In my little retail shop that’s packed with hundreds of US-made items spanning a variety of categories, I never would have guessed soap – “Just Soap” – would be my #1 best-selling product. The soap’s natural eye- and nose-appeal is hard to resist, but it’s the ingenious use of a bicycle in the soap-making process that really sells these “pedal powered” bars.
OK, so what does a bicycle have to do with Just Soap? If you’ve ever attempted to make soap from scratch, you know your arms could fall off from all the stirring required to transform liquid ingredients into a semi-solid state that will eventually turn into hardened soap.
Fred Breeden, Just Soap’s founder – a bicycling enthusiast and environmentalist – dreamed up a more efficient and eco-friendly method of mixing the soap. Like most cyclers, Fred’s legs are much stronger than his arms, so it made sense to put this physical advantage to work in the soap-making process. He shared his idea with a custom bicycle builder, and the result is the one-of-a-kind pedal-powered soap blender shown in the photo here.
Here’s how it works: The bicycle drives a belt that turns a blade in a large stainless steel vat, where only the purest ingredients are stirred together. Because he uses strictly organic olive, coconut, and palm oils, each batch takes over 3 hours to saponify (versus non-organic oils that take only 30 minutes to an hour to saponify). Fred says the pedaling is effortless at the start, but the last twenty minutes is a real workout when the magic of soap making begins and the mixture starts to thicken.
The next step is to pour the batch into wooden frames to set. A few days later, the solidified soap is cut into bars using a wooden press. The soap is then cured for over two months to create long-lasting bars.
Fred’s bicycle blender enables him to produce larger batches of handmade soap. Higher volume production and Yankee frugality allow him to offer a handcrafted (or should I say “foot-crafted”) product at a reasonable price, so you can afford to use this certified organic soap every day.
As you might expect with a name like Just Soap, it’s a pure and simple product that will leave you feeling good about feeling clean. Every bar is all natural, refreshing and moisturizing, biodegradable, cruelty-free, and minimally packaged.
Each batch is crafted using the traditional cold-batch process. This method preserves the nutritive benefits of the oils and retains the natural glycerin to create a rich, gentle lather. Fred never uses synthetic perfumes or chemical hardeners (commonly found in commercially produced soaps) that can dry and irritate skin.
Once you start using Just Soap, it becomes habit forming. Personally, I like a robust fragrance to kick start my morning shower; the Lemongrass Ginger and Cinnamon Clove are two of my favorites. Surprisingly, all the scents sell equally well in my store.
With my follicly-challenged scalp, I’m probably not the best testimonial for the Rosemary Shampoo Bars, but I’ve made the switch from chemical concoctions in plastic bottles. Both formulations (normal-to-dry or normal-to-oily) lather nicely and rinse thoroughly, leaving your hair looking and feeling great – without conditioning. (Tip: Their compact size, non-liquid nature, and eco-friendly ingredients make shampoo bars ideal to take when you’re traveling or camping.)
A few more good things to know about Just Soap:
- To make your soaps last longer, allow the bars to remain dry between uses. A well draining soap dish and alternating bars work the best.
- Before use, store soaps in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight and humidity.
- Because these products are all natural, slight variations in color and scent are normal.
- Note: Certain essential oils may be irritating to people with sensitive skin and allergies. Discontinue use if you experience any irritation. As with all soaps, avoid contact with eyes.
Founder and Proprietor, New England Everyday Goods & Farm Market, Jaffrey, NH.
Just a stone’s throw down the road from The Old Farmer’s Almanac headquarters, Jim and his wife Susan operate a sprawling retail store that specializes in useful and unusual products with interesting stories behind them.