Back to FG's Homepage

Kirk's Original Coco Hardwater Castile Soap

By David Lynch

Frumpiness is taken to new heights with this soap wrapper. Call 1-800-82-KIRKS to complain.

When discussing soaps, a relatively obscure brand that is often mentioned is Kirk's Original Coco Hardwater Castile soap. I've discussed it with MrSluggo of alt.slack and various acquaintances while talking about soap, and our man in the Netherlands, Frans Goddjin, has found a bar on display as part of an art exhibit (more on that later). This is a truly diverse mixture of people and places, and merits a great deal more attention than Ivory or other such common brands. This is not intended as an insult to Ivory, but as an indicator of the curiosity that was aroused in me by a series of comments, opinions, and reflections.

I purchased the soap at my local Winn-Dixie, which is but one of many in an empire of supermarkets across the United States. I have no idea whether or not Kirk's can be found at all Winn-Dixies, but due to its manufacturer (Proctor & Gamble) and its inexpensive price, I'd guess it's fairly common. I'm no longer certain of the exact price, but it was in the $.50 - 1.00 range. MrSluggo pays $.63 for his bars, which is a good price to pay. It was individually wrapped, which was a pleasant surprise. I found it near the bottom of the shelves in the soap section. (Now that I stop to think about it, I wonder if there's any rhyme or reason in the shelving order of soaps. I don't think they're in alphabetical order, and I know they're not shelved according to price. Maybe by UPC code numbers. I'll look in to it.)

The wrapper is just plain paper with a little glue to hold it together. This is drastically different from other soap wrappers, which consist of wax paper with a shiny finish. I think that paper was a poor choice for wrapping paper, as it offers almost no protection from water and is flammable, which could constitute a threat to public safety if stockpiled near an ashtray or stovetop. There is a stiff piece of folded paper inside the wrapping which is reminiscent of construction paper, but less pliable. Unfortunately, this paper is intended to keep the outer wrapper in shape, and offers no more protection to the soap than the outer layer does. This to me shows that Proctor & Gamble care little for the safety of the soap, and put money as the bottom line, as usual. This is no way to package a soap, and I intend to write to Proctor & Gamble about it. The wrapper is 2 1/2 by 4 inches wide and slightly less than 1 inch thick, but seems larger to me. The color scheme is excessively simple, and is limited to the background color of white (which technically isn't even a color), navy blue, and a bright stop-sign red. The front of the package fearures the Kirk's logo, which is "Kirk's Original Coco Hardwater Castile" with everything but "Original" written in navy blue print that is reminiscent to the printing in a phonics book or primers intended to teach children the alphabet. "Original" is written in the evenhanded script of a schoolteacher or a spelling book. There are two 45 degree arrows flanking the word "Original" which are both fire-engine red. there is also a fire-engine red line beneath the word "castile"about a centimeter thick with forked ends. "A SOAP MADE FROM SELECTED COCONUT OIL NET WT 4 OZ (113g)" is printed below the line in thin navy blue letters. The arrows and the line are the only forms of decoration on the package, which works together with the limited color scheme to give the soap an old-time Depression-era feel, at least in my book. Whether or not this is a good thing is for you to decide. The flaps on the sides say "Kirk's Castile" with "Kirk's" printed in navy blue and "Castile" printed in fire-engine red. The bottom side says "Kirk's Coco Hardwater Castile" in navy blue, with "Coco" printed above "Hardwater" and two red arrows flanking "Coco" in the same way that they flank "original" on the front of the packaging. The top side is exactly the same, except that "RED ARROWS (R)" is printed underneath "Hardwater" in navy blue. This is the only instance I have seen so far of having only one element of the wrapper reserved. This is probably due to the excessively bland nature of the package. The back of the package is just as plain as the rest, and it's beginning to grate on my nerves. "Kirk's Castile" is written in W e d n e s d a y s p a c i n g, with "Kirk's" written in navy blue and "Castile" in a slightly smaller red. The following is written beneath "Kirk's Castile" in navy blue:

"Made from Selected Coconut Oil for creamy lather and instant suds. Kirk's Castile makes handfuls of rich creamy lather even in hardest water. This famous soap cleans thoroughly with thrilling ease. Rinses in a flash. A real family favorite for hands, bath and shampoo."

