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Ocean5: Solution to one of the open challenges

Before their Atlantic crossing email conversation

What a pleasure to receive your email – and with an solution to one of the open challenges we still have. We are reluctant to take plastic bottles of liquid soap on the boat since we are rowing to raise awareness of plastic pollution in the ocean. We have tried a number of ‘artisan’ soaps without success so far and we have been pondering on what the solution could be. We are a crew of 5 including myself and another experienced expeditioner who fully understand the restorative experience (as well as the health and fresh smell benefits 😊) of a good wash and to have soap available which will work with seawater is such a fantastic idea.

I can explain why you have no success with other bar soaps. We like all small scale producers of soap use the “cold process” as the investment for a “hot process” is significant. The cold process converts fats and oils using a lye solution to soap and this way of making soap was how it all started. The lye solution is mostly made from Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) and bars of soap with this lye solution will find it very difficult to work in sea water which is usually 3.5% Salt or (NaCL). Those cheeky Na’s making life difficult, but that problem was overcome.

So the difference and a very important one in Soap for Seawater we use a mix of Potassium Hydroxide and Sodium Hydroxide in the lye solution. We also balance the solid fats to the liquid fats to give the soap bar a suitable hardness. It was very much a long process of trials and refinement, but fun for us washing in the Atlantic ocean for our soap trials. One of the benefits of using Potassium Hydroxide is a high Glycerine content, which is a bye product when the lye, fats and oils are mixed. Glycerine is good for the skin and helps it retain its moisture.

So once we got the formulation right we then applied for our safety certificate and in this process had to do trials of our cardboard packaging as this was new as we did not use any plastic film which the industry was used to. These challenges have been overcome and our soap trails have been done in many more oceans and seas. I hope this gives you the confidence to close the open challenge with confidence.

After their Atlantic Crossing we received this.

The Ocean5 daily routine of a refreshing wash using Soap for Seawater rowing across the Atlantic
A Clean win in the TWAC for the Ocean5 team


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