2:5:12 Kirk's Castile Soap

When Kirk's Castile Soap was first made in the United States, Abraham Lincoln was a 30-year-old state legislator in Illinois. The brand has been with us and widely sold since 1839. I find in Kirk's a time-honored simplicity and integrity not incompatible with what we admire in our 16th president.


Is that too much to propose for a lowly bar of soap one uses to lather up in the shower? I think not. Although we live in a consumerist culture that for better or worse turns on mass communication of advertising messages that then pinions on mass retailing channels, I don't accept unblinkingly all on offer.

I dislike most body soap. For one thing, artificial fragrances I find pointless and annoying. Any fragrance in Kirk's Castile Soap is assuredly natural (much as is true of Tom's of Maine personal products, for which I'm also a fan).

Making soap is not overly difficult. I saw my maternal grandmother make soap. She collected waste fat--from cooked meat and the like--and then heated it in a tub and added lye and salt. The mixture cools and hardens. The result is soap. The hard yellow bars she cut were soap in its most elemental form.

Kirk's is obviously more refined than my grandma's homebrew soap. Based on the high fat content of coconuts, its post-soap reduction ingredients (after the cooking in alkali) are "coconut soap, water, vegetable glycerin, coconut oil, natural fragrance." I'll let the reader contrast those ingredients with more successful advert-driven offerings: Camay, Dial, Dove, and Irish Spring whose polysyllabic ingredients would surely choke my spellchecker! Even 99.4% pure Ivory has artificial fragrance (not to mention injected air that makes it floatable).

So, yes, Kirk's connects nostalgically to my grandma and her soapmaking, but it also satisfies my need for a personal product (what's more personal than lathering up your body?) not tarted up by the latest sensory-manipulative logic of International Flavors and Fragrances.

Moreover, I easily buy Kirk's at my local WinCo supermarket: $2.43 for three 4 oz. bars. Good value. Alternatives for a natural soap product are invariably more expensive. If locally sourced, vegan-friendly (as Kirk's) and artisan-crafted--up to $5 a bar! But possibly here today, gone tomorrow. You might be paying for someone's romantic vision not certain to last the 173 years of Kirk's.

For now, Kirk's gives me a cost-effective lather and skips the synthetic additives my grandmother wouldn't understand or know.

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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

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