This week my young fella came home from school with a gift. As he handed it over he said “I made this for you in art class today, it’s felted soap”.
A decorated bar of soap I thought to myself, I didn’t ‘get it’. “Cool, thanks mate, how’d you make that?”
He explained the process of taking wool, wrapping it around the bar of soap in all different directions and then turning the wool into felt with hot water so that it attached to the soap. It sounded like he enjoyed the activity but I still didn’t have a clue why you would want to do something like that.
Then he looked at me eagerly and revealed “it makes the soap last longer and scrubs your skin”. Say whaaaat?! Now, I was more interested in this quirky craft, not because it scrubs your skin, I have face washers for that, but because it lengthens the life of the soap. However, he was sick of talking about it by now and didn’t have any more answers for me so I started googling to learn more.
As I had never come across felted soap before or ever had an interest in felt, I was surprised to learn that this craft has been seriously popular at times! I learnt that:
- felting is a really simple technique and an ancient craft
- the felt shrinks with the soap
- the felt is exfoliating and has antimicrobial properties
- the soap lathers well and you don’t use as much soap
- the felt makes gripping the soap much easier
- the wool dries out well between uses
- felted soap was used before luffas and other more modern exfoliating options
Here is one of the simple tutorials I found to make felted soap but you will find a range of slightly different techniques if you do some googling.
So, I like the idea and now I’m interested in felting, but I don’t think using new wool roving to make a bar of soap last longer has increased environmental benefits, because of all the resources that went into making the wool.
What I haven’t been able to find out from googling is if wool yarn from old clothing can be manipulated to felt a bar of soap (I’d love to hear from some experienced felters!). If it could be used, this would make the felted soap a very ecofriendly option. The only other source of salvageable wool I can think of would be my wool-stuffed pillows and doonas. They haven’t been chemically treated to be machine washable; the treatment stops the fibres from locking together in the felting process.
The other alternative I found for making felted soap was to make a felt pouch to pop the soap into. The pouch won’t shrink with the soap but can be washed and reused and can be used to pop in all the left over bits of soap so they don’t get wasted. And, felt pouches can be made from felting old woollen jumpers!
Some other ways we can prolong the life of soap are to:
- Rub the soap on a face washer to lather it up, then use the face washer on your body.
- Make a pouch with a face washer to hold all the small pieces of soap and wash yourself with it.
- Keep the soap out of the water stream and let it dry out between uses.
- Store soap unwrapped in a dry area for 6-8 weeks to harden it further. Hard soap lasts longer.