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An endorsement: Lava soap

My father grew up poor during the Great Depression and the years before World War II, when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. After a childhood like that, he was as tough as a piece of beef jerky left in the summer sun.

Occasionally, he and my little boy self would do something together and then wash our hands. Our bathroom sink didn’t blend the water temperatures like modern faucets do. There was one tap for hot water, one for cold. My father always washed his hands under the hot water tap, and he tried to get me to do the same. Nope. Cold water for me.

Occasionally our hands would be really dirty, so he’d break out a bar of Lava soap. Lava, for those who never have used it, is abrasive. Lava contains ground-up pumice, a volcanic rock. How well does Lava work? The soap’s website says, “Whether you’re a master mechanic or a weekend gardener, you’re going to want to get your hands on Lava. The power of pumice is the key to its effectiveness. Grease, grime, oil, tar, ink, paint, glue, resins, adhesives, caulk — Lava cleans it all!” This is what’s known as truth in advertising.

As a boy, I hated washing my hands with Lava because of the way it felt, and I’m certain my father viewed me as a wimp, or whatever the equivalent word is for a 5- or 6-year-old boy. Even then it was clear I wasn’t going to make a living with my hands.

Lava soap remained a childhood memory that I dredged up every now and then—up until a few years ago. I had been working on something greasy—it might have been a bicycle chain and its sprockets—and my hands were black with dirt and oil. I washed a layer away with ordinary soap, then another, but the soap wouldn’t clean the grease from the wrinkles in my hand.

Next stop: supermarket. Next purchase: Lava. It worked just as well I had hoped it would. It does just what its website says. Now, it’s a staple in my basement at the beat-up, paint-smeared stainless steel sink where I wash my hands after a grimy day. As the Lava website says, it’s the soap to use “no matter where you are or how dirty you get.”

But I still wash my hands in cold water.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 6th, 2012 09:07 pm (UTC)
That's exactly where our Lava soap lives, in the two-basin utility sink next to the washer and dryer. It also comes in a pump bottle, but it's harder to find. Sometimes Lava soap is the only thing that'll do the job.
Jul. 6th, 2012 09:09 pm (UTC)
I think they should market it as a facial defoliant, too
Jul. 6th, 2012 09:16 pm (UTC)
Sorry, but the equivalent word for wimp for a 5 or 6 year old boy, especially in the 60's, would be "Nancy Boy".
Jul. 6th, 2012 10:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks for clearing that up. But why are you apologizing?
Jul. 6th, 2012 10:43 pm (UTC)
My husband keeps Lava soap around and my father always had it too. I seldom get that grimy/oily, but when I do - I get a bar of Lava.

It also works well to take off the thick, cracked skin I get on my heels during the summer when I wear sandals constantly.
Jul. 6th, 2012 10:44 pm (UTC)
That's a good tip about sandal foot. I'll pass it along to my wife.
Jul. 7th, 2012 10:32 am (UTC)
Back when Olean had dirt streets, they used to put down a mix of oil and tar. My 8 year old brother and his brand spanking new Banana Bike took a slide on such a street newly tarred. My job was to scrub him with Lava. All the tar came off but it must have felt like being cleaned by a broken piece of glass, he screamed the whole time.
Jul. 7th, 2012 01:44 pm (UTC)
I won't ask what he was doing riding on a freshly tarred street. (It's a good thing he didn't fall during the seal-and-chip days.) And being scrubbed by Lava couldn't have been that bad. He probably made a big deal out of it so your dad didn't give him a whupping for riding in the tar to begin with.
Jul. 8th, 2012 11:24 am (UTC)
We have the Lava soap next to the regular pump-handle, pastel, fragranced girly hand soap my mom buys. I remember talking to my dad when he came in, good Minnesota topsoil, tractor grease, combine oil, or who-knows-what on his hands, and it all washed away like magic, like it was no big deal, which is just how he works.
Jul. 8th, 2012 01:53 pm (UTC)
Your dad and my dad and who knows how many others had work ethics the size of aircraft carriers. Even on a day he was tired, my old man could work my ass into the ground and barely break a sweat in doing so. Getting their hands Lava dirty was just part of a day's work for them.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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