05-11-2014, 11:05 AM
#1
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I am confused. Several authorities seem to say that potassium stearate is a key ingredient in a top shelf soap because it produces rich and stable lather. Harris is often perceived as a top shelf product, yet "Windsor" seems to be the only Harris soap with potassium stearate. Long before Windsor was created, Harris soaps were widely perceived as top shelf but their soaps did not seem to have potassium stearate (unless i am mis-reading the ingredients).

Why would that be so? Other soap "families" seem to be consistent among the ingredients in their various soaps (except for the fragrance, of course).

I would appreciate any perspectives and opinions about this.

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 05-11-2014, 12:07 PM
#2
  • Giorgio
  • Senior Member
  • Pennsylvania, US
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Potassium hydroxide is one of lyes used in shaving soaps, the other being sodium hydroxide. Stearic Acid is a very common ingredient found in shaving soap. Potassium Stearate is simply a way of saying that the stearic acid was saponified (reacted with the lye to produce soap) with potassium hydroxide, yielding the name. If the other lye was used to react with stearic acid, you'd also see sodium stearate.

Its just an ingredient, and unfortunately the way ingredients are listed on shaving soaps can differ...so you can have the same exact ingredients displayed differently making it appear like a different product. For example: Stearic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Hydroxide. Or, simply: Sodium Stearate, Potassium Stearate.

Potassium Stearate would likely not be the "one" ingredient that makes a soap good. The truth is, it is much more complex than that and it likely has more to do with the percentage used of each ingredient along with what other ingredients there are. If you look at the ingredient list for a soap that has (total off the wall example) 80% stearic acid and 20% coconut oil, it will perform VERY differently than one that has 30% stearic acid and 70% coconut oil, yet the ingredient list will likely appear the same. To further complicate things, different manufacturers and artisans use different percentages of each lye, which again will yield different results yet the ingredient list may look the same.

I guess to summarize my lengthy and possibly confusing response, I would recommend against identifying an ingredient as the one key ingredient that makes a soap good or bad. There are a lot more factors involved, and each soap should be evaluated as a whole package (IMO).

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 05-11-2014, 11:30 PM
#3
  • Nero
  • Ban Groupthink from Earth
  • le montagne
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(05-11-2014, 12:07 PM)Giorgio Wrote: Potassium hydroxide is one of lyes used in shaving soaps, the other being sodium hydroxide. Stearic Acid is a very common ingredient found in shaving soap. Potassium Stearate is simply a way of saying that the stearic acid was saponified (reacted with the lye to produce soap) with potassium hydroxide, yielding the name. If the other lye was used to react with stearic acid, you'd also see sodium stearate.

Its just an ingredient, and unfortunately the way ingredients are listed on shaving soaps can differ...so you can have the same exact ingredients displayed differently making it appear like a different product. For example: Stearic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Hydroxide. Or, simply: Sodium Stearate, Potassium Stearate.

Potassium Stearate would likely not be the "one" ingredient that makes a soap good. The truth is, it is much more complex than that and it likely has more to do with the percentage used of each ingredient along with what other ingredients there are. If you look at the ingredient list for a soap that has (total off the wall example) 80% stearic acid and 20% coconut oil, it will perform VERY differently than one that has 30% stearic acid and 70% coconut oil, yet the ingredient list will likely appear the same. To further complicate things, different manufacturers and artisans use different percentages of each lye, which again will yield different results yet the ingredient list may look the same.

I guess to summarize my lengthy and possibly confusing response, I would recommend against identifying an ingredient as the one key ingredient that makes a soap good or bad. There are a lot more factors involved, and each soap should be evaluated as a whole package (IMO).

+1

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 05-12-2014, 07:39 AM
#4
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Very thorough explanation, Giorgio! Biggrin

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 05-12-2014, 10:05 AM
#5
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(05-11-2014, 12:07 PM)Giorgio Wrote: ....
...
I guess to summarize my lengthy and possibly confusing response, I would recommend against identifying an ingredient as the one key ingredient that makes a soap good or bad. There are a lot more factors involved, and each soap should be evaluated as a whole package (IMO).

Excellent explanation.

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 05-12-2014, 10:13 AM
#6
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I think it's the tallow in Harris that people revere.

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 05-12-2014, 10:32 AM
#7
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(05-12-2014, 10:13 AM)guildx500 Wrote: I think it's the tallow in Harris that people revere.

Yes, Sam you're right. It IS the tallow.

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 05-12-2014, 08:27 PM
#8
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If there was ONE single magic ingredient .... I would not have as many soaps as I do Smile

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 05-13-2014, 02:35 AM
#9
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(05-12-2014, 10:32 AM)slackskin Wrote:
(05-12-2014, 10:13 AM)guildx500 Wrote: I think it's the tallow in Harris that people revere.

Yes, Sam you're right. It IS the tallow.

They also revere tallow on Williams? Biggrin

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 05-13-2014, 08:42 AM
#10
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The last two comments sum it up for me. I am not one of those that thinks a soap must have tallow to be great or that all tallow soaps are good. But many do discuss it as if it's magical, and I do think that is part of the draw to Harris.

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 05-15-2014, 06:48 AM
#11
  • Crag
  • Senior Member
  • Menifee, Ca 92586
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I think that the context for what could possibly be a good soap was the first ingredient being listed as Potassium Stearate...the analogy that I read and learned to be fairly accurate was:

"Soaps with P first tend to make perfect lather...soaps with S first, tend to suck."

I know this works for soaps, but creams? Not so sure...

To support this, I have two Penhaligon's Blennheim Bouquet Shave Pucks, the first I got a few years ago and produces a very thin unremarkeable lather - first ingredient - Sodium Stearate. The second, recently acquired, makes beautiful thick creamy lather of goodness, the first ingredient...Potassium Stearate...seems good enough for me..

BTW...I have tried this 4 times, and all four "P" soaps performed beautifully.

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 05-15-2014, 02:52 PM
#12
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(05-15-2014, 06:48 AM)Crag Wrote: I think that the context for what could possibly be a good soap was the first ingredient being listed as Potassium Stearate...the analogy that I read and learned to be fairly accurate was:

"Soaps with P first tend to make perfect lather...soaps with S first, tend to suck."

I know this works for soaps, but creams? Not so sure...

To support this, I have two Penhaligon's Blennheim Bouquet Shave Pucks, the first I got a few years ago and produces a very thin unremarkeable lather - first ingredient - Sodium Stearate. The second, recently acquired, makes beautiful thick creamy lather of goodness, the first ingredient...Potassium Stearate...seems good enough for me..

BTW...I have tried this 4 times, and all four "P" soaps performed beautifully.

That is cool. So the short rule is "It it starts with letter P, then it's good for meeee.

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