Saturday, April 04, 2009

Product Review: Dr. Bronner's Soap

Recently I have joined a sort of hippy elite. I became a user of Dr. Bronner's Soap. I've been searching for a less toxic soap for awhile, as evidenced by my review of Method Hand Wash almost a year ago. In the interim I made a desperate choice that reignited my motivation. I bought grocery store generic, anti-bacterial soap in a large refill bottle. In fact, they were two for the price of one, so I bought two. It smells STRONGLY of bleach and will strip the moisture from your hands turning you from smooth as a baby's bottom to see ya' later alligator in no time at all. In fact, when we had an ant infestation in our bathroom, I grabbed the nearest cleaning supply I had on hand--this toxic soap--and literally squirting this stuff over an inch away from the ants killed them immediately and we have not had a single ant in the house since. I'm pretty sure it is weaponized bleach.

I had heard good things about Dr. Bronner's and noted it's very good rating at the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. But I was concerned about the cost. At Dr. Bronner's website you can get a gallon of peppermint scented for $52.49 ($0.41/fl. oz.) plus shipping and handling. Henry's charges $9.79 for a 16 fl. oz. bottle ($0.61/fl. oz.) and $14.49 for a 32 fl. oz. bottle ($0.45/fl. oz.). Trader Joe's only carries the 32 fl. oz. bottle and only in peppermint, but they more than make up for their lack of selection with their rockstar price: $8.99. ($0.28/fl. oz.). [Trader Joe's also carries their own brand of peppermint pure castille liquid soap, only in 16 oz. bottles for $3.49 (the lowest price of all: $0.22/fl. oz.).]

So when I used up the last of the weaponized bleach hand soap, I bought a 32 fl. oz. bottle of Dr. Bronner's Magic 18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint Pure Castille (liquid) Soap Made with Organic Oils at Trader Joe's. I filled our soap dispenser and have been in love ever since. Others have noted that optimally you would dilute the soap and run in through a foaming soap dispenser to avoid the solidification and concomitant clogging (read further for a link). But I thought I'd just give it a try in the smallest soap dispenser before I ran off and invested money in foaming soap dispensers. It has a low viscosity, which causes it to shoot out of the dispenser without mercy. But this also allows you to lather up your hands without water. It also rinses cleaner than any soap I or David have ever used. You get no sense that there is a residue on your hands once you've washed them. But it also doesn't strip your skin of moisture like other soap. I've used it to wash my face and it is effective even on my insane sunblock. The peppermint makes it very refreshing after a hot day outside. The only downside is that it is, as my loving husband so eloquently put it, "urine-colored." So our clear soap dispenser is slightly less attractive if you're into clear soap . . . which I think smacks of racism, but that's just me. I'm a hippy. You can tell because I use Dr. Bronner's.

A few other random thoughts on Dr. Bronner's:

As I mentioned many moons ago, Ask Metafilter's post describing Uses for Dr Bronner Soap [WARNING: RAGING hippies responded with some VERY personal uses for this product which may induce nausea and Republican sympathies in MANY readers]. It answered my question: can I use Dr. Bronner as a hand soap? Answer: Yes, diluted with water and in one of those foaming soap dispensers. Now I just have to wait for someone to ask, "Now that I use only foaming soap dispensers, what do I do with my three non-foaming soap dispensers?"

Ask Metafilter has also answered the key buying bulk Bronner's question: Will Dr. Bronner stay good for the rest of my life? Short answer: quite probably.

How many soaps can claim to have spawned a movie? Dr. Bronner's can: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox by Sara Lamm. Gristmill has a nice review of the film.

Dr. Bronner's Peppermint get's a 9 out of 10 on Good Guide.

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Rebecca said...

I wash my hands fairly often, especially when I'm doing a lot of cooking. But, even given that, I don't think my total soap exposure is ever more than a couple of minutes a day. Should I be worried about toxic soap? Or is it more that I should be worried about toxic soap's impact on the environment? I have been buying Method, but perhaps I should reconsider? Too many product options...

Sarah said...

Some would argue, particularly with anti-bacterial soaps, that the soap remains on you hands after rinsing, so what you think of as a brief soap exposure is actually repeated layers of soap exposure. Also, how much of that soap residue is getting into the food you're cooking? So if you want to get paranoid about everything that touches your skin throughout the day, there's lots of data to support that paranoia.

A more obvious risk is the cumulative effect soap has on the environment. Surfactants and other chemicals washed down your drains end up in the environment and, perhaps most problematic, do not degrade. For example, recent studies suggest two chemicals commonly used in anti-bacterial soaps—triclosan and triclocarban—disrupt proper endocrine function. When the chemicals land in large concentrations in areas where wastewater is discharged and stay there over time, they have ample opportunity to disturb fragile ecosystems. Organisms living in this water experience multi-generational, life-time exposures to these chemicals.

Mind you, Method Hand Wash doesn't contain triclosan or triclocarban.

The other big toxic soap headline is phosphates in soap causing algal blooms. Totally true, totally unrelated to hand soap. Dish soap and laundry soap are the primary phosphate offenders.

Rebecca said...

Ack! More stuff to be paranoid about. Maybe I should just cut out the hand washing :)

I need to make a run to Trader Joe's soon. I'll have to check out the soap situation...

Thalia said...

I have been happy with my facial cleanser (e.g. liquid face soap) for a while, but I've been noticing that my eyes get somewhat irritated (which makes the rest of me irritated). I cut out all makeup for a number of weeks now (not that I layer it on, but I used to wear mascara and eyeshadow to work), and still, irritation.

So I've ordered some Dr. Bronner's to try out. I wonder if it's those darn parabens.

And I am a big fan of Ecos laundry detergent (lavender scent for me), which is very concentrated, good for HE machines (not that we have one), and I believe is low on phosphates (I'll have to check).

I always find it weird to go wash my clothes and face with petroleum-based products. Or wearing nylon or polyester - dude, I'm wearing dead dinosaurs.