Sunday, May 12, 2013

Saponification Sunday...Organic Soap true or false?

Simple Non-Organic Rosemary Soap made with Rosemary Essential Oil and
 ground Rosemary Powder. Thus the oh-so-creative-name

Because we are certified organic dairy beef and pork farmers I 've been thinking about having some of our other products certified organic as well, like my soap.

After all how hard could it be ?  I've certainly seen enough bars out there labeled "organic." So I did a bit of research and  turns out there is a bit of fraud going on out there in the soap world. Sadly where there is money involved fraud often follows or in many cases...leads.

First a refresher on the National Organic Program requirements as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture. To have your soap CERTIFIED organic (lots of paperwork, plus fees, plus an inspection) at least 95% of your soap ingredients must be certified organic themselves.

Since all real soap is made with lye and lye cannot be certified organic, (unless you make your own) your lye percentage must be 5% or less of all your other ingredients combined. This can be done but it nearly impossible sine the average soap recipe contains approximately 10% lye.   To use 5% or less lye you need to be adding more base oils than normal which means your soaps runs the risk of being quite soft (or not saponifying at all) and taking extended cure time before ready for use.

But that does not stop a very tiny number of folks from labeling their soaps incorrectly, and you should know...illegally. Most of the soap I've seen labeled as organic have been found on ETSY. If you search for  "organic soap" you'll get 10,052 responses. (As of 2100 hrs tonight) Wow. But with a bit of investigation one quickly realizes that organic means very different things to many different people.

One woman described her soap as having  "certified organic content" but when you read the list of ingredients for her soap (10 total) there was just one base oil that was certified organic.

So, I took it the next step and did a search within ETSY for "Certified organic soap" which narrowed the responses considerable, down to 121. Reading those definitions was even more entertaining. One woman was selling her goat milk soap as organic but in her description she did not have one certified organic ingredient, stating instead that her goats grazed on "certified organic pasture." Well, that's nice but what about the grain they are fed? The base oils in her soap? The colorants? The essential oils for scenting?

The best definition of organic soap came from a woman who described her soap this way " Fairy Soap in preparation for rituals involving psychic powers, visioning, conjuring spirits, hedge crossing, faery magic, protection from bewitchment and hexes. Magically charged with certified organic wormwood." Hmmm, how indeed does one magically charge their soap with wormwood, an herb known for it's positive effects in adding digestion.?

A 5 oz bar was just $9.95. Plus shipping. Quite a good deal if indeed it will help me with crossing hedges. I'm always getting tangled up in those things.

My bottom line, which never really changes, is this...make your soap however you wish. Sprinkle it with ground silver, eyes of newt, ear of Fred, tongue of George. Color it with crayons, mica's, clay powder, last nights beer. Scent it with Glade, Pledge Lemon Oil, or $120 oz Chamomile oil but please don't call it "organic" unless it has 70% organic material, don't call it "certified organic" unless it has 95% of its' ingredients certified and it carries the USDA Organic Label and don't tell me it will protect me from Bewitchment unless your name is Endora and your best buddies are flying monkeys.

On a serious note. If you make genuine Certified Organic Soap I would love to ear from you. Who is your certifying agency? What was the initial inspection like? Annual inspections any easier? Was the process worth it in regards to soap sales? Do you charge more for your soap to compensate for the certification process? Just email me at  Thanks in advance.


  1. ROFL! I seriously love your blog! I often find myself answering questions along these lines about my soap...and it KILLS me in a special way...sadly my soap cannot assist in crossing any hedges either!

  2. Maybe you should call them 'As close to Organic as can be honestly claimed'. This way you avoid all the paperwork, fees, etc; and would be telling the truth, which so many don't.

  3. p.s. Do have a butchers at my today's blog!

  4. Nada. I enjoy reading folks soap labels very much. Most are honest. Some stretch the truth while others are just plain nuts. I enjoy reading those the most!

  5. Cro. Your suggestion sounds perfect . Or maybe I could say. "Organic Smorganic, at least it cleans" And thanks so much for the shout out on your blog. I just wish ONCE that one of my traveling soaps would send me a postcard.

  6. I think you can call it something like "90% certified organic--any more and I'd be lyeing" and you can explain that all by the lye in your ingredient list are certified organic (if that be true).

    I thought of using the wood ash from the stove to make my own lye, but i should think it would be too hard to make consistent lye. Heck i haven't even done the pour and mold soap!

  7. Megan...LOVE THAT! you made me smile big time. Now about that organic lye ash. I'll need organic dirt, organic tree, organic matches to start the fire...oh the complexities of life!

  8. Hi Donna, The main organization for "organic" certification here in Europe is called Ecocert. They don't require 95% certified organic ingredients. I still haven't begun the process yet because I can't believe it really... if I am undestanding correctly to get the organic and natural certification you need 95% of all ingredients to be plant-based and 10% from organic farming? I can't believe it is only 10%. I am still waiting for response to my emails requesting further info from them. For now, how do I go about things? I have a little stamp on all of my soap bags that says "made with organic extra-virgen olive oil". Love your blog Donna! xo Jen

  9. Not related to soap or organic anything, but this reminds me of dog breeders who list puppies as "from champion bloodlines". Really? One champion in an 8 generation pedigree makes your litter "champion bloodline" material? I've not read any soap labels, but I have read plenty of puppy ads! Just as funny!