What do you look for in vegan soap? - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 05-26-2016, 08:22 PM
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What do you look for in vegan soap?

Hello, all.

I'm asking a favor, and I'm sorry in advance that this looks like spam. It isn't.

I own a soap company, which I won't name or post a link to, for fear of looking like spam. Feel free to message me if you want details, but that's not what this is about.

I make palm-free vegan soap because I truly believe that soap should absolutely be an animal-free product, and as you know, it generally isn't. So I have a good vegan product, but I feel like it's missing something. Like it's just not hitting the spot for the various vegan groups I interact with.

So I'm asking, what do you look for in vegan soap? Do you care if it's handmade or not? Do you care if it's made out of certain oils and not others? Do you want it to be organic? Are you concerned about price? When you're in the soap aisle or shopping on the internet, what do you look for?

That was a lot of questions. I'm sorry. But I'd love to get your thoughts and have a discussion about it. I want to provide a great product, and I'm just missing something. Thank you so much for your help.

Steven Reed
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#2 Old 05-26-2016, 09:05 PM
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Concerns are 1. Vegan 2. Price
3.Scent 4.Mild, not drying. (I don't care much about organic in my soap). 5.No palm oil is great.

Tbh I prefer liquid soaps to bar. I am female, 58 yrs and buy soap for me, husband, and son.

Good luck with your company!
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#3 Old 05-26-2016, 09:24 PM
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Hello, Ledboots!

That's exactly the information I'm looking for. There are so many choices of soaps out there, but not many store-bought brands meet strict vegan requirements, so it's great to know what benefits people care more about and what features people care less about. It sounds like you're looking for a plant-based soap that's good on your skin and smells good but doesn't break the bank, and if it's palm-free, that's a nice bonus. I can agree with that. It's important to have a soap that's enjoyable to use but doesn't violate your beliefs and doesn't cost a ton. It's also good that you mentioned your preference for liquid soaps. I've found that liquid soap is incredibly time-consuming and messy to make, so even though I used to make and sell it, I've stopped. It was just never worth the money, so now I just focus on bars.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful answer, Ledboots. It really helps a lot.

Steven
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#4 Old 05-26-2016, 11:39 PM
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I'm a sensualist, I want something that at least smells good, if not makes my skin magnificent. That's why I love Lush cruelty free products!

If I can't go that route, and am on a budget, I use Dr.Bronners rose hemp castile soap, and wash my face in coconut oil.

I prefer hand made. But castile will do.

I also make my own toothpaste from coconut oil, baking soda, and pure peppermint oil.
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#5 Old 05-27-2016, 03:43 AM
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I've been using bronners, trader Joe's and Chandricka for so long I haven't realized it's uncommon. Price is the biggest factor for me, I see good vegan soaps everywhere. But very pricey. Like Chagrin valley soaps they're local and probably competitive in pricing for handmade but too much for me. What else do you sell?
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#6 Old 05-27-2016, 07:02 PM
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Thalassa4, that toothpaste sounds wonderful!

I'm with you on the sensualist thing, and I only scent with essential oils. It's gotta smell good. But otherwise, I get your point that it needs to be good for the skin. It's important to use moisturizing ingredients, and yes, there's a big difference between handmade and machine-made. It comes at a price, but handmade is good.

Thank you for your thoughts on this. It really helps.

Steven
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#7 Old 05-27-2016, 07:12 PM
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Hi, Silva.

Truthfully, I like Dr. Bronners also. I don't like that it's made with palm oil, which has debatable environmental consequences, and I've heard that mine is more moisturizing. I also don't like that they call their soap "magic." But that's a different topic. Anyway, it's a decent soap and a good choice in general.

Yes, pricing has been difficult. Since I mainly sell online, that means I have to account for shipping costs. The two methods I've tried are:

1) Every product is $5.00, and shipping is a flat $5.00 for the entire order.
2) Every product is $6.50, and shipping is free if you buy 2 or more items.

