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I am finally ready to admit it- I hate Williams Mug Soap!

Actually, they are required to list everything in the soap. Salt has always been used in the production of soap. It was there before but probably not listed. Salt is what is used to get the soap to fall out of solution during the manufacturing process. I watched my grandma do it when I was a kid. Combe surely changed the formula, but the addition of salt was not the change. Only listing it on the package would be required now.
You say, Combe has surely changed the formula, but Combe denies it, at least according to this 2013 thread that I assume most long-time members here are aware of: Combe has NOT changed Williams Mug Soap! (Case No. 490334) - https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/combe-has-not-changed-williams-mug-soap-case-no-490334.357664/
Is it possible that Combe merely modernized or streamlined some aspect of its production machinery and/or methods and now produces, if unintentionally, a harder, drier puck, despite using the same ingredients?
 

Chandu

I Waxed The Badger.
In post # 8 of that thread

Dear Mr. Ayers:
Thank you for contacting us regarding Williams Mug Soap. We welcome all comments about our products.
I have consulted with my supervisor and you are correct Mr. Ayers. I apologize for the mishap.

We did make a minor change( and I mean a minor change) to the formula about 3 years ago, as one of the ingredients was no longer available to us. As far as re-introducing the classic formula, we cannot do that for the reason listed above.
Thank you for contacting us.
Sincerely,

Tamara
Tamara

Consumer Resources Consultant

To me, that says it changed, they had to due to a material availability issue. But it bothers me that they can't be bothered to reformulate it to be as good as it was. Other vendors have reformulated, sometimes several times before they got it right and some never did get it right. I hope Combe doesn't end up in the "never got it right again" column.
 
Shaving like a boss - You said "Actually, they are required to list everything in the soap. Salt has always been used in the production of soap. It was there before but probably not listed." If the manufacturer is required to list everything in the soap, why wasn't sodium chloride listed in the original formulation or the previous reformulations? Whatever the reason, I see we both agree the soap has definitely been changed and not for the better. This is certainly not a 'your mileage may vary' type of situation. All anyone has to do is lather both versions side by side and it quickly becomes apparent which is the superior product - vintage Williams.

mozartman - The Combe reformulation lists potassium stearate as the first ingredient and sodium tallowate as the second. Every other formulation prior to this one lists tallow as the first ingredient, which means Combe is using less tallow or more stearate than the others did. I thought they may be playing semantics in that they could be using the same ingredients though in different amounts relative to each other, but the ingredient list for the version just prior to the Combe reformulation indicates otherwise. Ingredients: sodium tallowate, potassium stearate, sodium cocoate, water, glycerin, tetrasodium etidronate, pentasodium pentatate, fragrance, titanium dioxide.

The box at the bottom of the photo is the new Combe version. Now compare the list above to the ingredient list on the Combe version. The box in the middle is 80's Beecham, and the one on top is from the Cranford, NJ facility and dates to around 1965.

Chandu - So, not only did they do a major reformulation in 2004, they have done another reformulation since. IMG_0967.JPG
 
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In post # 8 of that thread

Dear Mr. Ayers:
Thank you for contacting us regarding Williams Mug Soap. We welcome all comments about our products.
I have consulted with my supervisor and you are correct Mr. Ayers. I apologize for the mishap.

We did make a minor change( and I mean a minor change) to the formula about 3 years ago, as one of the ingredients was no longer available to us. As far as re-introducing the classic formula, we cannot do that for the reason listed above.
Thank you for contacting us.
Sincerely,

Tamara
Tamara

Consumer Resources Consultant

To me, that says it changed, they had to due to a material availability issue. But it bothers me that they can't be bothered to reformulate it to be as good as it was. Other vendors have reformulated, sometimes several times before they got it right and some never did get it right. I hope Combe doesn't end up in the "never got it right again" column.
I'm very skeptical that the "minor change" due to something no longer being available made any real difference, too bad it wasn't specified. But when a product is manufactured on a large scale since 1840, it is inevitable that the way it is made changes. Equipment is modernized. Everything is done faster and cheaper and in a more automated way. For example, since Gillette started making cartridges, they have made many major changes in their custom-designed machinery in order to churn them out faster. I once saw a TV program about this.
I think the "magic missing ingredient" idea may be more about romantic nostalgia than anything else. The soap may well be a little harder and drier due to the faster, cheaper and more automated way it is now being made, which would explain the change in performance. Of course, Combe may have failed to compensate for their manufacturing changes, by FAILING to modify, or sufficiently modify, the recipe and blindly sticking with tradition.
 
