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Mitchell's Wool Fat (MWF): Optimization Results Help SOLVE the MYSTERY!

6th Addition to Optimum Lather Table: Mitchell's Wool Fat (MWF) Comes in Last . . . and It's Not Even Close




Purchase Date: June 26, 2016

Container: I purchased the 3 in., 125 g refill puck of MWF shaving soap, shredded the soap, and pushed it down into the bottom of a plastic container, as shown above with a large majority of the soap having been used by the time of the picture.

Ingredients: Sodium Tallowate, Potassium Stearate, Sodium Cocoate, Sodium Stearate, Aqua, Potassium Cocoate, Glycerin, Parfum, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Linalool, Hydroxycitronellal, Lanolin, Titanium Dioxide, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Gluconate, Sodium Silicate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Magnesium Sulphate, Tetrasodium Etidronate

Appearance: Off-white with a bit of yellow

Scent: The scent is difficult for me to describe, but it kind of reminds me of baby powder. When I started using the soap on June 29, 2016, the scent was present enough and lingered enough on my face to make me notice, which I didn't care for. With time, the scent has diminished, but it is still there.

Hardness: Hard, at least harder than average, based on my limited experience

Loading and Building: MWF creates a sparkly foam with relatively large bubbles upon agitation with water, and due to this behavior, loading MWF into a brush can be frustrating. Regardless of the rate at which water is added and whether the lather is built in a bowl or on the face, MWF does not produce a thick, rich lather. MWF naturally produces an airy, foamy mass. These statements are based on my past experimentation using a natural-hair brush, non-measured soap and water masses, bloomed and non-bloomed soap, generally warm water, and bowl and face lathering, as well as the strict exact-lather tests presented here that involved a synthetic-hair brush and measured soap and room-temperature water masses with bowl lathering. Water hardness was also briefly examined using extremely soft water (distilled) and extremely hard water (1000 mg/L as CaCO3), the latter making even airier lather with MWF. Out of five important points listed by @Marco about MWF (B&B URL), which have all been addressed here, the fifth point about face lathering working "much better" and bowl lathering "fail[ing] miserably" is the most pertinent here. Making exact lathers involved bowl lathering, but when applying lather to the face, the lather would deflate somewhat under scrubbing and painting actions. Nevertheless, the applied lather was still less dense compared to lather with other soaps and less aeration did not alter the soap and water masses. Just about the only positive thing that I can say about building lather with MWF was that, as proven with timer results, it was relatively quick. At the optimum water-to-soap ratio, it took roughly 45 seconds for the soap on the bottom of the lathering bowl to be scraped off during lather building, which was reasonable.

Optimization Results with Exact Lathers: In optimizing Mitchell's Wool Fat (MWF), twenty-one (21) daily shaves were conducted from November 17, 2017, to December 7, 2017, with total mass (as soap mass plus water mass) ranging from 6.48 g to 8.16 g and water-to-soap ratio (as water mass divided by soap mass) ranging from 9 to 50. Due to the low soap masses, I quickly switched from my usual heavier plastic lathering bowl and a 0.1 g resolution scale to a disposable lightweight plastic bowl and a 0.01 g resolution scale to accurately measure mass. It didn't take long to figure out that the best mass was roughly around 7 g. Water-to-soap ratios in increments of 5 were generally used due to the relatively large values, but in bouncing around different values while zeroing in on the best one, the optimum water-to-soap ratio of 25 was found to within roughly 3 increments.

The following table summarizes key results for lathers made with MWF soap over various water-to-soap ratios, or water-to-MWF ratios in this case:

Water-to-MWF RatioRinsing from ChromeSlicknessCushionPost-Shave
10Not Good Due to Significant StickingBad or Really BadVery LittleGood, but with Very Noticeable Irritation
15Okay with Some StickingBad Overall, but Ranged from Awful to OkayVery LittlePretty Good, but on Dry Side with Some Irritation
20Fairly Easy with Tiny Bit of StickingBad Overall, but Ranged from Awful to OkayVery LittleKind of Dry with a Little Irritation
25 (Optimum)EasyOkay Overall, Ranging from Awful to Pretty Good with a Little Stick-SlipVery LittleKind of Dry
30EasyRanged from Awful to Pretty Good with Significant Stick-Slip Reached in 3rd PassVery LittleKind of Dry
35EasyRanged from Awful to Pretty Good with Significant Stick-Slip Reached in 2nd PassAlmost NothingKind of Dry
50EasyStick-Slip Almost throughout Entire 1st PassAlmost NothingUnevaluated, since Shaving with MWF Ceased

Lather made with MWF is quite aerated, making application to the face not luxurious and producing very little cushion for reasonable water-to-soap ratios, and with increasing water-to-soap ratio, the lather changes from rinsing poorly to rinsing easily from a chrome-plated safety razor. The lather seems to dissipate or collapse somewhat by the end of each pass. MWF was found to produce lather with a slickness that is, at best, okay overall and ranges from awful to pretty good at various times during passes with a little stick-slip being possible. Blade buffing was hindered by the lack of residual slickness. Personally, I experienced irritation that eventually disappeared with a large enough water-to-soap ratio, but others might not experience such overall post-shave irritation. Outside of irritation, the post-shave transitioned from good to kind of dry with increasing water-to-soap ratio.