I think either of those prices is competitive for handmade soap, but it's tough when you're competing with mass-produced machine made soaps selling for less than $4.00.

As for what I sell, it's only bar soap. I have 5 varieties:
1) Unscented
2) Cedarwood
3) Lavender
4) Peppermint
5) Lemon-Lime.

There are a lot of flavors that I won't make because I've committed to only scenting with essential oils. Many popular flavors, coconut for instance, only come in a more artificial fragrant oil, which I won't use.

So that's where I am on pricing and variety. How does that strike you? What important flavors am I missing, or what products would you like to see? And do you think that my pricing is fair? I'm looking for brutal honesty here. Tear up my whole business model if you see fit. I'm here to learn some lessons.

Thank you for your comments!

Steven
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#8 Old 05-27-2016, 07:14 PM
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Hey, here's another question: What do you all want to see on the label? How important is it to see a full list of ingredients? Such a list isn't required by law on soap, but I feel like it's important, and I'm been using my honest labeling as a main selling point, but really, do you care about that?

Thanks.
Steven
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#9 Old 05-27-2016, 07:40 PM
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I read ingredients on everything like all vegans , so I would like to see them on soap.

I like your scent choices and really like that you use essential oils. Could you do two scents, like lavendar vanilla, or is that overwhelming? Is orange blossom available in essential oils? (Just love that scent.)
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#10 Old 05-27-2016, 07:52 PM
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My vegan soap priorities:

1. Unscented
2. Lots of lather
3. No palm oil
4. Organic
5. Bar soap preferences
* Medium-sized bar: The 8 oz. "Kiss My Face" bar is too big. A 2 oz. bar is too small.
* Doesn't disintegrate into goo. Some olive oil soaps do this
* Packaging: Recyclable. Paper or paperboard only. No plastic
6. Liquid soap preferences
* Concentrated, not weak
* Bottle: Made from high percentage of post-consumer recycled plastic. Recyclable: #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE) plastics only.

Price: I prefer to pay no more than $2 for a 4 oz. bar, or $12 for a 32 oz. bottle.

Favorite past brands of mine:
1. Dr. Bronner's 32 oz. liquid soap, peppermint or unscented
2. Kirk's Castile Soap, bar
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#11 Old 05-27-2016, 08:11 PM
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LedBoots, oh my, if only I could do vanilla... Vanilla essential oil is hard to find in bulk amounts, and it's pretty expensive. The cost is a dealbreaker, but oh, it would be nice. I've been searching for an orange blossom essential oil. I haven't found it. Orange essential oil is available, but it's made from orange peels, not orange blossoms. Orange blossom fragrant oil is available, but it's partially synthetic. So I could do orange, but not specifically orange blossom.

As for using multiple oils in one soap, most handmade soap makers do combine multiple oils. This is a preference thing. If you, say, mix lavender, cedarwood, and patchouli, you'll end up with a nice scent, but it will be a somewhat general scent, meaning that maybe it's generally flowery, or another mix might be generally fruity, or just sweet smelling. Some people like that a lot. I prefer to have bold specific scents. I want my lavender soap to smell like lavender, my cedarwood soap to smell like cedarwood, etc. That's my preference, but this thread is about your preferences. What do you think? Would you prefer mixed?

Thanks.
Steven
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#12 Old 05-27-2016, 08:20 PM
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David3, that's an amazing list!

Here's how my stuff stacks up:

1. Unscented (Yes)
2. Lots of lather (Yes)
3. No palm oil (Yes)
4. Organic (No. Haven't worked out how to keep the final product low-priced if I use organic ingredients)
5. Bar soap preferences
* Medium-sized bar (Approximately 4 oz)
* Doesn't disintegrate into goo. (Ours will disintegrate if it's left wet. In a puddle for long periods of time, it becomes goo. Otherwise, it lasts a long time)
* Packaging: Recyclable. Paper or paperboard only. No plastic (We use recycled cardboard packages with paper labels)
6. Liquid soap (We don't do that anymore. Couldn't figure out how to do it well and efficiently)
7. Price (See above post. Are you really getting a 4oz bar for $2.00? Yikes! If it's half as good as what you've described, I don't have a chance!)