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Shaving like a boss - You said "Actually, they are required to list everything in the soap. Salt has always been used in the production of soap. It was there before but probably not listed." If the manufacturer is required to list everything in the soap, why wasn't sodium chloride listed in the original formulation or the previous reformulations? Whatever the reason, I see we both agree the soap has definitely been changed and not for the better. This is certainly not a 'your mileage may vary' type of situation. All anyone has to do is lather both versions side by side and it quickly becomes apparent which is the superior product - vintage Williams.

mozartman - The Combe reformulation lists potassium stearate as the first ingredient and sodium tallowate as the second. Every other formulation prior to this one lists tallow as the first ingredient, which means Combe is using less tallow or more stearate than the others did. I thought they may be playing semantics in that they could be using the same ingredients though in different amounts relative to each other, but the ingredient list for the version just prior to the Combe reformulation indicates otherwise. Ingredients: sodium tallowate, potassium stearate, sodium cocoate, water, glycerin, tetrasodium etidronate, pentasodium pentatate, fragrance, titanium dioxide.

The box at the bottom of the photo is the new Combe version. Now compare the list above to the ingredient list on the Combe version. The box in the middle is 80's Beecham, and the one on top is from the Cranford, NJ facility and dates to around 1965.

Chandu - So, not only did they do a major reformulation in 2004, they have done another reformulation since. View attachment 1180244
I said this because, once upon a time, not every ingredient needed to be listed. The labeling laws change. Salt has always been used when making soap. It is food grade and so was probably ignored. But that would not change the way the soap works. However, it looks like they dropped Sodium Hydroxide (lye) from the formula. This may explain part of the loss of slickness. Lye will change the fatty oils in and on your skin into soap. This would make your skin "feel" even slicker. It is why your skin feels slick if you spill chlorine bleach on your self. The chlorine gas is released and the sodium hydroxide begins to break down the fats in your skin. I am not sure if they are still allowed to use lye when making soap. Anyone know the answer?
 
I said this because, once upon a time, not every ingredient needed to be listed. The labeling laws change. Salt has always been used when making soap. It is food grade and so was probably ignored. But that would not change the way the soap works. However, it looks like they dropped Sodium Hydroxide (lye) from the formula. This may explain part of the loss of slickness. Lye will change the fatty oils in and on your skin into soap. This would make your skin "feel" even slicker. It is why your skin feels slick if you spill chlorine bleach on your self. The chlorine gas is released and the sodium hydroxide begins to break down the fats in your skin. I am not sure if they are still allowed to use lye when making soap. Anyone know the answer?
Yes, labeling laws change, but also, if one is taking a very strict and technical view as to what constitutes a "formula change", it would be naive to think that Williams has not undergone multiple "formula changes" since 1840. Titanium oxide, used as a white pigment in Williams and numerous other consumer products today, was not even in mass production until 1916. If there is a problem with modern Williams, imo it isn't due to a failure to rigidly stay with some sacred original formula, but rather a lack of quality control in the manufacturing process.
 

Chandu

I Waxed The Badger.
If there is a problem with modern Williams, imo it isn't due to a failure to rigidly stay with some sacred original formula, but rather a lack of quality control in the manufacturing process.
You may be right. I doubt it's all down to process, but that could well play a part. It also strikes me that some of the ingredient names do look like they could be the same thing only using a different name. (Water, H20, Di Hydrogen-Oxide) I haven't had but a couple of semesters of chemistry - and hated it mostly, but some of the naming could be semantics.