The bar code is printed beside this paragraph in navy blue. The UPC number is 375900 if you wish to order a bar. Written far below the bar code, almost on the edge, is:

"If you have questions or comments about Kirk's please call us toll-free in the continental U.S., call 1-800-82-KIRKS (KP is printed in a box) Made in the Phillipines for Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 (c) P&G 1340066"

I intend to call the 1-800 number to complain about the shoddy packaging, and I'd appreciate it if everyone else joined in with me. If they're going to exploit the workers of the Phillipines, they could at least use the money they're saving to pay for higher quality materials.

Now to discuss the bar of soap itself. When discussing the soap with MrSluggo, he mentioned that Kirk's was one of the softest bars on the market today. Keeping this in mind, I was surprised to feel the bar out of the wrapper. It was extremely hard, and reminded me of a candle. I could not scratch the surface if the bar with my fingernail for a while, and when I finally managed to do so, a flaky dust was all that came off. This was certainly not the soft bar I had been expecting! The bar is an elongated polygon with eight rounded sides, and resembles a beauty bar. The color of the soap is very similar to that of petroleum jelly, but somewhat lighter in hue. The edges of the bar seem somewhat translucent, but become more solid as the bar becomes thicker. The front of the bar has a rectangle pressed into it with "Kirk's Coco Hardwater Castile" emblazoned inside it. It's hard to make out the letters due to the color of the soap, but good lighting helps. The back of the bar also has a rectangle, but "Procter & Gamble" carved inside it, as opposed to the Kirk's logo. there is an indentation beetween the "R" and "O" in "Procter" about 2 centimeters across, as if a small rod had been resting on the soap while it was congealing. I find it puzzling and annoying, and feel it has no place on a quality soap. While MrSluggo found thesoap lacking in odor, I still half-expected the bar to smell like coconuts, which would have been a pleasant surprise. Although there was no coconut odor, I detected a sweet odor to it, along with the smell of soap. It's a very nice odor, and I wouldn't mind smelling it in my shower in the morning.

I decided all that was left to test was the lather and the cleaning power. I wrote "Fabio" on my hand with an EraserMate 2 Med Pt black ink pen. It took me 51 seconds to erase all the ink from my hand, which was a respectable showing. The odd angles made the soap difficult to grip, but I got a handle on it after fumbling a bit. The soap did not become any softer,,but it was quite gentle on my hands. There was a fair amount of lather produced, and I found it to be both thick and bubbly, which are the two traits that are necessary for a truly high-quality lather. If Kirks is like most soaps, the lather will grow much more copious after repeated use, which I will be looking forward to. It left my hands feeling very clean and smelling great, and there was no sticky residue left on my hands, which is a problem with many other soaps. All in all, I was quite pleased with Kirk's, and recommend it heartily to those of you without a favorite soap. Kirk's may have all the qualities you've been looking for.

(I referred earlier to an art exihibit in the Netherlands featuring Kirk's Coco Hardwater Castile soap. Here's the article that brought it to my attention, and my response to it.)

From: (John V. Scialli)
Subject: Going Dutch on Soap
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 1995 16:17:08 GMT
X-Newsreader: Forte Agent .99.82
Status: RO


I got the hot poop (FedEx of course) from Frans Goddijn about this
soap on exhibit about which he wants you to compose a review. The rest
of this is directly quoting from Frans' fax:

The Soap brand on exhibition is "Kirk's Original Coco Hardwater
Castille (a soap made from selected coconut oil)" net wt. 4oz.

The German designer Mattmias Dretz has collected a "Design playhouse"
for himself. Before the German wall fell, he went to East Germany to
secure specimens of good old dead-simple non-design products. Naive,
non-fashion, everyday household things. This grew into an obsessive
collecting hobby, while he advises large corporates like Shrovette
, Antheaters  and Lufthansa on design policy.