Ranking Results: Directly after finishing the optimization process with the optimum lather for MWF, the optimum lather for Lisa's Natural Herbal Creations (LNHC) was used in the next day's shave. This ranking test made it clear that LNHC and MWF are worlds apart. It wasn't even close. MWF lost by a wide margin. The only downsides of LNHC compared to MWF were the irritation felt right before shaving the third pass and the dry post-shave. Otherwise, LNHC produced lather that was definitely much better than with MWF. This made it difficult to objectively evaluate LNHC, but the soap surely behaved the same as before, as amazingly indicated by the same irritation and post-shave as recorded in the past. Thus, LNHC maintains its current ranking position and MWF becomes the new last-place soap.

General Discussion about Performance of MWF: Most of the performance characteristics of MWF are believed to be related to a relatively large fraction of lanolin that shrinks as the water-to-soap ratio increases. It makes sense that Mitchell's Wool Fat would have a relatively high amount of lanolin considering that "wool fat" means "lanolin". Lanolin is actually not a fat, but a thick sticky wax, and as such, it generally improves the post-shave of a lather at the expense of decreasing slickness and possibly making the shave feel closer than it really is. With a large amount of lanolin, the overall slickness may be significantly impaired. I believe that this is what happens with MWF, and in order to drop the lanolin percentage in the lather and increase the slickness to some sort of reasonable level, the water-to-soap ratio had to be driven to a relatively large value. Unfortunately, the post-shave became kind of dry in the process and whatever slight amount of cushion that previously existed at lower water levels became virtually nothing with more water.

Regarding the overall post-shave irritation that I felt with MWF at lower water-to-soap ratios, it is possible that I could have a sensitivity to lanolin. However, in the past, I actually did a patch test with pure lanolin left on my skin without any bad reaction. A better possibility for my irritation to MWF seems to be that coconut oil was used to make the soap, maybe more than most other soaps, which I think would help explain the airiness of the lather. Based on my recorded results with other soaps, it does seem like my skin is reacting to coconut oil, but it might just be coincidence.

Sensitivity of Performance of MWF: Mitchell's Wool Fat has a reputation for being difficult to lather, and a reputation for invoking strong opinions. The difficulty of building lather with MWF is surely due, at least in large part, to the large optimum water-to-soap ratio of 25 and the smaller optimum total mass. Both factors contribute to a relatively small amount of soap compared to lathering with other soaps. This makes controlling the amount of soap more difficult, more sensitive to the amount of loading time and other loading factors. Another factor that makes building lather with MWF more difficult is that there are really no visual indicators from the lather regarding the right amount of water for the given amount of soap. The lather just always looks like a sparkly foam for reasonable water-to-soap ratios. Measuring mass, or possibly volume, ensures consistency of the water-to-soap ratio and repeatable lather performance, but one cannot be expected to build lather beyond loading a brush and face or bowl lathering with additions of water in the normal manner.

The small amount of soap and the relatively large amount of water that must be used to build the optimum lather for Mitchell's Wool Fat, coupled with a potentially disappointing optimum performance and the lack of visual feedback with respect to sheen and texture, makes MWF a "sensitive" soap. Thus, some users might never have any problems with MWF just based on the odds or out of sheer luck, while others might never get MWF to work for them even after trying hard to make it happen and getting inconsistent results or consistently disappointing results.

Final Thoughts: I hate Mitchell's Wool Fat. There, I said it. The truth is that not much has really changed about that. Before I started reevaluating MWF, I had already used up most of the puck that I bought last year when trying to make MWF work for me. It never happened. I followed one tip after another and nothing worked. Eventually, I ranked MWF at the bottom of my private soap ranking, put it aside, and moved on. This time around with measured soap and water masses, exact lathers, and thorough recordkeeping, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to figure out MWF, but I knew that I was more prepared to tackle the problem. As shown above, I've tackled MWF as best as I can and, lo and behold, it's at the bottom of my list again. :laugh: Optimizing MWF was unpleasant, to say the least.

MWF could perform better with a different razor that reduces friction, but the same could be said for any soap. Also, others might not shake off excess water from their razors before strokes and/or they might rewet the face at times, and both of these techniques can be helpful for increasing slickness. It should be kept in mind that my evaluations are tough and do not include these variables. Lather is applied before each pass to my face that has been allowed extra time to effectively dry, the razor is quickly shaken once or twice after each rinse during passes to reasonably remove excess water, and water is not added by any other means during each pass. These factors alone might explain the difference between my evaluation of MWF and another's evaluation of MWF.

