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An anonymous reader tipped us to write about something that we’ve used on and off since we were kids: Lava brand soap with pumice.  (Sometimes we get so wrapped up in writing about the newest power tool that we forget to mention something as simple as good hand soap for the shop!)  From the Lava FAQ:

What is pumice?
Pumice is a by-product of volcanic activity that provides the mildly abrasive quality in the Lava Bar and Lava Liquid soaps.  It is also the meaning behind the “Lava” name. 

The FAQ goes on to say that this is pretty much the same product they release 80 years ago.  So, yes, the Lava we used as kids in Dad’s shop is the same stuff.  Now it’s available in a bar and liquid format, and they even have a “pro” version that includes whatever that orange stuff is that’s so popular in cleaners now-a-days.

Interesting: Lava is a “WD-40” brand, in that the original company that developed the soap in 1893 sold it to WD-40.

Anyway, if you haven’t tried out this soap, you should.  The description is spot on in that it does contain a bit of grit which helps to remove ground-in dust (and paint, etc.) from your hands.  It’s more abrasive than standard soap, but doesn’t leave your hands too raw.  Think of it as the “polishing compound” of soaps.

It sells for about $1.50 to $4 a bar, and we find it pretty easily in local grocery stores.  Or if you have trouble finding it locally, Amazon sells a pack of twelve 5-3/4 oz. bars for just under $30.

The Lava FAQ [WD-40 Brands]
Lava (Soap) [Wikipedia]
Street Pricing [Froogle]
Buy It Now from Amazon [What’s this?]


14 Responses to Finds: Lava Soap

  1. Zeb says:

    WD-40 also owns the Australian equivalent, Solvol.

  2. Paul says:

    I’ve used Lava bar soap in the past, it’s OK. In an ancient Roman pummicy sort of a way. Nice institutional green color to the bar too. I can’t say as I’ve used it with the orange additive though. So just for that I’ll have to flag this post as “interesting”.

    When I was hardcore into grease monkeying I used to use a product called D&L Blue Label Hand Cleaner. Like the can says “Contains a Solvent”. D&L can get out the mechanic’s tan pretty good. D&L is better than Go-Jo. If you’re really filthy scuzzy and have to get really clean, D&L is the best I’ve ever used. You might just want to run that bar of Lava on yourself after you get done cleaning up with D&L though, to get rid of the solvent. 🙂

    Or I suppose you could skip the high price of some hand cleaners and go right to the source. Gasoline, diesel fuel, laquer thinner, acetone, Safetykleen, etc. all make pretty good grease cutting agents. Just put down the lit cigarette first huh?

    I recently found a pretty good way to get my hands clean. I bought a box of 20 Mule Power Borax to use as welding flux, but tried some with some liquid soap to wash my hands. Let me tell you when they say detergent booster they ain’t a kidding! Borax has a nice grittiness to it too, good for a nice scour. Now I keep a little container of Borax by my sink, just for washing up with.

    Borax and any old soap is pretty good for washing up. It gets me clean.

    If you’re really desperate to clean your hands there’s always the old Comet, and Palmolive trick too. Take a palmful of Comet, and add some dish soap to that, lather up. Pheeeew! Cleans out your nasal passages to boot! Be warned, this is really harsh, and will dry the heck out of your skin. But any effective degreaser is going to do that right?

  3. Ken says:

    What I prefer to use is Simple Green Hand gel. http://consumer.simplegreen.com/cons_prod_han.php
    This stuff is great. It has just the right amount of pumice in it to clean up anything.

  4. Randy says:

    I was the anonymous submitter. I have to admit that half the reason I submitted this was to see if there was any concensus on a superior product. Still, Lava is effective.

  5. Sweetalker says:

    Lava is nostalgic, too!

  6. Andrew says:

    I’ve always preferred the liquid Lava, or the Goop Orange Pumice hand cleaner. The bar never seems to get enough grit on my hands to get rid of the really tough stuff.

  7. “Maybe if I had Lava I could have done a better job.”
    – Vincent from Pulp Fiction

  8. nrChris says:

    I have always used Fast Orange


    It is not the most industrial or voracious cleaner out there, but it is good at removing grease–and used with a nail brush–works good enough for me. My background with this product is from working as a mechanic in a bike shop. It seemed to remove any kind of grease or road grime at the end of the day. Plus the orange smell doesn’t seem too chemically or toxic.

  9. fabmandan says:

    Dawn dishwashing soap! I do a lot of greasy grease monkey stuff and for the past few years this is all that I’ve used. Works great. They also use it to clean critters caught in oil spills.

  10. kdp says:

    An old machinist told me this trick to make engine grease easier to remove. Rub a bit of Vaseline onto your hands before you start working. Make sure to cover every square inch, but it doesn’t have to be a lot. What you’re doing is filling in the little cracks and pores in your skin. Use a dry towel to wipe off as much as you can – until you’ve got your grip back – then get to work. When you’re done, wash up with any soap you please. The grease will come right off.

  11. Bruce says:

    Thank’s for reminding me of Lava … I havn’t used it in years … good stuff … I think I’ll put it on my list to buy … sometimes you get so caught up in the latest thing you forget about and old stand-by

  12. Rick says:

    kdp – Wouldn’t this just substitute the translucent petroleum jelly in place of the black grease? I mean, you still need something to get the petroleum jelly out of your skin cracks and pores. I guess the upside is that it’s just not as visible.

    I think there was something else on the market that you could rub into your hands but it was water soluble.. it was called something like liquid gloves or something.

    Yeah, I believe this is it:

    I usually just end up using Nitrile gloves for the most part – but sometimes it’s just inevitable and you get some grease on your hands – Lava is the bomb for that.

  13. TimG says:

    Does the vaseline trick really work?? You guys should do a head to head shootout of hand cleaners!!

    There seems to be lots of suggestions and I’d love to see how they compare to each other.

    If enough of us post here in the comments section asking for a head to head hand cleaner shootout, you’ll have to do it! =)


  14. Matthew B. says:

    Boraxo Powdered Hand Soap. Best stuff there is, and doesn’t leave your hands smelling weird like the orange stuff will. If, like me, you can’t find it within 200 miles, just finely grate up some bar soap, then mix about 2 parts borax to 1 part soap. (I used Kirk’s Castile. And yes, grating soap sucks.)

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