The Rotterdam Art Hall "Rotterdamse Kumthal " now exhibits his
collection till Oct 8 - this is the kind of non-fashion stuff that
will inevitably become _the_ fashion to have on display in chic
waiting rooms at the dentist...says Matthias Dietz in the "Volkshrant"
 article which has illustrations: a tea kettle, the soap bar, a
Japanese soup bowl and the collector.

-Can you tell David Lynch that?_

Well, I got the message, and I reviewed the soap. Frankly, I think this Dietz
guy is out to lunch. I appreciate a good bar of soap as much as anyone else,
but this schmuck really must have been obsessed to go over the Berlin wall
just to get some dull-looking trinkets. I also think this shows why 
everybody makes fun of the Germans' idea of fashion. Hiring a nut like 
Matthias Dietz to non-design their airplanes and such... They must have rocks 
in their heads! The packaging for Kirk's is deadly dull. If everything was 
as drab and boring as the wrapping for Kirk's, I'd blow my brains out.  
Art should at least be semi-interesting, and the package for Kirk's could
put Robin Williams in a coma. (Not that a comatose Robin Williams would be 
a bad thing...) Also, I gotta laugh when the reporter says that non-fashion 
will be the next Big Thing(tm). Humans are stupid, but they're not stupid 
enough to buy something deliberately ugly. Well, they are, but they won't. 
This time. Actually, maybe they will. Hell, I don't know. It doesn't matter.
All that really counts in the end is that the soap is good, no matter how 
P&G choose to wrap it. Just accept it for what it is, and enjoy yourself. 
Thanks for your time.

Added Information:

From: (bogie)

>Kirk's Original Coco Hardwater Castile soap. 

That's some good stuff... Why? It doesn't have all the perfumes, etc., 
of the detergent-based stuff most folks normally buy... So if you're 
hitting the great outdoors, you'll attract less flies, gnats, skeeters, 
Also, if I'm going hunting, I use Castille... Why? If I'm gonna put 
Bambi in the ol' chest freezer, and Bambi smells that invigorating odor 
of Coast, Bambi is gonna be in the next county... I want Bambi close 
when I shoot, since I hate chasing things that run fast , 
and if Bambi is close, I'm less likely to miss.
Venison is good...

In addition to that, I've recieved two different theories on soap shelving. We'll start with information provided by Pappy Fuck.

From: (Joe Newman)

My grocer orders his soaps by smell, and by channeling Pat Buttram.
With this system, the soap shelf usually looks something like this:

Ivory  -  Lux  -  Tampax  -  Sperm
Dr. Bronner's   -  Lava  -  Kirk's
William Frawley  -  Tom's of Maine
Nixon's Ass   -  Hey Pete  -  Zest

-Pappy Fuck

Here's Kevan Smith's perspective on the matter:

From: (cuthulu)

Your suppositions on shelf placement of soaps are all incorrect.

Soaps, and indeed all consumer goods in supermarkets, are placed on
the shelves according to complex, byzantine formulas, which i do not
know fully.  Nevertheless, I am aware of the basic pruduct-placement

Essentially, those items which are the best sellers in their
categories are placed at or near eye level for the targeted consumer
(which is why children's cereals are lower on the shelves).  This is
also broken down demographically, so that the most affluent consumers
will find their accustomed products and brands within easy reach. The
top and bottom of the shelves are reserved for slow-moving items,
items with a low profit-margin and items appealing to a low-income
demographic base.  However, product manufacturers and advertising
agencies can and do pay extra for premium placement for items they are
"pushing." This is just the tip of a vast conspiracy iceberg, as much
psychographic research goes into product placement.  Kirk's Coco
Hardwater Castile was placed at the bottom of the shelf because it is
a dog of a soap for retailers.

I'd like to thank, Kevan, Bogie, and Pappy for helping to contribute to global soap knowledge, and I'd also like to thank each and every one of you out there. Thanks for your time.

You can email David Lynch on (<>)