There are many fans of Mitchell's Wool Fat out there and I'm not trying to change their minds. I just hope that the results and analysis presented here will help settle the mystery and confusion that surrounds MWF, why it works for some but not others. This post doesn't fully explain MWF, but it does help solve the mystery that is MWF. :001_smile

Questions? Comments? Constructive feedback is always welcome. :001_smile

Optimum Lather Table


Performance RankingSoap/CreamSoap/Cream Mass (g)Water Mass (g)Total Mass (g)Water-to-Soap/Cream RatioSoap/Cream Price (USD)
1Stirling Soap Co. Shave Soap1.09.010.09.000.08
2Declaration Grooming (Formerly L&L Grooming) Shaving Soap1.08.59.58.500.16
3The Sudsy Soapery Shave Soap0.87.68.49.500.09
4Barrister & Mann Latha Shaving Soap1.08.09.08.000.10
5Lisa's Natural Herbal Creations Wet Shave Soap0.87.28.09.000.06
6Mitchell's Wool Fat Shaving Soap0.276.757.0225.000.03
General Notes:
  • As documented on August 27, 2017, soap/cream and moderately hard water masses, at room temperature, were directly measured in a smooth lathering bowl and lather was built using a dry synthetic brush, so as to make exact lather for each shave. Masses were measured using either a 0.1 g resolution scale with a heavier lathering bowl or a 0.01 g resolution scale with a lighter lathering bowl.
  • Based on slower three-pass shaves with blade buffing using chrome-plated DE safety razors with agreeable blades and blade exposures, water-to-soap/cream ratio was generally optimized to the nearest 0.5 value while total mass was simultaneously optimized as precisely as could be accomplished by varying soap/cream and water masses from day to day. Lather from inside the brush was used as much as possible in order to effectively eliminate the influence of the brush on total mass.
  • Rankings were aided by revisiting previously determined optimums and comparing optimum lathers in sequential shaves.
  • Prices are current median values among the available versions of each soap and cream.
  • The table is sortable such that clicking on a column heading sorts the rows according to that column's data, and clicking on the column heading again reverses the sorting order. Product names are links to full review and optimization results for the particular versions of the soaps and creams used.
Ranking Notes:
  1. Stirling Soap Co. Shave Soap: Lather builds faster than average. Sheen is pretty good or good. Lather is soft and uniform with some yogurt-like behavior and only a few small bubbles. Adhesion and application are pretty good or good. Slickness is generally good, but there is typically some friction near the end of passes. Cushion is okay or pretty good. Post-shave is fairly good, but a little on the dry side.
  2. Declaration Grooming (Formerly L&L Grooming) Shaving Soap: Lather takes time to build up, but it has some yogurt-like behavior and only a few small bubbles. Adhesion and application smoothness are pretty good or good. Slickness is okay to good, mostly good, with friction near the end of passes. Cushion is pretty good. Post-shave is good.
  3. The Sudsy Soapery Shave Soap: Lather builds faster than average. Sheen is not good because lather has more of a matte finish. Lather is noticeably airy with a uniform cell structure and foam-like behavior, as opposed to yogurt-like behavior, but there are only a few larger bubbles. Adhesion and application are okay, at best. Slickness is okay to good, mostly good, but there is significant friction at the end of passes and slickness seems to deteriorate with blade buffing due to a lack of residual slickness. Cushion is not much, and the lack of protection is noticeable. Post-shave is okay, but it is kind of dry.
  4. Barrister & Mann Latha Shaving Soap: Lather is neither like yogurt nor creamy, but lather is uniform with respect to very small air cells. Lather does not have much adhesion to skin during application. Sheen is nice, but not brilliant. Slickness is mostly good with some very good moments, but there is some friction near the end of passes. Cushion is not much, although it is fine. Post-shave is kind of dry with some overall irritation.
  5. Lisa's Natural Herbal Creations Wet Shave Soap: Lather is airy with uniformly tiny air cells and few visible small air bubbles. Sheen is okay, but not good or brilliant. Adhesion to skin is pretty good. Application is smooth enough, but not very smooth. Slickness is okay overall, with some good moments and virtually no stick-slip, but there is friction at times and near the end of passes. Cushion is okay, but it is not much. Post-shave is fairly dry with some irritation that probably corresponds with the irritation felt during and after application for the third pass.
  6. Mitchell's Wool Fat Shaving Soap: Lather builds relatively quickly to a sparkly foam that collapses to some degree during application and dissipates somewhat during passes. Slickness is okay overall, ranging from awful to pretty good with most times being okay or pretty good, but a little stick-slip might be experienced. Cushion is very little. Post-shave is kind of dry. (The water-to-soap ratio is optimized to within roughly 3 increments.)
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
The solution to the mystery is very simple, and quoted frequently on this forum.... YMMV

My method:

1) Dunk brush and leave to soak while prepping face.
1a) Sometimes I swirl the brush around the top of the puck to wet it first, sometimes I don't.
1b) Sometimes I will give the unsoaped brush a few laps round my face to work the water into it's bristles and mine - depends on the length of my beard - the shorted the stubble, the more likely I am to do this
2) Dunk brush again, and give a gentle shake
3) Swirl brush on puck for four or five seconds, about six swirls one way, and six the others
4) Transfer bubbly lather to face, and work the bubbles out
5) Shave
6) Wonder why every one else is having so much trouble with it

The only other soap I have is Palmolive sticks, primarily for travel. Mitchell's works so well, I haven’t considered gambling with other stuff.
 
