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Soap ‘scientist’ creating eco-conscious soap
Laura Kneib wants to change the world one bar of soap at a time.
Slowly, she’s doing it.
Kneib, a Bremerton local, is owner and creator of F.R.O.G. Soap, which stands for From Reclaimed Oil and Glycerin. It’s all part of her plan to be as eco-conscious as possible.
Since she started, Kneib’s recycled nearly two tons of waste vegetable oil, cardboard, junk mail and biodiesel glycerin. Every bit of it goes toward her soap production business.
“It’s a cleaner alternative. I have to (do it),” said Kneib. “It’s pure. It’s good. It’s clean. No additives.”
Creating the perfect soap hasn’t come easy, though. She learned under her mother’s guidance, starting at age twelve. Since then, she’s been tinkering with creating the ideal soap—one that cleanses and sanitizes without drying out the skin.
Now, in her late 50s, Kneib has found a way to make a natural soap with reclaimed vegetable oil she gets from restaurants. The idea came to her while she was sitting in a restaurant where she saw a huge bottle of vegetable oil. She wondered what happened to the oil once it was no longer useable. When she found out that some is carted off for biodiesel, and the rest is dumped in landfills, Kneib could barely stand the thought. When she asked, most restaurant staff were more than willing to give her vegetable oil to tote off.
Each year, the U.S. alone generates about three billion gallons of waste cooking oil, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency website. The amount wasted could fill “tanker trucks arranged bumper-to-bumper from San Francisco to Washington D.C. and back,” states the website. Although biodiesel can be created from vegetable oil, Kneib is concerned it isn’t enough to keep the unused portions out of landfills.
“To me, it’s the soap of the future,” she said. “Using what is here, the possibilities are endless.”
Kneib—raised by two crafty parents—was taught to reuse and recycle. She remembers going to the dump with her parents and the location being used as a swap meet at times.
“It’s a family thing. Use something again and again,” she said.
She recycles in every way she possibly can. Her soap molds are made from recycled shipping pallets, and the packaging is from cardboard friends and others give her. The ingredients vary and come from a variety of sources—she kayaks on Ostrich Bay to find seaweed to dry out and plucks dandelions from her front yard.
And those little pieces of soap that bars get whittled down to? She knits a little baggie that all soap ends go into and uses it as a pre-filled soap sponge.
Even though her soap is natural, and people often scrunch their noses at her when they find it is made from recycled vegetable oil, Kneib’s soap is not a product to turn a nose up at. She isn’t sure how many scents she has—she’s always creating new ones—but the most popular is her lavender soap. Other fragrances include peppermint, pumpkin pie, dandelion, grapefruit, lily pad and more.
It takes about two hours to make a batch of soap in her home kitchen. Kneib looks to her index card recipes taped up all over her kitchen cabinets. She moves with ease, shuffling around her dog, Katie, who is always nearby wagging her tail.
Soap isn’t the only thing she makes. Lip balm, shampoo and, one of her favorites, Swamp Dog Shampoo, a special soap for pets is also marketed through F.R.O.G. Soap. A $1 from the sale of the dog shampoo—made specially for her beloved cocker spaniel—goes to Swamp Dog Katie’s Service Dogs for Veterans Fund. Once Kneib’s collected an amount she is happy with, she will send a check off to a deserving company that specializes in training dogs for veterans with PTSD.
“So many of our people come back broken,” she said. “I find this is a good way to help them.”
Since she started her business in 2012, she’s gotten quite a bit of feedback. Some love the creaminess of the soap. Others love the scents and tell her how “pretty” it turns out.
The best feedback, however, is when she got a letter from a caregiver about her soap. A woman was taking care of her mom who had Alzheimer’s told Kneib that showers were a constant struggle, but told Kneib that her soap made all the difference. The soap made her mother’s skin less dry, and she stopped picking at it, which previously caused lesions. The charcoal in one of the bars also helped neutralize odors that come from taking medication.
As a result, Kneib got to work on crafting a new kind of bar. She calls it her “Caregiver’s Shampoo/Body Bar” and notes it is easier for caregivers to use than traditional liquid shampoo. The ingredients include reclaimed veggie oil, palm oil, coconut oil, almond oil, castor oil, rainwater and activated charcoal.
It’s why Kneib gets so passionate about sharing why she makes her soap the way she does. She’s even thinking of offering classes in the near future if she can find the time.
Her do-good attitude and craft won her the “Best Product” award at the Annual Bremerton Christmas Festival. It also helped her gain a special employee, Krista May, who Kneib swears up and down is the only one who can keep her on track. May assists in any way she can, frequently working on graphics, cutting cardboard and packaging orders. Although she hasn’t made any soap yet, it is on her list of things to do for the company.
“I like it,” she said of working for a local business. “It’s awesome to be able to recycle stuff and take what the environment gives us and not put it back as waste.
The implications of what Kneib does is what keeps her going, she said. Even though her soap venture is relatively new, Kneib dreams of seeing it at a much bigger level. She imagines the government stepping in and enforcing the recycling of environmental clogs like vegetable oil. The vision alone brings about thoughts of improving the economy and health of the environment, if it were done the right way, Kneib said.
“I didn’t mean to make soap at this level,” she said. “This takes up all of my time. I’m lucky to make food.”
For more information about F.R.O.G. Soap, contact Laura Kneib at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website, www.frogsoap.com for ordering information. For more information, call 623-282-2537. F.R.O.G. Soap products are also sold at Paul’s Flowers, Gift Shop Alley by Hopisun, Bremerton Farmers Market (seasonal) and online.