Image by theguardian.com
Named after the medieval Spanish city of Castile, this kind of soap was the first widespread cleanser for people, who before this were famously dirty, as well as diseased. It is made quite simply by mixing olive oil with lye, a naturally occurring caustic agent, which splits the oil into castile soap and glycerin, in a process called saponification. No lye remains in the final product. Castile soap can include other oils that form bubbles a bit more easily than just olive oil, but we’ve found the best results for foaming come from using a self-foaming bottle.
If your soap is foaming up easily by itself, it most likely contains an industrial detergent (surfactant) like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Now, unlike some other alarmists in the natural/organic/wildcrafted/back to nature community, we don’t maintain that SLS will cause cancer, but it was developed for heavy duty use and does tend to irritate and dry out the skin. Surfactants are excellent for completely suspending oils so they can be rinsed away. But our skin actually functions much better when it’s properly moisturized by our own oil supply (called sebum). If we continually strip all our oils, we confuse our oil glands into over-production (happens with great frequency with our faces and hair oil glands), or fail to be able to maintain healthy skin (which happens often to our hands, which have fewer oil glands). Ever noticed how dry and cracked your hands become in the winter? Or how you can end up with flakey skin that’s somehow also oily? Your soap may be the culprit.
We wrote about why we don’t use anti-bacterial soap, but what do we add to our pure olive castile soap to help with nasty germs? Traditional flora and fauna of course! Sweet orange (antiseptic), eucalyptus (traditional disinfectant), rosemary (antibacterial), cedar (antifungal), lavender (insecticide), lemon (antibacterial), and tea tree essential oils (antiviral) make a hearty germ-fighting team. And happen to smell heavenly as well.
In case you were wondering about the proper technique for washing your hands, here’s Emma’s take. And for a few recipes to make your own home cleansing products without any artificial chemicals – these really WORK – check out our Clean & Green Collection recipes. And it’s all available in our shop here. Happy cleaning!