Thank you for this list, though. It helps that I can compare and contrast my products against it.

Steven
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#13 Old 05-27-2016, 08:31 PM
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Ooooh, here's a question: What do you all think of lye? Do you know what it is? Do you care? It scares some folks. Others look for soap that has it in the name ("Grandma's Lye Soap). On my labels, I call it by its more specific name sodium hydroxide. Some brands leave it off the ingredients list entirely, but by law, anything labeled "soap" has to have been made with some form of lye. But anyway, is it something you've thought about? Is it a big deal to you? Are you the least bit curious about it, or is it a non-issue?

Thanks.
Steven
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#14 Old 05-27-2016, 09:34 PM
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When I buy soap this is what I do.

I first look for the ingredients. If they're not listed I put it back on the shelf immediately.

Second I check for animal products and palm oil. If it contains either of those I will put it back on the shelf.

The things I am flexible with are manufacture location and price. The closer the soap is made to home the better, and the lower the price the better. I would pay more for a pure north american made soap than one shipped across the ocean. Quite a bit more actually as environmental concerns are high on my list.
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#15 Old 05-27-2016, 09:57 PM
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I think I would like mixed, I'm not sure. Definitely the lavender in any case, I love that scent.

I am afraid of lye lol. My mom used to tell me about her mom making soap from lye, and it sounded dangerous. I would use the other name, which I didn't know was lye.
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#16 Old 05-28-2016, 06:34 AM
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odizzido, thank you for your post. Yes, I like your method. That sounds good. I agree that local-made is better. There's just something nice about using something that was made close to home.

It's great to see that all of you are thoughtful about what you use. It's so common to buy whatever soap's on sale and not think about it, but there's really so much to it, and I think once you know what's in common storebought soap, it's difficult to keep using it.

Thanks again for your post. It helps!

Steven
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#17 Old 05-28-2016, 07:03 AM
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Originally Posted by NewAtThis View Post
Hey, here's another question: What do you all want to see on the label? How important is it to see a full list of ingredients? Such a list isn't required by law on soap, but I feel like it's important, and I'm been using my honest labeling as a main selling point, but really, do you care about that?

Thanks.
Steven
Extremely important!
I have the same priorities as David3. I also avoid palm oil, but have only used Bronners in household cleaning products and still a big bottle of tea tree years old
There are just so many out there that buying online seems only suited to those without natural food stores, or specialty stores. Not even, I've bought Walgreens branded soap labed vegan at a discount. Wasn't called Walgreens, but Ology- I just found it! It's palm oil, paraben, and sulfate free! No artificial fragrance and vegan. I tend to stock up on things as I find bargains on good stuff.
Now that I'm thinking about soap I'm realizing how many vegan brands there are. I once played with the idea of selling soap at fairs but realized I couldn't sell at prices I wouldn't pay. i never even bothered to make it for myself because it wasn't cost effective.
I do know people pay for products like that. Look up http://www.chagrinvalleysoapandsalve.com/ they started with soap at local fair tables, now they're oniine and at Whole Foods
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#18 Old 05-28-2016, 07:04 AM
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LedBoots, ha! This is great. I was secretly hoping that someone would be afraid of lye. This gives me a chance to geek-out in soap talk. Ok, so here's a lesson, if you have time and interest enough to read it:

Lye is an old generic term that refers to any strongly alkaline solution. For soap making, we use sodium hydroxide to make bar soap and potassium hydroxide to make liquid soap.

