Bar soap is as old as the stars. Well, okay, it’s not that old, but the oldest recorded recipe for soap dates back 5,000 years. Soap was invented as an accidental byproduct from cooking over fire. It wasn’t until the late 19th century, however, that entrepreneurs began to actively market “soap” as a necessary product for health and hygiene. At some point in the golden era of liquid body washes, the culture at large turned away from bar soap in favor of pre-liquified detergents (not real soap, actually). According to legend, some marketers decided that bar soap held onto germs from hands (it doesn’t) and bar soap (the by-far more eco-friendly and effective option) lost ground in the popular opinion.
Our own soap origin story is slightly more recent but perhaps no less cosmic. It dates back to the early-ish part of the 2000's, and involves a gift and a grandmother.
Meow Meow Tweet as a company was born not long after Tara and Jeff received a gift of handmade soap from Tara’s beloved grandmother. The pair were curious to understand why the handmade version of something as ubiquitous (and let’s face it, unglamorous) as a bar of soap could suddenly, when crafted with care, take on elements of the divine.
They started making their own soap in their Brooklyn apartment, and realized that a slow food approach was key—culinary ingredients, aromatherapeutic combinations, and vegan plant fats could transform soap into something entirely unrecognizable from that bar of white synthetic stuff commonly found in grocery store aisles. Soap could be transportive and beautiful and poetic—and it was also essential.
We discovered in 2020 when the world was at a pandemic standstill that one critical thing that every human on earth needed to stay safe was soap (and water to wash with). (Masks would later prove invaluable and fomites would later prove to be less of an issue than aerosol germs, but at first, the only thing health officials could agree on was… soap.)
At the start of the pandemic, Tara and Jeff would go to their empty studio with little more than their hands and they would make soap, trying to keep up with orders and keep the lights on. They sent me boxes of soaps that felt like first-aid kits. We needed soap to stay safe.
Soap took on new importance to us all over the past two years. It is a product of human ingenuity dating to ancient civilizations. It is beautiful and luxurious. It is also potentially life-saving.
If you’re Tara, when you look at a bar of soap, you might also see an enduring gift left behind from your grandmother, a person whose love was pure and unconstrained—the gift of a business, a vocation, a livelihood. And a way to help others.
Here are five more reasons we’re obsessed with bar soap.
Effective & Hygienic
Bar soap is REAL soap. The FDA makes sure that soaps that are not actually soap (which is the result of a process called saponification) can not use the label “soap.” So, if you see a designation such as “wash” or “beauty bar,” read between the lines and understand that what they are not saying is important. Soap works by creating a slippery layer when mixed with water that then carries the dirt and germs down the drain. It bonds with them, then removes them, which is why it has been cited as more effective than gel hand sanitizers.
Plastic body wash bottles are forever (not in a romantic way). They will outlive you and your grandchildren and their microplastics will clog oceans and human bodies until the end of time. Bar soap, on the other hand, is delightfully plastic-free! All it needs is a little biodegradable paper around it, and it can be shipped to you without incident. You add all the liquid (the water) yourself at the sink or in the shower.
Lightweight & Travel-Friendly
Because it is solid, bar soap will happily travel in your carry-on. When you need to bring it home, just wrap it in a thin cloth (a pair of dirty underwear works) for easy and drip-free transport. The fact that it is lightweight and contains no liquid also means that it ships to your home with less C02 than heavy liquid soaps and washes.
One bar cleans your face, hands, body, and hair. We have formulated certain bars for certain parts, tweaking plant combos and scent combos to get specific results,, but in a pinch, any bar can work. Just be careful around the eyes if you’re washing your face with bar soap. Our bar soaps can also be used for washing clothes, dishes, and cleaning surfaces.
These bars are multipurpose, but the best thing to do with them is to take one entire bar into the shower and rub it directly onto your body. All over. Many of our bars contain exfoliating ingredients, some hefty and some light. When you rub the bar directly onto your body, you get all of the benefits of those exfoliating, circulation-boosting ingredients like poppy seeds or crushed rose petals—no washcloth or plastic shower poof needed.
Each one of our bar soaps is aromatherapeutic—using healing combinations of pure essential oils—so you can pick a soap not only on what you want for your skin, but also based on how you want to feel, mentally and spiritually.
Soaps Of Yore
In honor of the ancient wisdom of bar soap (and the holidays!), we’re reissuing three of our original handmade soaps. These three fan favorites are back until we sell out! Coffee Cardamom Body Scrub Bar, Black Walnut Vetiver Body Scrub Bar, Violet Leaf Pinyon All Over Soap.
I hope the simple beauty of bar soaps makes it into your homes and hearts this year. And, thank you, grandma.
Written by Vera Kachouh, my friend of 20 years, who knows just how very much my grandmother meant to me.