Meet Dee, Co-Founder of Sootsoap Supply Co. She may not be a firefighter, but she is on a mission to make personal decon the standard in the fire service. We sat down with Dee to find out what drives her, and what makes SOOTSOAP different.
Q: Why did you Start Sootsoap?
A. My smelly husband! He came home from a live fire training, smelling like he had walked through fire and into our sheets – it was eye-watering. I asked why he hadn’t showered before coming to bed and he said: “I showered 3 times”. We were initiated quickly into something the fire service knows all too well – that pervasive smoky smell that is seemingly impossible to get rid of. You know the one – even after 3 or more showers when you think it’s finally gone, it makes a comeback.
I quickly discovered that not only was nothing available to get rid of this smell, I also learned the terrifying cause. Of course it’s logical to me now that a smell is caused by something, but to learn that cancer is the leading cause of death for firefighters as a result of toxic occupational exposure was not something anyone had prepared us for.
I began my research to create a product that would get eliminate ‘that smell’ and ultimately SOOTSOAP was developed to target the toxins – the carcinogens – that cause it.
Q. How does it work? What makes it special / unique?
A. The first key to our efficacy is our ingredients, which are well described scientifically to remove organic toxins like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and many other chemicals, impurities, pollutants and the toughest odours (even skunk!). The most visible of these ingredients is Binchotan Charcoal, the hardest and most pure form of charcoal with a larger surface area to maximize adsorption, which is saturated throughout our liquid and is the source of our unique black colouring.
But as amazing as Binchotan is, we don’t rely on charcoal alone. SOOTSOAP’s power is boosted with other ingredients such as broccoli and wild cabbage extract. We add no superfluous ingredients – everything has a functional purpose.
Second, SOOTSOAP is designed to maximize coverage and to coat thoroughly. Our Hand & Body Soap is concentrated, meant to envelop skin and be more difficult to wash away by design, whereas our Shampoo lathers white and fluffy and luxuriously to get through the hair and into the skin. One of our customers is a nuclear plant who has elected to use SOOTSOAP Shampoo as an overall soap, which was curious to me. As it turns out, the decontamination unit is all men, and they’re apparently a furry bunch! Uranium sticks to body hair and they had to shave their bodies to get rid of it. Now they use our Shampoo and don’t have to sacrifice their body hair!
What makes SOOTSOAP special is probably a subjective answer, but for me it’s threefold.
- PRODUCT DESIGN. Our products provide a lovely shower experience versus making decon feel like a chore. I didn’t just want a Shampoo; I wanted the BEST Shampoo. And I think we have succeeded – I hazard to say we are probably the first firefighter product to win the global Clean Beauty Awards (reigning champion, 2 years running)!
- PASSION. My personal passion as a Co-Founder and as a proud firewife drives me to continuous improvement. I choose to fight for firefighter health every single day and I will not back down – this is personal to me. I hope that passion comes through in our products, in our branding … and when I’m maybe a little too aggressive with protocol gatekeepers…
- INNOVATION. SOOTSOAP products are not frivolous or copycat products. They are unique, high quality, and designed to fill an important gap where there was no solution. When we launched after 2 1/2 years of R&D in 2019 there was still no solution for personal decontamination. We started from nothing and were, as far as I know, the first to unequivocally get rid of that smoky smell in one wash – and we do so without the use of chemicals. We now know that smoky smell is associated with a 40% increase in PAHs in post-fire urine for firefighters, so the fact that we are getting rid of that smell and the associated toxins and that we were the first to be able to solve that need is incredibly special to me.
Q. What are FD’s saying about SOOTSOAP? Have they found other uses for it?
A. The feedback never gets old! I always encourage people to try SOOTSOAP against any and every other option available to them, and they’ve always come back to us, but the important thing is that they’ve prioritized decon of their own body. Our customers become evangelists and are really the key to change at a bigger level. From Newfoundland to Cal Fire, they know the importance of their own health and are willing to fight for it and for us – to make SOOTSOAP available at their station and to make the investment personally. That’s really amazing to see.
It’s funny, there are so many other uses for SOOTSOAP that have come up over the years, all passed on by referrals. Our customers are pig farmers, miners, chimney sweeps, construction workers, mechanics, fisher(wo)men, cooks, hairdressers, athletes … you name it. If there’s an exposure or tough odor, we’re your guy! One of the most interesting uses is as an all-natural alternative for degreaser. We also have customers with incredibly sensitive skin – psoriasis and eczema, even burn scarring – who say they can’t use anything else.
Q. What’s Next for Sootsoap?
A. We have a number of products in various stages of R&D that I’m excited to get out there! Our next launch is our SMELLGEL, which is providing an easy, non-toxic solution to toxic behaviour that 90% of first responders are doing – watch for pre-orders coming soon!
But product launches aside, my focus continues to be working to normalize personal decon protocol in the fire service – both with individuals and through budget prioritization and SOPs at department level. Until then, it’s up to each of us to set our own standards.
“ I’ve been a full-time firefighter for more than 10 years now. I have the Shampoo as well as the Hand & Body Wash. I have not found another single product out there that comes close to Sootsoap. I use it after every fire and I never plan on using anything else.” (Mike, Brampton ON)
“…The day [SOOTSOAP] arrived, sure enough, I had a structure fire. I used the soap and the shampoo, and the smell of smoke was gone right after the shower, even from my watch (which I never take off). So if the smell was gone, how many other harmful chemicals were also removed! You don’t want to take that stuff back to your family at home. It’s an investment on your health! (Stefano)
“I TELL EVERYONE ABOUT THIS!
As a female professional FF with long hair I usually have to wash my hair 3+ times over a couple of days until the smell of smoke leaves my hair. After a fire a co-worker gave me a sample of the shampoo and after ONE wash and with just using half of the small sample package the smell was gone. I was shocked!! I couldn’t stop talking about it and immediately bought a set for myself and one for my husband, who is also a professional firefighter.” (Amanda)
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