Is Irish Spring the Worst Soap on Earth?

With the advent of winter, proper skin care becomes essential. Our intrepid political reporting team put one popular skin care product to the test.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

With the advent of winter, proper skin care becomes essential. Our intrepid political reporting team put one popular skin care product to the test.

Philip: Irish Spring smells good. It is a good soap. It has — or, at least, at one point had — good advertisements in which masculine dudes wash away the grime of their blue-collar lifestyles under totally masculine waterfalls, if I am remembering those ads correctly.

But the most important thing is the aroma, which has been produced by the same Irish family for centuries (probably), a family that picks nearby clover and digs up local peat to give the soap its distinctive and pleasant odor. 

Elle: Irish Spring is the worst soap in America. It smells like a Walmart, or a truck stop bathroom, or anywhere else where someone has tried to mask a horrible smell with an overpowering air freshener instead of actually cleaning away the source of the stink. It smells like chemicals and adolescence. It smells like bad taste.

Its old idiotic ads featured chirping "Irishmen" bathing outdoors, because apparently it's too girly to take a shower in an actual shower. Horrible flute music played in the background. The soap is so manly you can't just use it — you have to cut into it, with a knife. 

Philip: I actually don't understand how most of your argument is supposed to be in opposition to the soap.

  1. Every person on Earth with an ounce of common sense would rather bathe under a waterfall than in a shower. I am not suggesting that this is a waterfall in the middle of a city or anything, but a nice, remote waterfall surrounded by birds or whatever. It is, if anything, a human desire, not a gender-oriented one.
  2. Flute music is OK, don't hate.
  3. You do not necessarily need to cut it with a knife. If you rub the soap on your hands or a washcloth, it generates a lather that you use to cleanse dirt from your body. Basic soap usage.

Aroma ratings of Irish Spring at various stages

  Elle Philip
Unopened box

2 (of 10)
("I'll reserve 1 for, like, the floral version of air fresheners.")

7 (of 10)
("This smells good.")

Uncut bar of soap

("Like armpits I don't want to smell.")

("I like how this smells.")

Soap, post cut

("Bitter. Acrid.")

("Good smell.")

As for the aroma, comparisons to air freshener or whatever are, I suppose, fair. Though, you're obviously implying that it is Axe-body-spray-like, which is completely unfair and a disparagement that I imagine would earn you a subpoena from the good people of Ireland/Colgate-Palmolive.

But as Michael Corleone said to Kay, now who's being naive? Do you really think that your cleansing product is not made from some chemist-approved mash of aromatic elements? Irish Spring, unlike your pretentious soap, is direct about what it is: a cleaning product that smells great. The time your soap company spends on covering its trail of not being natural, Irish Spring puts into making sure my skin gets super clean.

Elle: The stupid waterfall is what makes the whole concept of Irish Spring so ludicrous. First, waterfalls are cold. They would make deeply unpleasant showers at any time other than the blistering heat of summer — something completely alien to Ireland. The average high temperature in Donegal, Ireland (doesn't that sound charming and quaint?) in August is 62 degrees Fahrenheit. The average low is 50! This is a place where you need a sweater in the summer! How is this the place you turn to for expertise in not smelling when you're sweaty? You don't actually have to sweat there.

I do not use pretentious soap. I just don't use soap that smells like toxic chemicals that Mafia types would use to dissolve a body in a bathtub. Even Irish Spring knows it has this weakness. The bar you just bought includes "MOISTURE BLAST WITH HYDROBEADS."


This is the Irish Spring people like you should like, since it's pretending to be healthy. And I would not use this because it contains moisturizer, which is a scam. Incidentally, I saw you on your computer doing your best to try and link Irish Spring to phthalates, a chemical product that reportedly has unfortunate side effects. And I saw that you were unable to do so.

There are lots of beautiful waterfalls in Ireland; here is a list. You are mad that the video above reflects the life that I live, and that's fine.

Elle: Every time my brother visits from the Army he leaves behind a barbaric loaf of putrid green in our shower. And that is why Irish Spring is ultimately heartbreaking, because it represents an aspirational refined manliness for guys who live in a world where things don't smell like plants or fruits or spices but like the blue stuff in bus toilets.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.