Lynn Dellapasta, president of Gabriel Skin Care Distributors, went sailing with her brother in Florida, and was surprised to learn that saltwater sailors typically lather up with dishwashing liquid. She went home to Ohio and gave her chemist the assignment of making a liquid saltwater soap that would be biodegradable, concentrated, and much easier on the skin than dishwashing liquid. The concoction they produced is called Sailor Soap. Its ingredients are water, ammonium lauryl sulfate, cocamidopropyl betaine, tea lauryl sulfate, aloe vera gel, tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, ginseng glycerine extract, chlorophyllin copper complex, corbomer, imidazolidinyl urea, and DMDM hydantoin.
Lynn Dellapasta's promotional literature doesn't mention which dishwashing liquid she’s trying to displace, but it had to be Joy, right? At least that's the stuff every sailor we know seems to use.
We went to Joy's website and tried to find the ingredients of that venerable brand. The closest we could come was the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all of the chemicals used in Proctor & Gamble’s "Dish Care" line. You can settle back with that data any time you need a good snooze.
We (along with the editors of most sailing and boating magazines, probably) were sent samples of Sailor Soap, and over the summer tried it several times in salt water along with four other volunteers. In our last evaluation, with three people washing, we all tried Joy on half of our bodies, hair on down, then rinsed and tried Sailor Soap on the other half. (Charlie, one of the volunteers, has hair widely separated by skin in the middle of his head. This "extra-wide part" assured that there would be no mixing of Sailor Soap and Joy on at least one pate.)
We used about a teaspoonful of each soap for the hair, and another teaspoonful for the rest of the body, and came to unanimous conclusions.
First, both soaps lathered pretty well in salt water. Second, both were difficult to rinse off, despite lots of underwater scrubbing and gyrating, leaving that familiar "greasy" feeling on both skin and hair. When the body dries, the greasy feeling dissipates and you feel clean, but never really "squeaky" clean. That requires a freshwater rinse.
Third, the Sailor Soap rinsed off the skin and out of the hair marginally better on all three testers. This is to say there was a noticeable but not marked difference. Charlie was able to raise a second lather on the skin on the Joy side after what he thought was a thorough rinse. Fourth, Sailor Soap has a great, bracing smell. Obviously this beauty is in the nose of the inhaler, but we all liked it.
In fresh water only, Sailor Soap works as well as any liquid soap, and it gives a good tingle to the face. You can shave, shampoo, and body-wash with it.
There's a rub: We bought 12.6 ounces of Joy (Lemon Scent, not the antibacterial kind) for $1.50. That's about 12 cents per ounce. A 9-ounce container of Sailor Soap costs $9.95. That's $1.10 per ounce. Plus, you can wash both dishes and people with Joy, thus saving container space.
On balance, we found Sailor Soap slightly better than Joy in the mechanics of saltwater bathing, probably better for the skin in the long term, much better smelling, and much higher-priced. We don't think we could bring ourselves to buy it habitually, especially considering the infrequent necessity of washing in salt water only. (Of all the bad things we subject ourselves to, a little Joy on the skin ain't the one that will kill us.) Still, Sailor Soap does have the wonderful smell, and it would be a nice treat to get or give as a gift. Maybe Santa could drop a bottle into the old stocking…