My biggest wish is there was simply one Combe executive that was a shaving enthusiast that would get a puck of vintage, a puck of new and do a side by side. And then head off to work that morning with a mission in mind. That would be wonderful.

Open invitation to anyone from Combe that runs across this thread. We, the denizens of Badger and Blade will supply you with several vintage pucks to be used to compare to your existing pucks for comparison purposes.
 
You may be right. I doubt it's all down to process, but that could well play a part. It also strikes me that some of the ingredient names do look like they could be the same thing only using a different name. (Water, H20, Di Hydrogen-Oxide) I haven't had but a couple of semesters of chemistry - and hated it mostly, but some of the naming could be semantics.

My biggest wish is there was simply one Combe executive that was a shaving enthusiast that would get a puck of vintage, a puck of new and do a side by side. And then head off to work that morning with a mission in mind. That would be wonderful.

Open invitation to anyone from Combe that runs across this thread. We, the denizens of Badger and Blade will supply you with several vintage pucks to be used to compare to your existing pucks for comparison purposes.
Good idea. From my own non-expert experience, it appears modern Williams is a little too dense, hard and dry (and not the only soap with this issue). I notice some get much better results with it, at least temporarily, merely by grating it up.
 
Yes, labeling laws change, but also, if one is taking a very strict and technical view as to what constitutes a "formula change", it would be naive to think that Williams has not undergone multiple "formula changes" since 1840. Titanium oxide, used as a white pigment in Williams and numerous other consumer products today, was not even in mass production until 1916. If there is a problem with modern Williams, imo it isn't due to a failure to rigidly stay with some sacred original formula, but rather a lack of quality control in the manufacturing process.
I do not think it is strictly a quality control problem. The latest version of the packaging states "May contain sodium palm kernelate". That means that sometimes the formula contains palm kernel oil and sometimes it does not. If they do use it, we have no idea which of the other ingredients gets omitted or reduced. If you purchase a puck of Williams, you have no idea whether that puck is the same as the last one you purchased. I guess they use whichever fats are most available and least expensive at the time. However, that means the quality of the product varies from batch to batch depending upon raw material availability and cost. I have seen similar statements on other soaps such as bath soaps produced by the conglomerates. Perhaps the reason there is so much variability in opinions of Williams is that we may have used different formulations.

Some artisan soapmakers do vary their formulations, but only when they have done testing to insure that the reformulated product works better than the previous rendition. How would you respond if an artisan produced a soap using duck fat, but because chicken fat is more readily available, they decided to use it instead.
 
I do not think it is strictly a quality control problem. The latest version of the packaging states "May contain sodium palm kernelate". That means that sometimes the formula contains palm kernel oil and sometimes it does not. If they do use it, we have no idea which of the other ingredients gets omitted or reduced. If you purchase a puck of Williams, you have no idea whether that puck is the same as the last one you purchased. I guess they use whichever fats are most available and least expensive at the time. However, that means the quality of the product varies from batch to batch depending upon raw material availability and cost. I have seen similar statements on other soaps such as bath soaps produced by the conglomerates. Perhaps the reason there is so much variability in opinions of Williams is that we may have used different formulations.

Some artisan soapmakers do vary their formulations, but only when they have done testing to insure that the reformulated product works better than the previous rendition. How would you respond if an artisan produced a soap using duck fat, but because chicken fat is more readily available, they decided to use it instead.
Your theory is entirely plausible, but it seems to me we are all speculating. For example, Williams may have been made this way for decades, i.e., with occasional use of an alternative oil, but only the latest version of the packaging lists the ingredients accurately. The real problem could instead be they are not altering the original recipe enough to compensate for newer manufacturing equipment or methods. Who knows?

As someone posted above, for Combe, the shave soap may simply be a minor product that produces a small but steady profit, and not worth an investment in R&D. They certainly don't seem to invest in advertising for it.

