Here is our award entry:
Manufacturing 100% British Hemp Oil Soap for Washing, Shaving or Cleaning. Our Norwich Eco Award Entry 2012
The Historical Background of British Soap Manufacture
At Natural Spa Supplies Ltd, the founder, Sally Mittuch uses her background in archaeology and anthropology to research and provide the simplest and most natural washing and cleaning products for her customers. For example our company sources, researches and sells clay for washing the hair, face and body, volcanically formed alum deodorant and soapnuts. Sally was only too eager to find a completely natural soap which could tackle the most dreaded of cleaning tasks.
Plant oil soaps were made in Britain between the 12th and the 19th century, until the advent of cheaper commercial soaps and the subsequent specialization of the soap industry. Now we can find a specialized soap for everything, from cleaning floors, carpets, hobs, the oven, to stain removers plus all manner of shaving and washing preparations – and most people have cupboards full of different soaps. Many of these soaps are made from petro-chemicals which are slow to biodegrade and must often be used with rubber gloves and ventilation.
However, in the olden days, two types soap did everything! One type of soap was made from plants such as soapwort, chestnuts or fern roots and another type of soap was made over a campfire from plant oil and lye. Hemp oil or flax seed oil were the typical native oils used. We supply soapnuts (an alternative to soapwort), but we recognise that they have their limits.
The other type of soap, made from plant oils, is a very powerful cleaning agent and so far I have uncovered some 1200 different uses, not all for cleaning! Now that the hemp plant is grown commercially in Britain, it seemed a shame not to bring this ancient soap back into existence.
The Development of Traditional Hemp Oil Soap
Although there is no written recipe to follow, and all contemporary soap makers use other plant oils which are easier to work with, hemp oil soap making experiments began last year. We will admit that we did not make it over a campfire – in fact there would barely enough daylight hours – it can take between 3 hours and two days to complete a batch! It is somewhat weather dependent.
Eventually by the end of 2011, several batches of the hemp oil soap had been created and product testing began in earnest. With not a single rubber glove in sight, no rushing to open windows and with no scrubbing, every surface has given up its grime. The hemp oil soap completed the equation of natural cleaning without causing pollution and now with hemp oil soap and soapnuts we need no other cleaning products. Cleaning is now – safe, satisfying, easy and fun, but most of all, it has been wonderful to reduce the reliance on petro chemicals and to align with the objectives of Transition Norwich.
Providing Hemp Oil Soap
The product was ‘soft launched’ on the company website, http://naturalspasupplies.co.uk in November and since then, customers have been eager to share their experiences of shaving, washing gardeners’ hands and nails, rescuing stained jumpers, cleaning pet food bowls, neglected carpets, long abused floor tiles, wheel hubs, dogs, get rid of aphids and almost anything else within their reach.
As the product gains more popularity, Natural Spa Supplies hopes to be able to invest in specialist soap making equipment to make larger batches and aims to lower the product cost to consumers. Even at this very small scale it is wonderful to be able to make a 100% British product and to discover, almost on a daily basis, new applications.
The Ecological Advantages of Hemp Oil Soap
- 100% British ingredients and small-scale soap manufacture in Norwich giving low transport miles
- Hemp crops require no chemical intervention, they are naturally resistant to pests and do not need fertilizers. They help to retain good quality, ‘living’ soils
- Our hemp oil soap is manufactured and kept in the concentrated form, reducing packaging materials and onward transport costs
- Hemp oil soap is very versatile, replacing many specialized cleaners, cutting down on the number of products required for cleaning, reducing storage areas in the home or business, or even cutting out chemical cleaners entirely.
- Natural soaps readily biodegrade, reducing water and land pollution
- Plant oil soaps are safe for use in septic tanks, reed bed systems and grey water systems
- Plant oil soaps can be used by most people without using rubber gloves, again reducing the reliance on ancillary goods
The Future of Hemp Oil Soap
Research and Educate Natural Spa Supplies has not tried all of the 1200 uses researched. For example, the company does not own a goat so we can not test it as udder wash, and we don’t need to launch the Titanic, where 39 tonnes of a mixture of soft soap, grease and oil was used! We rely on own experiments and customer feedback to verify how it works and how best to use it. Gradually, tested uses are written up on the website.
While very few members of the general pubic have any in depth knowledge of the ins and outs of soap; we have found that the public do readily take to using hemp oil soap and they are very keen to get their hands in it! Although our marketing budget is small, we need to increase public awareness and we are planning to do a series of exhibitions and talks over the year in East Anglia including Lord Mayor’s Festival in Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich in July and Penthorpe Wildfowl Centre’s Historical weekends on May Bank Holiday and August Bank Holiday. Other marketing methods include making the most of the internet to drive traffic to our website and working more closely with the Norwich Transition group. We are always open to new ideas!
Long Term Aims
Although we love all the products we have sourced equally, ultimately, this product could be the most important product in this business and secure the major part of the business development and expansion. The recognition that Natural Spa Supplies has taken part in the Eco Awards or has been nominated an Eco Hero will create a wholly appropriate platform to extend our launch. We are grateful for the opportunity to participate.
We Have Been Commended for Norwich Eco Small Business Awards 2012!
We were presented with our Eco Award certificate on 01.03.12 by the Lord Mayor of Norwich!