One-man soap operation creates vegan soap while spreading environmental awareness

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by Jacqueline Klecak

Donning a face mask, gloves and goggles, Evan Dormont, owner of Urban Cabin Soap Co., prepares his soap making station with bowls, mixing instruments and ingredients. As he unwinds from the week in his one-bedroom apartment in South Philadelphia he allows his mind to mull new soap recipes. The soap making scientist then creates a chemical reaction between lye, or sodium hydroxide, distilled water and oils. His next bars of vegan soap will soon be ready for sale.

Small-batch vegan soap companies, like Urban Cabin, which focus on the soap ingredients and the quality of their finished products, are becoming more popular thanks to those who shun controversial palm oil and animal byproducts. And Urban Cabin isn’t the only vegan soap company here in Philadelphia. Others include Always Mineral, Volta Soaps and Hand in Hand Soaps.

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Evan Dormont adds lye to make his vegan soap. While researching vegan soap-making, Dormont was inspired to use natural ingredients, be environmentally conscious and produce a quality product at the same time. “I started the Urban Cabin Soap Co. to raise awareness of vegan soaps and the [vegan or vegetarian] lifestyle within an urban environment, and everywhere, of course,” Dormont says in an email.

Store-bought soaps such as Dove, Ivory and Irish Spring are made using animal fat, lard or tallow. Using animal fat in soap making creates a richer lather and allows the bar to last longer while sitting in water. It also yields more product and is inexpensive, Dormont adds. But the benefit of using vegan soap is the natural oils are kinder to your skin with the added advantage of being environmentally safe.  Urban Cabin’s tip for getting the most out of your vegan soap bar? Place it in a soap dish to drain so it lasts longer and cleans better.

All Urban Cabin soaps are safe to use on your face, hands and body but some soaps serve specific purposes. Activated Charcoal, for instance, has ingredients that are better for clearing up acne and the Coffee Scrub soap is better in the shower due to its exfoliating properties, Dormont adds. His products can be purchased at ubancabinsoapco.com, and sometimes he sells at fairs; he plans to vend at Go West! Craft Fest this spring.

“I intend on remaining a small batch company for quite some time to focus on quality,” says Dormont who encourages feedback and scent suggestions from his customers. “One of my missions is to remain as transparent as possible with what I choose to use in the soaps.”