I like the smell of the Fat, and I like the effects of the lanolin on my skin (in the winter), but I just don't like shaving with it. Doesn't suit me.
 
I think that this post only proves that we all have different experiences with the same soap. MWF worked well for me but others, like the OP, have a completely different experience.
 

Ad Astra

The Instigator
What an awesome analysis! Many thanks.

I too was disappointed with the Fat; had decided not to repurchase. Puck immediately dries up and cracks, gave average shaves. Meh.

For some reason I face lathered with the stuff this week and had much better results, if a thick pasty lather is used.


AA
 
I love MWF, in fact it is my second favorite soap. I heard all the horror stories about trying to lather it but it produces easy, voluminous lather for me. I 've never tried to scientifically breakdown my ratio, I just face lather and enjoy the shave. That being said maybe I'm the outlier as I can lather MWF, like the scent of Arko and love The VEG!
 
I got decent results when I first started using MWF and I bowl lathered more at that time. I experimented and found that MWF works better for me with loading a brush that is on the dry side. Just a few drops of water were added while whipping it up. When I started to face lather I found that dryer brush worked better. I would cover my face with a relatively dry lather and then dip the ends of the brush in water and work the lather until I got the lather I wanted. I also found that this soap works best when used every day.
 

Chan Eil Whiskers

Fumbling about.
I used to use MWF. I liked it fine. I bowl lathered, and had very little trouble lathering. I found it perfectly decent as a shaving soap.

The last time I used MWF I face lathered.

With MWF I always loaded the brush like I hated the soap and was trying to get rid of it as soon as possible. I always felt that using the Fat meant using a lot of product and a lot of water.

However, and I don't know why this is, I hated the MWF shave when I last used it. It is in my bottom drawer now with Tabac. I'd use it before I used the Tabac but that's a smell issue. Tabac shaves great.

Happy shaves,

Jim

P.S. SV is a great soap. Why use anything else.
 
I too hate "Da Fat".

I hear you. :001_tongu

Wow!
Feel better now? :p

Sure do! :laugh: Had to get that all off my chest. That was my longest, most complicated soap review to date. Also, it involved the most frustration. "I hate Mitchell's Wool Fat," was spoken to myself many times. :laugh:

The solution to the mystery is very simple, and quoted frequently on this forum.... YMMV

My method:

1) Dunk brush and leave to soak while prepping face.
1a) Sometimes I swirl the brush around the top of the puck to wet it first, sometimes I don't.
1b) Sometimes I will give the unsoaped brush a few laps round my face to work the water into it's bristles and mine - depends on the length of my beard - the shorted the stubble, the more likely I am to do this
2) Dunk brush again, and give a gentle shake
3) Swirl brush on puck for four or five seconds, about six swirls one way, and six the others
4) Transfer bubbly lather to face, and work the bubbles out
5) Shave
6) Wonder why every one else is having so much trouble with it

The only other soap I have is Palmolive sticks, primarily for travel. Mitchell's works so well, I haven’t considered gambling with other stuff.

I'm glad that MWF works well for you, Al. For its price, it's even better for those that like it. :thumbup1: I hope that because of the OP, you'll be able to simplify your method by eliminating step 6. :001_tongu

I like the smell of the Fat, and I like the effects of the lanolin on my skin (in the winter), but I just don't like shaving with it. Doesn't suit me.

You're not alone. :001_smile

This post probably proves something, but I'm not at all sure what.

Firstly, it proves my BOSC membership. :letterk1: Secondly, the optimization results show how MWF wants a lot of water. The amount of soap needed is so small that this makes it more difficult for some to be consistent with it, and fluctuations in soap mass cause fluctuations in water-to-soap ratio and fluctuations in lather performance. Some might never have a problem with MWF, but it is understandable why others might have trouble with it despite their best efforts.

I think that this post only proves that we all have different experiences with the same soap. MWF worked well for me but others, like the OP, have a completely different experience.

This post does reinforce YMMV, but that's not its purpose. The main point is that there is a sensitivity of performance with MWF. Since so little soap is needed, MWF wants a lot of water, and the sparkly foam of MWF doesn't give good feedback in sheen or texture like other soaps do to help hit the "right" amount of water. MWF is fundamentally a more difficult soap. Those that have no problem with it are fortunate.

What an awesome analysis! Many thanks.

I too was disappointed with the Fat; had decided not to repurchase. Puck immediately dries up and cracks, gave average shaves. Meh.

