Mitchell's Wool Fat (MWF) is one of the most talked about shaving soaps on the market, not only because of its unique moisturizing properties, but because there seems to be a lot of different experiences in getting it to lather properly. Some say they have no problems; others say it just won't lather. This article will introduce you to MWF if you haven't tried it, and hopefully help those that have difficulty lathering this amazing soap.
Mitchell's Wool Fat comes in a beautiful ceramic dish that just blends old style and luxury at the same time. It is a tallow-based soap that contains large amounts of lanolin. (Hence the name Wool Fat.) It has a great powdery, fresh scent that is very natural and pleasant smelling. This is a great soap for people with sensitive skin due to the natural ingredients and non-intrusive scent.
Unfortunately, this is one of those soaps that can be difficult to lather. Usually, when I lather a shaving soap, I use a dense, wet brush, and after loading the brush with soap, I transfer to a bowl or my hand to build the lather. When I try it with MWF, I end up with a bubbly, airy lather that dries out and disappears very quickly. While this doesn't happen to everyone who uses the soap, it is a common problem for many people.
I discovered that water hardness is one factor in the latherability of Mitchell's Wool Fat Shaving Soap since it is very picky about water quality. I brought a puck with me on several vacations around the U.S. and I was able to easily lather MWF in the majority of the locations with my traditional methods, so I figured that the water quality at my house was not up to par for this soap. In Central Texas, we live on a big pile of limestone, so we have very hard water. I had the water at my house tested for hardness and it tested at 12 grains of hardness per gallon, which is very high. I began experimenting with different ways to get a stable lather out of MWF soap with hard water, and found 2 good methods that work.
The first method is to use a very well wrung-out brush. First load the soap into the brush then add water very slowly while building the lather in a bowl. This works well, but can take a while. The second method is to lather directly on my face. I do not know why it works better than in the bowl or in my hand, but it does. In addition, face lathering has the benefits of prepping your beard really well and makes for outstanding shaves.
First of all, be careful to ensure that the water that is not too hot because it works better with just warm water. Place a small amount of water onto the top of the puck and let it soak while you wet the brush.
Lift the brush face down from the water and let the excess water drain.
Give it a single shake so you still have some water in there but it's not flowing out.
Then start swirling on the puck for about 30-45 seconds to get it good and loaded. You will get lots of bubbles and foamy pre-lather.
Now you have the brush nice and loaded with soap.
Now, start swirling/painting the pre-lather on your face.
You will see that it is airy, dry, and full of little bubbles. If you tried to shave with this now, the razor would not glide over the skin very well and the lather would disappear by the time you finished one pass. After swirling on your face for another 30-45 seconds, dip the tips of the brush in water and begin swirling again.
This is after dipping once:
It is getting better, less small bubbles, but it is not too slick and shiny.
Here is after another dip and 30-45 more seconds swirling:
Now we are talking, thicker, no bubbles and shiny, slick lather. Repeat until you have this nice shiny, bubble-free lather that peaks nicely. This usually only takes 2-3 dips in the water to really get a good lather going. You will have enough lather for 3 passes, depending on the brush.
Here is what it looks like when i swipe the brush on my hand:
All in all, MWF is a fantastic soap. The high lanolin content combined with the fact that it is a tallow-based soap make it really moisturizing. I have even tried it without aftershave and my face is still moisturized all day.
I hope this helps anyone who has any issues lathering this outstanding soap.