The process is this for bar soap: Mix the sodium hydroxide with water. It heats up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit by itself. If you touch it at this point, you get a chemical burn and a temperature burn at the same time! In the meantime, you mix all your oils together and heat them to 100 degrees. When your lye-water cools down to 100 degrees, you mix it all together. The sodium hydroxide reacts chemically with the oils in a process called saponification. By the way, when you look at an ingredients list and see something like "saponified coconut oil," that just means that it's coconut oil that has combined with lye, and if you see "Sodium coconate" or any other "Sodium ***" ingredient, that means that it's an oil combined with sodium hydroxide. Different ways of saying the same thing, and if you want to be cynical, you could say that it's two different ways of avoiding the word "lye" or "sodium hydroxide" in your ingredients list. Anyway, this saponification reaction happens, and the final result is a combination of soap, leftover oils, and glycerin. The sodium hydroxide has been all used up in the process and should no longer exist in the soap.

That being said, to get that happen properly, we measure our ingredients very specifically so that we don't put in too much lye, and we add extra oil just to be sure that there is plenty of oil for the lye to react with. And then we let it cure for 6 weeks, which allows water to evaporate, hardening the bars. After that, we do a pH test on the batch. A proper pH level is about 10. If it's more alkaline then that, then that might mean that too much sodium hydroxide was used, and it didn't all get used up, which is bad. In that case, the soap is unsellable. But I've never seen that happen. It's a safe process as long as each ingredient is measured very specifically.

So here's the thing with Grandma's soap: Back in the day, they didn't have the internet and digital scales. They had recipe books and measuring cups. It was easy to have a recipe that was a little off or a measurement that was a little off, which could result in a little too much sodium hydroxide being used, and such a "lye-heavy" bar could be a bit painful. Now, we have the luxury of websites that tell you very, very specifically how much lye to use for a given recipe, and we have digital scales that weigh it all out very precisely. And on top of that, we have the pH strips to verify the safety of the bars. It's a different world.

I'm such a soap geek. Thanks for letting me do that. The important things to remember are that every (and I mean every) product that calls itself "soap" was made with some form of lye (as required by law), even if the ingredients don't indicate that, and also that lye in it's raw form is dangerous, but in a finished bar of soap, it should be non-existent. So don't be afraid of lye. Use gloves and goggles if you ever make soap, and don't worry about it otherwise.

While I'm at it, a couple things just occurred to me:
1) Some soap makers use "melt-and-pour" soap. This is just a method where you buy soap that's already made, and then you melt it, mix some scents and colors in it, and let it cool and harden in a mold. You can get such a thing at your local hobby store. Some of those soap makers will then tell you that their soap wasn't made with lye. They are mistaken. The truth is that the soap that they bought from the hobby store was made with lye at a factory somewhere before they bought it.

2) Sodium Tallowate is an important ingredient to know if you're a vegan. It's animal fat that's been combined with sodium hydroxide. It's the number one ingredient in most store-bought soaps. It's generally fat from a pig, cow, or sheep. It's a low-cost ingredient that produces a hard bar of soap, so non-vegan soap companies love it.

Ok. I'm done geeking out, unless anyone has a question, in which case I can geek out again!

Thanks.
Steven
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#19 Old 05-28-2016, 07:06 AM
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BTW--anyone here use Chandrika? The Indian soap that had the most wonderful smell? I recently got a few bars and it didn't smell the same to me. I looked online for reviews and found others saying the same thing.
I loved that soap, and could buy it from the Indian store just down the street. I know it's still all vegan and coconut oil formulated
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#20 Old 05-28-2016, 07:11 AM
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Hey, Silva. Yes, the handmade vegan soap market is a tough one. There's a market for it, but it's a very specific market. It's really suited for people that prefer:

1) Vegan
2) Handmade
3) Extra-good quality ingredients like shea butter. Some store-bought soaps have shea butter, but not all do.

