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Know It All: About the Label

If you are new to Wildly American, welcome!  If you have been with us since 2011, thank you for your support.  This blog is our chance to explain more about the how and why behind our products.  Let’s get right into it and start with organic and natural soap claims. 

First off, YES! We make our soap by hand, from scratch in Richmond, Virginia.  We combine lye with vegetable fats, a process called saponification.  This is the foundation of our soap.  Next, we add ingredients like activated charcoal, cruelty free silk, wild honey, and many other well researched and carefully sourced ingredients depending on the specific batch.  Now, before you freak out about lye, this is the only way to make soap. All the lye is chemically converted in the process leaving no trace behind in the final product.  It’s not a solution like salt water where you could separate the salt from the water, it’s an entirely new thing.  (Go back in time to high school chem class if you doubt me).  That said...is it natural?  Mostly.  

Any soap maker who says they make 100% natural soap, giving them the benefit of the doubt, is misinformed.  All lye is manufactured.  Man-made.  Ours is food grade.  So yes, it may seem like a scary chemical, but it’s used to make pretzels, olives and other foods we eat every day.  It’s also widely used in the cosmetic industry to adjust PH and even to preserve. Lye is allowed for organic production and peeling of certain fruits with a special exemption, but that special allowance doesn’t extend to soap labeling.  

Is it fair that some soap makers market their products as natural? There is no regulation of the word “natural” in our industry so you can decide for yourself.  I like to have conversations.  I like to share what I know and allow people to make their own informed choice.  I am not chasing a sale, but I am chasing converts.  I want thinkers to try my products, love them, and share them with their families and friends.  The only way for my business to thrive is if you know why it’s so important to use Wildly American products.

Seen a soap labeled organic?  Well, lye is not organic, it is manufactured, and to make soap lye is used at a high enough percentage that it disqualifies soap from being labeled as organic by the USDA.  You CAN label your soap as MADE with organic ingredients if you are using 70% or more organic oils (there are rules to this, so additional certification may be required), or you can just label which oils are organic in the ingredient listing on the back of your soap.   There are different rules for Europe, we are just talking about American brands here. 

How do I know this?  After I did my research, I had meetings with the USDA and other food label certification programs to see if soap could be labeled in the way food is.  Like I said, I am using food grade lye and organic oils where it makes sense so I wanted to know if the investment to have my soap labeled and certified was worth the added costs and time.  The bottom line of our conversations was that no soap could be labeled as organic and to try would equate to green-washing the label.  It’s a pet peeve of most USDA inspectors, but they are not just regulating our industry, they are primarily intended to certify food ingredients, handling, and the land the food is grown on.  The staff just doesn’t exist to police it all.

Here is where I say to get to know the people that grow your food, farm your animals and yes, make your soap and ask them all questions.  I am shocked at the number of soapers who claim it’s a grey area, it really isn’t.  The USDA and the FDA are very clear on the issue.  The USDA has guidelines we can’t meet, and the FDA does not require soap to be labeled.  Not required means no one is checking and so people take advantage. Diluting a label out of ignorance or by accident or with the intent to misrepresent all puts our food system at risk.  If food is to be our medicine, then ingredients, process and supply chain needs to be built with integrity, understanding and full disclosure. 

Now wash your hands!

P.S. If you have a question or want a topic covered please email us at knowitall@wildlyamerican.com.  If we cover your suggestion, we will send you a free 5 for $25.00 sample pack!

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