- Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps has been around since 1948, when it was founded by Emanuel Bronner.
- Dr. Bronner’s soaps are all organic and sustainably sourced from fair trade facilities around the world before arriving to its factory in Vista, California.
- Bronner’s life mission was to promote his philosophy called the Moral ABC, which called for peace and unity over religious and ethnic differences.
- The company says there are 18 ways you can use its liquid castile soap, including washing your face, body, hair, home, and even your teeth.
The following is a transcript of the video:
Narrator: What do Zoë Kravitz, Lady Gaga, and Meghan Markle all have in common? They’re all rumored to use Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. If you use it, you’re probably also hooked on the organic cleanser. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps was founded in 1948 and is most famous for its pure-castile soap. The brand produces over 14.3 million bottles a year, and one of the unique things about this soap is that there are supposedly 18 different ways you can use it, including washing your face, body, hair, dogs, laundry, floors, windows, toilets, and even brushing your teeth. But how is all that even possible with one product? Who is Dr. Bronner, and what’s up with all that tiny text on the bottles? Here’s the story of Dr. Bronner and how his famous soaps are made.
Third-generation soap maker Emanuel Bronner started the company over 70 years ago. The company is still run by the Bronners, who work hard to keep their family’s soap-making tradition alive. Let’s start with how they make their soap. All of Dr. Bronner’s soaps are pure-castile soaps, meaning they’re made out of vegetable oils like organic olive, hemp, and coconut oils instead of animal fats. In 2003, Dr. Bronner’s became certified USDA organic, and it went fair trade in 2007 for its major raw ingredients. That means the company works with producers in developing countries to sustainably source ingredients while paying fair wages and ensuring that employees are treated ethically.
Once all the ingredients are sourced, they arrive to the factory in Vista, California. To get a bit science-y here, saponification is the chemical reaction of making soap. The vegetable oil has three fatty acids that are connected to glycerin, a moisturizing property in soap. It’s mixed with an alkali, which is sodium hydroxide for bar soaps and potassium hydroxide for liquids. In this case, let’s do liquid soaps. With heat and pressure in the soap reactor, the alkali separates the fatty acids from the glycerin and converts them to soap. So in the end, you’re left with glycerin, soap, and water left behind after the alkali has reacted. Essential oils like peppermint, lavender, and tea tree are added to the mix for aromatherapy and also to treat certain skin conditions. Its most popular scent is peppermint, which can cool the skin and clear sinuses.
Once everything is mixed together, the soap is cooled before it can be bottled. Soap is filled into various-sized bottles in its facilities. Although the company mainly uses automated machinery, some mini and gallon-sized bottles are still filled by hand.
And now on to making the bar soaps. Organic palm oil is first sustainably sourced from Ghana. That’s what helps harden the soap bar. The palm oil is mixed with coconut oil and turned into a soap-bar base. The bar base looks like tiny pellets, kind of like feta cheese. Those pellets are mixed with an essential oil. In this case, it’s tea tree oil. Tea tree oil can help reduce acne and dandruff. The soap base is triple-milled, meaning the pellets are ground three times. During the last grind, it goes under a vacuum where the bar soap is extruded in one long line. The bars are cut, molded, and finally wrapped in a Dr. Bronner’s label and boxed.
Now, you’re probably wondering, what’s up with the label? If you’ve ever come across a Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle or bar, you’ve probably found yourself reading that long, sometimes confusing tiny text in the shower. Well, the story goes all the way back to World War II and has shaped the mission of the company. Founder Emanuel Bronner immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1929, and in the 1930s when Hitler came into power, he tried to get his parents to leave Germany, but they decided to stay.
Michael Bronner: My grandfather received a letter from his father after he was deported to Theresienstadt. Letter from Theresienstadt, all the words were blacked out except for three words: “You were right.” And my grandfather never heard from his dad again.
Narrator: Bronner reacted with a message of love instead of hate or revenge and went in pursuit of his peace plan, called the Moral ABC. He wanted to spread the message of unity over religious and ethnic differences, preaching, quote, “We are All-One or None.” He adopted an honorific doctor title and started giving impassioned speeches on the steps of the University of Chicago. But authorities eventually arrested him and put him in a mental institution. Bronner escaped and hitchhiked to Pershing Square in Los Angeles. He started spreading his peace plan there.
Michael: For the people who came to listen to him, he made for them a bottle of soap with no label that he could hand out as a thank-you present, and word got out that this soap was really darn good, so people were coming and taking the soap and not listening to him. That’s when he got the brilliant idea of taking his philosophy and putting it on the labels, so that when people would come take the soap and leave, they’d take that soap in the shower and they’d be stuck. For this generation, we’re really trying to take those ideals that my grandfather wrote on the label and really apply it to everything we do.
Narrator: That doesn’t apply just to their organic soaps, but to other areas of the brand as well. The company donates to causes supporting regenerative organic agriculture, animal advocacy, drug policy and criminal justice reform, and fair pay. That is all tied back to Bronner’s all-one philosophy that the company still promotes through its soap.