So it's a specific thing for a specific group of people, and it's not for the masses. But then you look at Dr. Bronner's or Burt's Bees or whatever, and they found a way to go from small to gigantic. So it's possible, but it's a tough nut to crack, and that's why I'm here. I need a good feel for what people like and use, and this will help me fine-tune my product. Thank you so much for helping me with this!

Steven
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#21 Old 05-28-2016, 07:12 AM
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Silva, how have I not heard of Chandrika before? Sounds like something I need to check out.

Thanks for the heads-up.
Steven
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#22 Old 05-28-2016, 07:23 AM
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Geez, now I'm thinking of all the super fragrant soaps at nfs! One has a selection of loose soaps for every purpose unpackaged for $2 a bar. Then there's Zums - which is pricey. South of France. The huge ginger almond oatmeal soap at TJ's I love, but isn't labeld organic. Grandpas soap

The best soap I ever used on a dog was a pine tar liquid soap. I've been able to find it as a bar, but not the liquid
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#23 Old 05-28-2016, 07:45 AM
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Silva, how have I not heard of Chandrika before? Sounds like something I need to check out.

Thanks for the heads-up.
Steven
If you're ever in an Indian/Asian grocery store they should have it! It's been around forever. Also sold online - I added some in my Vitacost order to make free shipping once. About a dollar for the 5oz bar, smaller bars less.
I don't why it smells different to me now, i still like it, but not the same

Do you make other all natural vegan products? I personally won't pay for things like body butters, or scrubs when I can make my own, but people do. I still toss the idea around...with etsy and other online sites so accessible
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#24 Old 05-28-2016, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by LedBoots View Post
Concerns are 1. Vegan 2. Price
3.Scent 4.Mild, not drying. (I don't care much about organic in my soap). 5.No palm oil is great.

Tbh I prefer liquid soaps to bar. I am female, 58 yrs and buy soap for me, husband, and son.

Good luck with your company!
I would echo these priorities, including the part about using liquid soap (I keep our bottle in the shower and also mix it with water in foaming hand soap dispensers in our bathrooms). If you decide to sell liquid soap again, pm me your company, I'd be happy to support you

I don't care if it's hand made, but I am beginning to research companies that are fair to their employees (think "The True Cost" documentary). It is difficult to find this type of info on some companies, so if your company is socially responsible, please brag about it on your product! . I might even place social responsibility as #2 if I am browsing in a store and I see it right on the bottle.

I am mid-thirties and buy soap for my hubby and 2 kids.
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#25 Old 05-28-2016, 08:18 AM
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Hi, Silva.

Right now we just sell bar soap in 5 flavors (including Unscented). No scrubs, salts, or anything else.

Zumbar... I don't get it. I'm sure it's good stuff, and it is nicely colored if you're into that sort of thing, but I don't understand why people pay so much for such a small bar. In a way, that gives me hope. People will pay good money for soap if you can strike a certain chord with them. So yeah, I don't understand the Zumbar appeal, but they are definitely doing something right, since they are EVERYWHERE, and I admire them for that.

Thanks.
Steven
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#26 Old 05-28-2016, 08:22 AM
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Hey, Jenn2. Thank you for the comments! Don't hold your breath waiting for liquid soap from my company. I don't foresee doing that in the near future. I like it, but it just doesn't seem that doable at the moment.

Socially responsible... I definitely want to be socially responsible. Right now, I have no employees, but if I did have employees, I would be extra good to them! Hey, my wife is kind of like an employee. Not really, but she does help a lot. I like to think I treat her pretty well. :-)

Thanks again for your post.

Steven
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#27 Old 05-28-2016, 05:00 PM
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7. Price (See above post. Are you really getting a 4oz bar for $2.00? Yikes! If it's half as good as what you've described, I don't have a chance!)

Steven
Some no-frills vegan soaps are available for about $2 for a 4 oz. bar: http://www.iherb.com/Kirk-s-Original...FQsPaQodUQ0M6w . I know, amazing!