Meanwhile, I grated up a puck, added glycerin and fragrance oils, pressed it into a mug, and tried it. No real difference in performance or scent! Sigh.
 
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Another superb Williams Wednesday, Baby!

Prep: Hot Shower and Bloom/Lather Building Water
Soap: Modern Williams soaked, crushed, and packed into Marvy Mug
Razor: @Blackland Razors Blackbird Brass OC/SB ; Merkur Eyebrow Mustache Razor
Blade: Personna Lab Blue (4)/Merkur Eyebrow Mustache (No Idea)
Brush: Omega Pro 48
AS: Aqua Velva (US)
ASB: Aqua Velva 5 in 1 (US)

When you go Williams, you go Full Williams! When the Williams is thick, creamy, and slick you know you got it good.
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For the past few days when I click the link for the soap subforum this thread is always at top of the page. I have not read the posts yet, but there must be a lot of hate. :laugh:
 
About 33% hate, 33% love, and 33% meh....
While there is no question that with patience, even 'modern' Williams will produce more than enough thick enough, long-lasting enough, lather for a good shave (if I can do it, anyone can), for me it comes down to an issue of skin type. I have extremely dry skin. While my skin feels smooth and soft when still wet with Williams, it becomes tight and dry afterwards, unless I use a moisturizer. For exactly the same reason, I don't use Ivory soap, a product originally produced by Williams. Grating it, adding a generous amount of glycerin and pressing it back together didn't seem to make much difference.

No big deal. It's good to have such a classic product, similar to the way it was in horse and buggy days, even if not identical.
 
No one product of anything is going to be optimal for everybody. One of the beauties of this wet-shaving thing is that you can try lots of different things, often for less than the price of a cup of coffee.


Myself, I don't care for Williams, or Monsavon, but both are light-years ahead of the Wilkinson stuff in the Blue Tub.


As far as the inexpensive stuff, Arko and Palmolive work for me just as well as anything.
 
I used to hate Williams Mug Soap too. Love the idea of tradition, but I quickly gave up on a puck and used it as bath soap. Too much work to get a decent lather out of it. Too much bother to do anything else with it, soak it, crush it, grate it, melt it, mix it, whatever. I'm lazy.

But recently I discovered how to tame Williams and turn it into a decent, usable soap. Now I wouldn't hesitate to buy Williams. Here's the key:

1. Lather it in one of those travel dog bowls with the teeth on the bottom. Sold at Amazon, Stirling, Aliexpress. Dog bowls rule and will lather anything quickly and easily, including Williams.

2. Use a pre-shave. I just use a cheap glycerin-based moisturizing cream.

Lather. Cushion. Slickness. Clean scent. Value. What's not to like? Williams is safe again!
 
Something strange happened recently...
I turned my home brewed Williams "shave stick" back into a puck, and since then I've been unable to get a decent bowl lather.
I've tried:
  • Loading from the puck for a ridiculous amount of time.
  • "Precision loading", using huge amounts of soap scooped into the bowl and loaded from there.
  • Both of the above methods, but with filtered water (not distilled).
It just turns into a disappointing pile of foam.

The last thing I tried was rubbing some on my face (shave stick style) and face lathering.... and THAT worked. Quite well, I might add.

Not too long ago (within the past month) I was able to bowl lather the stuff no problem, resulting in some great looking, slick lather.

It's driving me nuts! I don't know what changed. I'm still adhering to the rule of "don't start with a lot of water, and use a lot of soap", but it's simply not working in a bowl.

Since I can still face lather it, it's still okay in my book, but I'm starting to see why people are turned off by it.
 
Back in February I kicked the Harry's subscription and got a Rockwell 6s and started wet shaving with a brush and hard soap for the first time ever (at 55yrs old). I had grabbed a puck of William's at the grocery store and used that for a month or so until I read about better soaps and aquired a few. I don't recall having any problems getting a lather with it, but maybe it was my ignorance at the time and they were really lousy lathers. I will have to go buy a puck this weekend and see if I can still get a good shave with it now that I have been spoiled with better soaps/creams.
 
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