emphasis on a local, simple, natural and chemical-free ingredient list, people from all around the world have been recognizing and embracing the potential benefits of non-commercial, handmade soaps.
“It’s really surprising that soap can be so nice, so fun, so moisturizing — so beneficial for your skin,” said Linda Pook, assistant manager of the Import House in Athens. “My family will never use anything else. My husband tells me all the time, when we move out of state, we have to come back to get our yearly supply of soap.”
The Import House has been carrying handcrafted, locally-made soaps for about 15 years, Pook said. From soaps that can treat poison ivy to soaps specifically made for pets, Powers Family Farm in Amesville keep the Import House supplied with products of all different scents and purposes.
“I think the scents alone attract people right to them. Yeah, I would say they (soaps) draw themselves right in," Pook said.
Powers Family Bars typically sell for around $7, a similar price to other handcrafted, homemade soaps. A more commercial soap brand such as Zest or Suave might only cost around $1 per bar, but with all natural, locally sourced ingredients in the handmade soaps, the price is worth it for many people.
“When I get in the shower like, it smells so strong so it just opens me up and I don’t know why but I feel cleaner when I come out, more, like, energized. And I use it when my kids are sick so it helps them out too,” Abby Arrington, an OU employee, said
With powerful smells, potential health benefits and a simple ingredient list that is easy to read and understand, handmade soaps are finding their ways into people’s showers despite costing extra.
“I just think once you use homemade soaps you don’t ever go back to anything else. I honestly believe that,” Pook said.