.
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Specific recommendations for a healthy diet include: eating more fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains; cutting down on salt, sugar and fats. It is also advisable to choose unsaturated fats, instead of saturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids."
- United Nations' World Health Organization
http://www.who.int/topics/diet/en/
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#28 Old 05-28-2016, 05:06 PM
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Ooooh, here's a question: What do you all think of lye? Do you know what it is? Do you care? It scares some folks. Others look for soap that has it in the name ("Grandma's Lye Soap). On my labels, I call it by its more specific name sodium hydroxide. Some brands leave it off the ingredients list entirely, but by law, anything labeled "soap" has to have been made with some form of lye. But anyway, is it something you've thought about? Is it a big deal to you? Are you the least bit curious about it, or is it a non-issue?

Thanks.
Steven
I wouldn't use the word lye - it makes people think of drain cleaner. Not everyone is aware that ALL soap is made from fat (vegetable and/or animal) + a strong alkaline solution (like lye). I wouldn't use the word sodium hydroxide either - it sounds too chemical.

I've seen some soap brands that just say "saponified oil". This is an accurate descriptor, and it sounds nicer.

.

.
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_________

Specific recommendations for a healthy diet include: eating more fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains; cutting down on salt, sugar and fats. It is also advisable to choose unsaturated fats, instead of saturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids."
- United Nations' World Health Organization
http://www.who.int/topics/diet/en/

Last edited by David3; 05-28-2016 at 08:26 PM.
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#29 Old 05-28-2016, 05:34 PM
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Hi, David3.

Wow. I had heard of Kirk's before, but I guess I'd never paid attention. It doesn't seem to be of the quality I produce, but if you're just looking for a vegan soap that gets the job done for very little money, it's a good option. So that would be a different market I guess. I would need a demographic that's willing to pay extra for handmade soap made with more skin-friendly ingredients.

As for different ways of listing "lye" in the ingredients, I definitely don't say "lye" anywhere on the package. The reason I don't use that word is because it's not precise. "Lye" can mean multiple things. "Sodium Hydroxide" is specifically what I use, so that's what I put on the label. It's true that some people instead list "saponified oils." As you indicated, that's just way to hide the fact that you use an ingredient that sometimes scares people, and again, it's too generic for my tastes. I made a decision to list exactly what I use to make the soap and not sugar-coat it. I'll lose some sales because of that, but for me, it's the morally right thing to do. I might change my mind at some point, but for now, I'm sticking to my convictions. Not to mention that I've already had a blue million labels printed up that say "Sodium Hydroxide." :-)

Thanks.
Steven
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#30 Old 05-29-2016, 11:19 AM
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Ok, as this thread is winding down, it's time to make draw some conclusions. Here's generally what I've learned from you all:

1) No animal ingredients - That's huge.
2) No palm oil - That's preferred, but not generally worth paying extra for.
3) Smells nice - That's really important. All ethical issues aside, at the end of the day, you still want something that's a joy to use.
4) Good on your skin - Meaning that it won't dry out or irritate your skin.
5) Lather - Gotta have a great lather.
6) Handmade - Most vegans could do with or without it being handmade. Not worth paying extra for.
7) Price - Between $2.00 and $4.00. If it's approaching $4.00 per bar, people would generally just buy Bronner's.
8) Lye - Lye has a bad reputation for our childhoods. That reputation is still in place, and being honest about its use requires sensitivity and thought.
9) Selection - There's a ton of selection out there for vegans, especially if they don't mind palm oil and machine-made soaps.

If I've missed any critical elements, please let me know. I just can't thank you all enough for coming to this thread and commenting. You helped me with no thought of getting anything in return. The information you've given me is really important to my business. Thank you so much, and please send me a message if I can ever return the favor.

Steven
LedBoots and Symondezyn like this.

Last edited by NewAtThis; 05-29-2016 at 11:22 AM.
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