For some reason I face lathered with the stuff this week and had much better results, if a thick pasty lather is used.


AA

Thanks, Mike. :001_smile Why am I not surprised that you liked it? :stuart: I made test lathers with low water-to-soap ratios of 7, 5, and 3, but I didn't shave when them, which explains why they are not discussed in the OP. My notes for all of these lathers mentioned how extremely airy the lather was. However, at least for ratio=3, I remember not being able to scrape up all of the soap from the bottom of the lathering bowl when building the lather. That got harder and harder to do as the water-to-soap ratio dropped. Timer results were not included in detail. For water-to-soap ratio=15, it took about 1.5 minutes to incorporate all of the soap from the bottom of the lathering bowl, and for water-to-soap ratio=10, it took about 3 minutes to incorporate all of the soap from the bottom of the bowl. Since water-to-soap ratios of 9 and 10 were really bad with respect to friction, I didn't bother shaving with lower ratios.

The last cell in the last row of the last table just helps me enjoy MWF even more than I already do! :badger:

:biggrin1:

I love MWF, in fact it is my second favorite soap. I heard all the horror stories about trying to lather it but it produces easy, voluminous lather for me. I 've never tried to scientifically breakdown my ratio, I just face lather and enjoy the shave. That being said maybe I'm the outlier as I can lather MWF, like the scent of Arko and love The VEG!

MWF does produce easy, voluminous lather. Unfortunately, that lather might be good for some and not so good for others. That's true of all soaps, I suppose, but MWF might be special in its high optimum water-to-soap ratio that makes it harder to hit when loading a brush and adding water without measuring mass or volume.

I got decent results when I first started using MWF and I bowl lathered more at that time. I experimented and found that MWF works better for me with loading a brush that is on the dry side. Just a few drops of water were added while whipping it up. When I started to face lather I found that dryer brush worked better. I would cover my face with a relatively dry lather and then dip the ends of the brush in water and work the lather until I got the lather I wanted. I also found that this soap works best when used every day.

I'm glad that it works for you, Jim. :001_smile What you wrote is similar to tips that I tried in the past that didn't work for me. Now I know that it's not me, but that the soap and me don't get along.

I used to use MWF. I liked it fine. I bowl lathered, and had very little trouble lathering. I found it perfectly decent as a shaving soap.

The last time I used MWF I face lathered.

With MWF I always loaded the brush like I hated the soap and was trying to get rid of it as soon as possible. I always felt that using the Fat meant using a lot of product and a lot of water.

However, and I don't know why this is, I hated the MWF shave when I last used it. It is in my bottom drawer now with Tabac. I'd use it before I used the Tabac but that's a smell issue. Tabac shaves great.

Happy shaves,

Jim

P.S. SV is a great soap. Why use anything else.

Jim, you might have experienced the sensitivity issue of MWF during your most recent shave with it. The shift in water-to-soap ratio at reasonable levels is virtually impossible to tell with MWF, but it can make a big difference in performance.
 

6th Addition to Optimum Lather Table: Mitchell's Wool Fat (MWF) Comes in Last . . . and It's Not Even Close




Purchase Date: June 26, 2016

Container: I purchased the 3 in., 125 g refill puck of MWF shaving soap, shredded the soap, and pushed it down into the bottom of a plastic container, as shown above with a large majority of the soap having been used by the time of the picture.

Ingredients: Sodium Tallowate, Potassium Stearate, Sodium Cocoate, Sodium Stearate, Aqua, Potassium Cocoate, Glycerin, Parfum, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Linalool, Hydroxycitronellal, Lanolin, Titanium Dioxide, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Gluconate, Sodium Silicate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Magnesium Sulphate, Tetrasodium Etidronate

Appearance: Off-white with a bit of yellow

Scent: The scent is difficult for me to describe, but it kind of reminds me of baby powder. When I started using the soap on June 29, 2016, the scent was present enough and lingered enough on my face to make me notice, which I didn't care for. With time, the scent has diminished, but it is still there.

Hardness: Hard, at least harder than average, based on my limited experience

Loading and Building: MWF creates a sparkly foam with relatively large bubbles upon agitation with water, and due to this behavior, loading MWF into a brush can be frustrating. Regardless of the rate at which water is added and whether the lather is built in a bowl or on the face, MWF does not produce a thick, rich lather. MWF naturally produces an airy, foamy mass. These statements are based on my past experimentation using a natural-hair brush, non-measured soap and water masses, bloomed and non-bloomed soap, generally warm water, and bowl and face lathering, as well as the strict exact-lather tests presented here that involved a synthetic-hair brush and measured soap and room-temperature water masses with bowl lathering. Water hardness was also briefly examined using extremely soft water (distilled) and extremely hard water (1000 mg/L as CaCO3), the latter making even airier lather with MWF. Out of five important points listed by @Marco about MWF (B&B URL), which have all been addressed here, the fifth point about face lathering working "much better" and bowl lathering "fail[ing] miserably" is the most pertinent here. Making exact lathers involved bowl lathering, but when applying lather to the face, the lather would deflate somewhat under scrubbing and painting actions. Nevertheless, the applied lather was still less dense compared to lather with other soaps and less aeration did not alter the soap and water masses. Just about the only positive thing that I can say about building lather with MWF was that, as proven with timer results, it was relatively quick. At the optimum water-to-soap ratio, it took roughly 45 seconds for the soap on the bottom of the lathering bowl to be scraped off during lather building, which was reasonable.

