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5 Lathers That Will Make Your Hard Water Surrender

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Some of us are annoyed with high mineral content–“hard”–water.  For the old-school wet shaver it can mean poor lather…and performance.  But all is not lost.  There are some shaving products that work well in hard water.  Here are five product lines that can tame hard water.

These are based not only on my experience but other shavers I’ve polled as well.  It’s interesting that all of these listed below are shaving soaps–shaving creams are definitely under-represented.  More on that later.  These not the only good products but if you have hard water you should have solid, reliable shaves out of any of these lines:

DR Harris

The DR Harris line of triple milled, tallow-based shave soaps are available in bowl, puck, or stick (the refill pucks are surprisingly affordable).  This may be among the last of the “old school” tallow-based shaving soaps from one of the long-established wet shaving brands and is exceptional for me and my hard water!  They come in several interesting scents:

  • Almond (“warm” and “woody” scent notes),
  • Arlington (a somewhat strong mix of citrus and fern),
  • Lavender (a mild scent that some have said has a bit of an “artificial” element to it,)
  • Marlborough (a mix of woody scents, particularly fern and cedar), and
  • Windsor (a citrusy, leathery scent with a bit of pepper, vetyver, and patchouli).

DR Harris is available from many wet shaving specialty stores like Italian Barber and  West Coast Shaving* plus Amazon* (though beware of Amazon prices for DR Harris…they’re all over the road).

Stirling Soaps

Stirling Soaps is a well-respected artisan whose products are now more widely available: you can also find their soaps at vendors like Maggard and  West Coast Shaving.*  They have a wide variety of scents (two of which, Ben Franklin and Port au Prince, were reviewed here on Sharpologist) with more being added on regular basis.  The performance of Stirling Soaps in hard water is excellent.

Barrister and Mann

Barrister and Mann (B&M) is an artisan with an excellent reputation (particularly the quality of their scent profiles) but many of their soaps don’t work well in hard water.  The exception is their “Latha” line of shave soaps which work much better in hard water!  B&M soaps are becoming more widely available* now too.

Catie’s Bubbles

I admit I didn’t know much about Catie’s Bubbles until I interviewed the owner recently.  Chris has a real passion for the art and an interesting way of combining scents (from classic interpretations like Royal Garden to unique takes that can evoke a strong memory like Waterlyptus).  Better yet, his formulations perform really well in hard water.  You can find Catie’s Bubbles at many retailers like Maggards, Italian Barber, and West Coast Shaving.*  Amazon* has a selection as well.


Finally…Arko.*  You either love it or hate it and I’ve mentioned it before in another context.  It was actually the top suggestion given to me by others when I asked around: a lot of people say it performs in hard water really well for them–once you get past the scent.  Some swear by the stuff.  Me?  I swear at it.  Pew.

Honorable Mentions:

A lot of shaving creams actually do pretty well in hard water, probably because their formulations tend to be a little more tolerant or forgiving of water in general–you just need to use more product to get results.  But speaking for myself I’ve gotten particularly good results from St. James of London,* Trumper,* and Castle Forbes.*  Taylor of Old Bond Street* gets some attention too, though I feel that the scents that have been around the longest (Eton College or Jermyn Street for example) don’t work as well as their newer offerings (like Grapefruit or Peppermint)!  And their shave soaps don’t perform as well in hard water as their creams.

What shaving products work well for you if you have hard water? Leave a comment below!
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Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

9 thoughts on “5 Lathers That Will Make Your Hard Water Surrender”

  1. Here’s how you make any (good) soap work with your hard water:
    Add a teeny, tiny pinch of citric acid to your soaking water, stir with your brush and then soak brush as usual. If you need to dribble a bit of water into the brush while lathering, use leftover soak water. You will be rewarded with the best lather your crappy water has ever produced.
    You can buy a 4 oz. shaker of citric acid online for less than five dollars. A container that size will last approximately 10 years. Yes, really.

  2. I don’t have a hard water problem, but I do have a problem lathering TOB Jermyn Street soap. No problem lathering their cream, just the soap. No problem lathering Mitchell’s Woo Fat or any other soap, just the TOB.

  3. I recently spent a few months in Europe, mostly in France. Water much harder than where I live in the US. Had trouble with most all soaps. What worked best? Trufitt and Hill 1805 Cream and a local French tallow-based soft soap Monsavon Bol à Raser which is sold in all grocery stores for around 1.50 euros or less. Fantastic slick, cushioning lathers with each.

  4. I find that Valobra shaving soaps have a rich creamy lather even with hard water. It is a tallow based soap.

  5. Ive tried many since moving to Tulsa Ok. Cella in big brick does best in our rock hard water. Great value too.

  6. I live in the mountains of East Tennessee where the water is very hard. Two soaps that work very well for me are two of the least expensive. Both Arko and Derby soaps lather very good and whip into a thick and long lasting lather. They provide a slick glide and I rarely have any nicks or cuts. My go to razors are a Merkur and Edwin Jagger. I switch between Astra and Derby blades. Keep up the good work.

  7. Soaps by Wet Shaving Products, Sapone di Paolo, and Italian Barber and creams from Cyril Salter work well for me (southern Indiana limestone-infused water).

  8. I live in the desert south of Phoenix, Arizona and we have well water that is extremely hard. That being said I have tried a number of shaving soaps and crèmes over the last 5 years of wet shaving. I have tried Taylor of Olde Bond St, Art of Shaving, Porasso, Crabtree and Evelyn, as well as a number of others I cannot remember.
    That being said the three best performers are by far Castle Forbes (I know it is expensive but it is almost more of a soft soap, that a shaving cream, and little goes a very long way), and a product that I think is made locally called Hirsh luxury shaving cream. Finally in the value category are the shaving soaps from Phoenix artisan accoutrements (I really love the home on the range, which reminds me of cleaning firearms with my dad as a kid). They are made in Casa Grande, AZ which is less than 30 miles from where I live and they have hard water as well.
    All three produce a thick rich lather that provide excellent glide and cushion and come in magnificent scents.

  9. Proraso creams are formulated with EDTA to counteract hard Italian groundwater from run off in the Dolomites. Never fails to lather for me.

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