Monday, June 30, 2014

The Green, Frugal Shaver: Free, Re-Purposed Soap and Lathering Bowls

I have mentioned this idea before, but it's worth its own article. You can save money, keep some plastic out of the landfill (or save the energy of having to sort, clean, melt, and remold it), and have an excellent combination soap bowl and lathering bowl.

The item is a single-serving, 3-1/2-inch (approximately, at the top) diameter, Greek yogurt carton.
The re-purposed Greek-yogurt cup, approximately 3-1/2 inches in diameter at its top. They make an excellent, light-weight, little lathering bowl  and puck-holding bowl for home or travel. Shown here is a small, sample test formulation of shaving soap, which is lathered in the same bowl; no separate lathering bowl is necessary.
If you have a new puck of shaving soap, just drop it into one of these little bowls. Because the bowl is rather small and tapered down from top to bottom, the new puck is unlikely to fit flat on the smaller-diameter bowl bottom. No matter; in that case use the puck-bowl combination as a soap holder, and during your shaves, load your wet brush with shaving soap from this container. Then you can build your lather in the usual places: in your hand, on your face, or, as I do, in a dedicated lathering bowl -- in this example, a second, empty yogurt bowl. When you are done with your shave and are storing your gear, you can put the lathering bowl over the puck-holding bowl like a clam shell to keep out dust and other foreign matter out of your damp soap.
Shown is the yogurt-cup clam shell: the lower bowl stores the new puck of shaving soap, from which you load your brush. The upper bowl becomes your lathering bowl. When your shave is finished, the lathering bowl becomes a cover to keep dust and other undesirable things out of your shaving soap.

UPDATE: The label is shrink wrapped onto these containers, so it can be easily removed. Simply stretch the label a bit at the bottom of the carton, cut the edge with a knife or scissors, and peel the label off.  This results in an all-white bowl as shown below:
Three repurposed yogurt cups with the factory labels removed. Obviously I've added masking-tape labels to identify the various shave-soap formulations that each cup contains.

I have mentioned before that these re-purposed cups are nice lathering bowls, but they are useful for melting soap as well. "Melting... but..." you say? Sure, you can melt pretty much any soap with impunity, despite some misinformation on the Internet. You just have to be patient. I'll explain below. First, just a bit more about the cups themselves...

They are made of number 5 plastic, which is polypropylene. This is significant because it brings additional benefit. Polypropylene has a high melting point. Hence, is useful for high-temperature work such as melting soap.

Although a new puck of shaving soap can simply be dropped into the yogurt cup and used immediately to load your wet shaving brush, if you are fussy about such things, there are two ways to mold the soap into the cup: grate or melt.

Grating soap is simple and uber intuitive. Just get a cheese grater, and use it to shred the soap into smaller bits. These are then collected and pressed into the desired container -- in this case, the re-purposed yogurt bowl.

Melting is simple too -- if you use the microwave -- but must be done with patience and care to avoid burning the soap. You use the number-five, polypropylene yogurt bowl in the microwave oven because of its heat-tolerant properties. Add a bit of water on the puck and nuke it for five to ten seconds. (Always heat the soap in short bursts to avoid burning it.) Then with a sharp knife and a cutting board, cut the puck into smaller pieces for easier softening. Then add a bit more water if appropriate, and continue heating the soap in the yogurt bowl in five- to ten-second bursts, checking for malleability after each heating cycle by seeing how willing it is to be pressed into the bottom of the yogurt bowl.

Once the soap is pressed into the bowl and conforms to its shape, you may have enough space to lather right in the soap bowl itself. When testing my own untried shaving-soap formulations, I always melt the new little soap puck -- usually only ten to 20 grams (about 1/3 to 2/3 of an ounce) -- into a yogurt cup as shown in the first picture, above. Because the amount of soap is so small, I can definitely make lather in the same bowl; no separate lathering bowl is needed.

That's it.  Be green! Be thrifty! Happy shaving!

1 comment:

  1. what about the concept of aerating the soap as the user works it into a lather using ribs, ridges, bumps, rings, etc? -Just an additional design perk, unnecessary? - or - functional, yes, yet unavailable with the yogurt cup. Is there enough air flow between the bristles to do sufficient aerating? The smooth walls of the yogurt cup will do sufficiently?