Optimization Results with Exact Lathers: In optimizing Mitchell's Wool Fat (MWF), twenty-one (21) daily shaves were conducted from November 17, 2017, to December 7, 2017, with total mass (as soap mass plus water mass) ranging from 6.48 g to 8.16 g and water-to-soap ratio (as water mass divided by soap mass) ranging from 9 to 50. Due to the low soap masses, I quickly switched from my usual heavier plastic lathering bowl and a 0.1 g resolution scale to a disposable lightweight plastic bowl and a 0.01 g resolution scale to accurately measure mass. It didn't take long to figure out that the best mass was roughly around 7 g. Water-to-soap ratios in increments of 5 were generally used due to the relatively large values, but in bouncing around different values while zeroing in on the best one, the optimum water-to-soap ratio of 25 was found to within roughly 3 increments.

The following table summarizes key results for lathers made with MWF soap over various water-to-soap ratios, or water-to-MWF ratios in this case:

Water-to-MWF RatioRinsing from ChromeSlicknessCushionPost-Shave
10Not Good Due to Significant StickingBad or Really BadVery LittleGood, but with Very Noticeable Irritation
15Okay with Some StickingBad Overall, but Ranged from Awful to OkayVery LittlePretty Good, but on Dry Side with Some Irritation
20Fairly Easy with Tiny Bit of StickingBad Overall, but Ranged from Awful to OkayVery LittleKind of Dry with a Little Irritation
25 (Optimum)EasyOkay Overall, Ranging from Awful to Pretty Good with a Little Stick-SlipVery LittleKind of Dry
30EasyRanged from Awful to Pretty Good with Significant Stick-Slip Reached in 3rd PassVery LittleKind of Dry
35EasyRanged from Awful to Pretty Good with Significant Stick-Slip Reached in 2nd PassAlmost NothingKind of Dry
50EasyStick-Slip Almost throughout Entire 1st PassAlmost NothingUnevaluated, since Shaving with MWF Ceased

Lather made with MWF is quite aerated, making application to the face not luxurious and producing very little cushion for reasonable water-to-soap ratios, and with increasing water-to-soap ratio, the lather changes from rinsing poorly to rinsing easily from a chrome-plated safety razor. The lather seems to dissipate or collapse somewhat by the end of each pass. MWF was found to produce lather with a slickness that is, at best, okay overall and ranges from awful to pretty good at various times during passes with a little stick-slip being possible. Blade buffing was hindered by the lack of residual slickness. Personally, I experienced irritation that eventually disappeared with a large enough water-to-soap ratio, but others might not experience such overall post-shave irritation. Outside of irritation, the post-shave transitioned from good to kind of dry with increasing water-to-soap ratio.

Ranking Results: Directly after finishing the optimization process with the optimum lather for MWF, the optimum lather for Lisa's Natural Herbal Creations (LNHC) was used in the next day's shave. This ranking test made it clear that LNHC and MWF are worlds apart. It wasn't even close. MWF lost by a wide margin. The only downsides of LNHC compared to MWF were the irritation felt right before shaving the third pass and the dry post-shave. Otherwise, LNHC produced lather that was definitely much better than with MWF. This made it difficult to objectively evaluate LNHC, but the soap surely behaved the same as before, as amazingly indicated by the same irritation and post-shave as recorded in the past. Thus, LNHC maintains its current ranking position and MWF becomes the new last-place soap.

General Discussion about Performance of MWF: Most of the performance characteristics of MWF are believed to be related to a relatively large fraction of lanolin that shrinks as the water-to-soap ratio increases. It makes sense that Mitchell's Wool Fat would have a relatively high amount of lanolin considering that "wool fat" means "lanolin". Lanolin is actually not a fat, but a thick sticky wax, and as such, it generally improves the post-shave of a lather at the expense of decreasing slickness and possibly making the shave feel closer than it really is. With a large amount of lanolin, the overall slickness may be significantly impaired. I believe that this is what happens with MWF, and in order to drop the lanolin percentage in the lather and increase the slickness to some sort of reasonable level, the water-to-soap ratio had to be driven to a relatively large value. Unfortunately, the post-shave became kind of dry in the process and whatever slight amount of cushion that previously existed at lower water levels became virtually nothing with more water.

