Maple syrup seems to be in everything this time of year, from teas to cocktails to cooking powders. It can also be found in Mary Harrington’s Mountainess Handmade Maple & Oatmeal Soap, a soap for men who don’t want a girly scent or chemicals in their personal care products. The oatmeal exfoliates, Harrington says, and the sugar in the maple syrup helps create a thick lather. The Maple & Oatmeal bar is one of a line of natural soaps Harrington created several years ago using certified organic oils and herbs and plants from her home garden in Bethel, and another, most unexpected ingredient – Maine snow. It’s an ingredient Harrington uses year-round, even in the heat of summer.
“When you make soap, you need to use water that has no mineral or chemical content,” Harrington said. “You can’t use tap water because it comes from either a well source with a high mineral content or it comes from a town water supply that has fluoride or other chemicals in it.”
She could use distilled water, but then she has to deal with disposing of plastic bottles and long trips to the grocery store. So she collects the snow that falls around her mountain home, melts it, filters it in a charcoal filter and stores it for year-round use. She scrapes off the top layer of snow before collecting it, and she ventures far enough into the woods that she avoids the ash from her wood stove that falls close to the house.
“It is just as pure as the distilled water when we’re done filtering it,” Harrington said.
Harrington started her business when her two daughters, now ages 6 and 9, were very young, and she wanted to make lotions and beeswax lip balms for them. By 2013, she was making more than they could use, so she sold the surplus at a crafts fair. The following year, she started her own shop on Etsy.com, where the soaps sell for $7 a bar. This month, she will attend her first New England Made trade show in Portland. The family has also just added a workshop space in the attic in preparation for expanding the business.
In addition to Etsy.com, Mountainess products can be found in many shops in Bethel – even the local bait shop carries it – and, in Portland, at Waterlily on Milk Street.