Making Soap and Keeping Clean

In York on Beaver Street there’s the home of the Sunrise Soap Company. More than a boutique, it’s a factory. And of course, it’s more than a factory, it’s also a day trip destination in its own right, right in the heart of downtown York.

As you enter you are embraced by the scents of the various soups and bath-bombs, as well as the array of colors inviting you to touch and smell the bath products.

All soups, fizzies, and bath bombs are made onsite, and depending on what they’re making that particular day, you can see the soaps being made. You can also make bath fizzies, lip balm and more.

I recommend, though, that you head straight back, to the soap making table, and ask to make your own.

Store owner Christina Clarke (in red, center) demonstrates how to make bath fizzies.

One of the store’s helpful assistants, or perhaps the owner Christina Clarke herself, will walk you through the steps to creating your personalized set of soaps.

You start by picking a mold, out of dozens upon dozens of choices. Don’t like dogs? Then chose a cat, or frog, or peace sign! Gamers and science fiction fans will appreciate the Dr Who, Star Trek and Star Wars themed molds. From flip flops to flamingos, from monkeys to mustaches, there will be a mold that speaks to you!

Next, you pick out a color — yellow, blue, green, pink, purple, or orange — for your soap, and with just three or four shakes into your measuring cup of soapy goodness, you begin stirring to mix the color crystals into your soap. A few minutes later you add scent, again choosing from among dozens — coconut, green tea, cucumber, rose, lavender, jujuberry, love spell, and many others.

You stir and stir, until finally it’s judged to be fully mixed, and then you pour your soap into your molds, which are then whisked into the freezer to set and cool, so you can take them home.

While your customized soaps are setting, look around the store — there is so much to take in!

The make your own part of Sunrise Soap Company has really taken off, Clarke noted. “A lot of groups come in, even groups of all adults,” she said, noting that birthday parties for kids are her biggest draw: “Kids love the hands-on activity.”

In fact, she credits those birthday parties for bringing in the adults for a soap-making party of their own. “Moms and dads see the kids having so much fun, and they decide to get a group together too,” Clarke said.

“If you book a girls-night-out soap-making, bring the wine! It’s so much fun!” she said. Groups from local organizations will come out for team building and morale building activities, as well as ladies night out, and birthday parties.

You will notice the racks of bar soaps curing — they have to sit for several weeks before they’re hard enough to sell. The store owns a one-of-a-kind soap-cutting machine, an antique that Clarke claims “the Universe brought them.”

Which it did, actually. Christine’s husband is an antiques dealer. A few years ago, he was at a barn auction. In the dust and grim of 75 years’ of accumulated neglect was a weird machine. No one knew what it was, but her husband poked around the machine, and discovered a label identifying it as a soap cutting machine. He brought it home for Christine to use in her store. When they took it to a local carwash to spray off the years and years of dust, the scent of soap confirmed the small label identifying the machine.

She now displays this working antique in her store, where she uses it to cut all her bar soaps. The really cool thing is, what used to take an hour to do — cut all those bars apart — now takes just minutes.

Continuing to use this practical old antique is just one way Clarke keeps her business as green as possible. From the glitter added to the soaps, which is biodegradable (and NOT plastic) to encouraging the re-use of the store’s bags, being eco-friendly is a business model Clarke is following. She encourages customers to bring back the bottles and containers of soaps and lotions they purchase, to receive a discount on the next purchase of those items.

Know before you go: There are three parking garages downtown. If you’d like to park in a garage and walk, the Philadelphia Street Garage is the most central option. Parking Garages are free on Saturdays and Sundays.

Getting there: 29 N Beaver St, York, PA 17401


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