Thursday, May 31, 2012

still-sound 71. Savon noir

I've always been fascinated by all-purpose soaps, particularly naturally-derived and old-school in feel.  In college I discovered Dr Bronner (as you do).  I liked the snake-oil salesman feel conveyed by random texts covering the bottle, detailing usages, benefits and godonlyknowswhat.  I didn't particularly like the smell of any of the varieties however, they were a bit obvious.  My disappointment in scent didn't detract from the multi-use virtues however and my fascination with Bronner continues to this day.  Dilute!  Dilute!

Murphy's oil soap on the other hand has that wonderful verbena smell.  I like the idea of an oil soap.  I figure that the oil must nourish while it cleanses, making it ideal for wood. An episode of At Home With Venetia in Kyoto revealed that she maintains her beautiful lacquer wares by rubbing them with camellia oil.  She keeps the oil in a small bottle.  It looks like perfume.

I took an architecture design class once and found myself regularly working late into early morning making  plaster models.  I would make molds by gluing pieces of foam board together with a hot glue gun.  We were advised to coat the inner surfaces with Murphy's soap which served as a release agent.  The smell of it still reminds me of trace paper and a chronic lack of sleep.

When Rob and I arrived in France a couple of weeks ago, it was to clean up and help restore an old village house.  On our way from Toulouse airport we popped into a mega supermarché called LeClerc and picked up cleaning materials, wine and potato chips.  It's there that I discovered Briochin Savon Noir.  It's an all-natural, all-purpose soap made with linseed oil.  It has the look of a cleanser your grandmother would have used (if you were French).  

I hoped that savon noir would have a subtle scent and not resemble the synthetically-perfumed cleansers we now use - the concoctions of aromachemicals invented to satisfy the marketers' insistence that clean had a particular smell.  Briochin Savanna Noir delivered.  It actually has that distinctive linseed oil smell albeit subtle.  I'm familiar with linseed oil from painting.  To say that it slightly resembles the smell of fish oil would imply that it's unpleasant which it is not.  But it does resemble fish oil bit.  After cleaning with savon noir for a while my hands smelled as though I drained a can of tuna earlier in the day and the residue of oil left a faint trace on my skin after washing.  

I used the Savon Noir when scrubbing off the grout left on the tiles that we spent six long days laying on the  floor.  Each squirt released a blast of fresh peppermint.  I don't know if this is typical of all varieties of savon noir or if it's because I was using the version "à la Chlorophyll".  


  1. Oh, I loved these insights on olde-worlde cleaning products from other countries. I, too am fascinated by the snake-oil trickery implied by the reams of text on Dr. Bronner's liquid soaps. I *really* want to be able to justify buying one, but none smell good to me. I was particularly disappointed that the rose one smells like barf.

  2. Yes, the scents really are disappointing. I have not smelled the rose one yet but I fully trust your assessment. The lavender one is okay I guess, you can't really get lavender wrong.