Lather, Rinse, and Repeat

Lather, Rinse, and Repeat


Testers looked at how well the soaps lathered in limited amounts of water; how easily they rinsed off; and how clean and dry the skin was after washing. Four testers—with varying skin and hair types—used each soap in fresh water and salt water. The body wipe test products were used according to manufacturer directions. Testers also shampooed their hair with the soaps marketed as multi-purpose products (hair and body) in fresh and salt water.

In addition to the products’ performance, we tested each soap’s pH level using a common pH test kit. The pH value is a measurement of a substance’s acidity and alkalinity. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with pH neutral at 7. On the acidic side: Lemon juice is 2, and vinegar is 3. Distilled water is a neutral 7. Moving into the alkaline or base area, baking soda measures just above 8 and ammonia is a 12. Lye would be around 14.

Most soaps and shampoos have a pH level of 7 to 10. The stronger and harsher the soap, the higher the pH level. Human skin and hair has an average pH level of 5, so even a pH neutral 7 product may feel like it dries out the skin.

We first tested each product undiluted and then re-tested them mixed with equal amounts of tap water, which had a measured pH of 6. The results are listed in the accompanying Value Guide. The entire field showed pH values of 5 or 6, with the exception of Campsuds Concentrated (7) and both Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soaps (8), which are highly concentrated.

Testers also noted price per ounce, packaging (with a preference for soaps available in 8 ounces or more), and subjective data such as smell and texture.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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