Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile soap is an extremely simple soap. It is my grandfather’s original, and if you have only heard of one Dr. Bronner’s product, it’s probably the castile soap and probably the peppermint. Its method of reacting oils with a strong alkali is millenia old; someone from the middle ages looking at our soap-making process would understand exactly what we are doing. The art of creating the perfect castile soap, though, lies in the choice and balance of oils as well as other processing methods. When you have the perfect castile soap, it is the most versatile cleaning agent possible. If you had to choose only one cleaning product for every aspect of your life, Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile soap is it. However, through the years, we have repeatedly heard a few requests:
- “It would be nice if the castile were thicker.”
- “It would be nice if it were more moisturizing.”
- “It would be nice if it worked in a pump.”
- “It would be nice if it were USDA certified organic.”*
Enter the pump soaps.
The Fair Trade & Organic Pump soap is based on the Pure Castile soap but the addition of a few ingredients makes all four of these desires a reality.
The pump soap drops the water from the castile soap and adds Organic White Grape Juice, Organic Sucrose, and Organic Shikakai Powder. Here’s how each benefits:
Organic White Grape Juice:
- Acts as a humectant, which is something that helps the skin retain its natural moisture
- Also a humectant (which is why sugar scrubs are so popular for the body)
- Caramelized sucrose keeps the soap from coagulating and clogging the pumps
Organic Shikakai Powder
- Conditions Skin and Hair as it cleanses – Shikakai is derived from a south Asian tree, the acacia concinna, and has long been used in traditional Indian body care as a moisturizing skin and body cleanser
- Thickening agent
Why use one soap over the other?
Personal Care – The pump soap is more moisturizing and works in a traditional pump dispenser. Other than that, it is mostly a matter of personal preference. The two soaps feel different. They smell different. They react differently on different skin types. If you are in love with the Pure Castile soaps, chances are, you are not going to like the pumps. If you’ve turned away from the Pure Castile because of dryness or intensity, the pumps are your answer.
House cleaning – The Pure Castile soap is the only way to go. Your household surfaces do not need to be moisturized (for the most part), and the ingredients that provide the moisturizing afterfeel on your skin make it a little more difficult to rinse off of hard surfaces. Also, the very slight graininess of the Shikakai powder (kind of like cinnamon) might clog spray bottles.
A final note:
There is no difference in the formulation of the two sizes of pumps. The 12 oz. is more conducive to sink-side, hand-washing use, and the 24 oz. lends more towards in-shower, whole-body washing. There is also a refill half gallon size.
*A few questions that might come to mind:
Why doesn’t the Pure Castile soap have the USDA organic seal?
In order for a product to qualify for the USDA organic seal, it must be made with 95% organic materials. However, for our castile soap making process to work correctly, we must add over 7% of the alkali (sodium or potassium hydroxide) to the oil blend. Also bear in mind that substances such as water, salt, and hydroxides are all by nature inorganic, which means they do not come from a plant source. Therefore, the term “organic” can never apply to them. The water content in the Pure Castile soap is not included in the organic percentage calculation. The Pure Castile soap does carry the label “Made with Organic Oils”. However, the Fair Trade & Organic Pump Soap does not use water, but rather organic white grape juice, for the reasons mentioned above. The organic white grape juice does count in the organic calculation and brings the pump soaps above the 95% threshold.
Why not replace water with white grape juice in the pure castile soap?
The beauty of the castile soap is its simplicity. And it is this very simplicity that makes the pure castile soap so very versatile. Once we start fancifying it with anything, the soap will lose some of its attractiveness as well as its usefulness.