Regarding the overall post-shave irritation that I felt with MWF at lower water-to-soap ratios, it is possible that I could have a sensitivity to lanolin. However, in the past, I actually did a patch test with pure lanolin left on my skin without any bad reaction. A better possibility for my irritation to MWF seems to be that coconut oil was used to make the soap, maybe more than most other soaps, which I think would help explain the airiness of the lather. Based on my recorded results with other soaps, it does seem like my skin is reacting to coconut oil, but it might just be coincidence.

Sensitivity of Performance of MWF: Mitchell's Wool Fat has a reputation for being difficult to lather, and a reputation for invoking strong opinions. The difficulty of building lather with MWF is surely due, at least in large part, to the large optimum water-to-soap ratio of 25 and the smaller optimum total mass. Both factors contribute to a relatively small amount of soap compared to lathering with other soaps. This makes controlling the amount of soap more difficult, more sensitive to the amount of loading time and other loading factors. Another factor that makes building lather with MWF more difficult is that there are really no visual indicators from the lather regarding the right amount of water for the given amount of soap. The lather just always looks like a sparkly foam for reasonable water-to-soap ratios. Measuring mass, or possibly volume, ensures consistency of the water-to-soap ratio and repeatable lather performance, but one cannot be expected to build lather beyond loading a brush and face or bowl lathering with additions of water in the normal manner.

The small amount of soap and the relatively large amount of water that must be used to build the optimum lather for Mitchell's Wool Fat, coupled with a potentially disappointing optimum performance and the lack of visual feedback with respect to sheen and texture, makes MWF a "sensitive" soap. Thus, some users might never have any problems with MWF just based on the odds or out of sheer luck, while others might never get MWF to work for them even after trying hard to make it happen and getting inconsistent results or consistently disappointing results.

Final Thoughts: I hate Mitchell's Wool Fat. There, I said it. The truth is that not much has really changed about that. Before I started reevaluating MWF, I had already used up most of the puck that I bought last year when trying to make MWF work for me. It never happened. I followed one tip after another and nothing worked. Eventually, I ranked MWF at the bottom of my private soap ranking, put it aside, and moved on. This time around with measured soap and water masses, exact lathers, and thorough recordkeeping, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to figure out MWF, but I knew that I was more prepared to tackle the problem. As shown above, I've tackled MWF as best as I can and, lo and behold, it's at the bottom of my list again. :laugh: Optimizing MWF was unpleasant, to say the least.

MWF could perform better with a different razor that reduces friction, but the same could be said for any soap. Also, others might not shake off excess water from their razors before strokes and/or they might rewet the face at times, and both of these techniques can be helpful for increasing slickness. It should be kept in mind that my evaluations are tough and do not include these variables. Lather is applied before each pass to my face that has been allowed extra time to effectively dry, the razor is quickly shaken once or twice after each rinse during passes to reasonably remove excess water, and water is not added by any other means during each pass. These factors alone might explain the difference between my evaluation of MWF and another's evaluation of MWF.

There are many fans of Mitchell's Wool Fat out there and I'm not trying to change their minds. I just hope that the results and analysis presented here will help settle the mystery and confusion that surrounds MWF, why it works for some but not others. This post doesn't fully explain MWF, but it does help solve the mystery that is MWF. :001_smile

Questions? Comments? Constructive feedback is always welcome. :001_smile

Optimum Lather Table


Performance RankingSoap/CreamSoap/Cream Mass (g)Water Mass (g)Total Mass (g)Water-to-Soap/Cream RatioSoap/Cream Price (USD)
1Stirling Soap Co. Shave Soap1.09.010.09.000.08
2Declaration Grooming (Formerly L&L Grooming) Shaving Soap1.08.59.58.500.16
3The Sudsy Soapery Shave Soap0.87.68.49.500.09
4Barrister & Mann Latha Shaving Soap1.08.09.08.000.10
5Lisa's Natural Herbal Creations Wet Shave Soap0.87.28.09.000.06
6Mitchell's Wool Fat Shaving Soap0.276.757.0225.000.03
General Notes:
  • As documented on August 27, 2017, soap/cream and moderately hard water masses, at room temperature, were directly measured in a smooth lathering bowl and lather was built using a dry synthetic brush, so as to make exact lather for each shave. Masses were measured using either a 0.1 g resolution scale with a heavier lathering bowl or a 0.01 g resolution scale with a lighter lathering bowl.
  • Based on slower three-pass shaves with blade buffing using chrome-plated DE safety razors with agreeable blades and blade exposures, water-to-soap/cream ratio was generally optimized to the nearest 0.5 value while total mass was simultaneously optimized as precisely as could be accomplished by varying soap/cream and water masses from day to day. Lather from inside the brush was used as much as possible in order to effectively eliminate the influence of the brush on total mass.
  • Rankings were aided by revisiting previously determined optimums and comparing optimum lathers in sequential shaves.
  • Prices are current median values among the available versions of each soap and cream.
  • The table is sortable such that clicking on a column heading sorts the rows according to that column's data, and clicking on the column heading again reverses the sorting order. Product names are links to full review and optimization results for the particular versions of the soaps and creams used.
Ranking Notes:
  1. Stirling Soap Co. Shave Soap: Lather builds faster than average. Sheen is pretty good or good. Lather is soft and uniform with some yogurt-like behavior and only a few small bubbles. Adhesion and application are pretty good or good. Slickness is generally good, but there is typically some friction near the end of passes. Cushion is okay or pretty good. Post-shave is fairly good, but a little on the dry side.
  2. Declaration Grooming (Formerly L&L Grooming) Shaving Soap: Lather takes time to build up, but it has some yogurt-like behavior and only a few small bubbles. Adhesion and application smoothness are pretty good or good. Slickness is okay to good, mostly good, with friction near the end of passes. Cushion is pretty good. Post-shave is good.
  3. The Sudsy Soapery Shave Soap: Lather builds faster than average. Sheen is not good because lather has more of a matte finish. Lather is noticeably airy with a uniform cell structure and foam-like behavior, as opposed to yogurt-like behavior, but there are only a few larger bubbles. Adhesion and application are okay, at best. Slickness is okay to good, mostly good, but there is significant friction at the end of passes and slickness seems to deteriorate with blade buffing due to a lack of residual slickness. Cushion is not much, and the lack of protection is noticeable. Post-shave is okay, but it is kind of dry.
  4. Barrister & Mann Latha Shaving Soap: Lather is neither like yogurt nor creamy, but lather is uniform with respect to very small air cells. Lather does not have much adhesion to skin during application. Sheen is nice, but not brilliant. Slickness is mostly good with some very good moments, but there is some friction near the end of passes. Cushion is not much, although it is fine. Post-shave is kind of dry with some overall irritation.
  5. Lisa's Natural Herbal Creations Wet Shave Soap: Lather is airy with uniformly tiny air cells and few visible small air bubbles. Sheen is okay, but not good or brilliant. Adhesion to skin is pretty good. Application is smooth enough, but not very smooth. Slickness is okay overall, with some good moments and virtually no stick-slip, but there is friction at times and near the end of passes. Cushion is okay, but it is not much. Post-shave is fairly dry with some irritation that probably corresponds with the irritation felt during and after application for the third pass.
  6. Mitchell's Wool Fat Shaving Soap: Lather builds relatively quickly to a sparkly foam that collapses to some degree during application and dissipates somewhat during passes. Slickness is okay overall, ranging from awful to pretty good with most times being okay or pretty good, but a little stick-slip might be experienced. Cushion is very little. Post-shave is kind of dry. (The water-to-soap ratio is optimized to within roughly 3 increments.)
Ju
 
Just curious why you are going to all this trouble to evaluate lnhc sandalwood shave soap when she doesn't make that particular scent anymore and her recipe has been changed and updated for more than 6 months?
 
Just curious why you are going to all this trouble to evaluate lnhc sandalwood shave soap when she doesn't make that particular scent anymore and her recipe has been changed and updated for more than 6 months?

Good question. I bought the soap back in March and evaluated it soon after that and once more after I had refined my optimization process. Even though that particular version is discontinued until a "better fragrance oil" is found, as stated at LNHC's website, my analysis still applies to LNHC's "wet shave soap" with respect to slickness, cushion, and post-shave. It does not apply to Lisa's newer "premium artisan shaving soap". Lisa sells both lines of soap. If she drops the original "wet shave soap" line, then I would probably just remove the soap from the optimum lather table.
 
My EYES!! :yikes: after a very long painful read :nuke:

I love MWF a real keeper in my den I also have hard water and what I normally do with my MWF is I dribble some cold or warm water on top of the dry puck to cover the area only the top layer of soap, and place the lid back on the ceramic dish. Then I soak the boar or badger brush in a mug with cold or warm water for about 5 or 10 mins, while the dribble of water is soaking up only on top of the dry puck without soaking the whole puck in water. Shake the brush first and then remove the lid from the MWF ceramic dish, you'll see by now the dribble of water has soak up at the top layer of the puck this will help loosen the top layer of MWF. Then start loading the brush like you hate it on top of puck for about 35 or 45 second, then wet your face and start face lathering or even bowl lathering you might need to add little bit of extra water as you go along building up your face or bowl lather. Just be extra careful not to over used too much water, otherwise MWF will become very airy and bubbly and the soap will become too thin.

You should have enough MWF lather on your brush to last you for at least 4 or 5 passes :)

How long do I normally load the brush with MWF, remember load it like you hate it.

1. If your using a synthetic brush just run it under the tap water you don't need to soak it in a mug, and load the brush for 15 or 20 sec.
2. If your using a boar or horse hair brush, I load the brush for 35 or 40 sec. (I only have boar, I've never used horse hair)
3. If your using a Fine or Best Badger brush, I load the brush for 45 or 50 sec.
4. If your using a Silvertip Badger brush, I load the brush for 50 or 60 sec.

Good luck and may the MWF force be with you ;)
 
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