This Spinning French Soap Is Living in My Head Rent Free

“You won’t believe what I just saw in the bathroom,” said my friend Rachel as she sat down at the table before showing me a picture on her phone. For context, we were eating our last meal in Paris at a random restaurant across the street from our hotel located in the 10th. Normally the table talk would be about the delicious food on our plates, but in this case we couldn’t shut up about the rotating French soap that protruded from the wall. We had never seen anything like it before, a bar of soap attached to a chrome-plated rod mounted above the sink that also spun with the gentle touch of a finger.

Hand soap in public spaces can be a touchy subject, especially in America where there are a number of biases and stigmas around cleanliness. But considering how only 66% percent of Americans reportedly wash their hands after using the bathroom, what is so frightening about a rotating soap? (And don’t even get me started on people that don’t wash their legs in the shower…) I’m fully aware that a rotating soap might be considered a controversial choice, but I found it so refreshing to see an alternative to the standard bottle of Aesop hand wash for once. Last month, my allegiance to rotating French soap was signed, sealed, and delivered when another friend named Rachel sent me a TikTok video showing a rotating soap in a bathroom with text that reads “pov you’re in a house above your tax bracket.” But instead, Lukas Battle makes his case for “the sinister charm of soap on a stick”—he even goes so far as to claim that they have an “evil energy.”

“If I walked into someone’s guest bathroom, one of the most public facing rooms of any house, and was forced to fondle a cob of soap in order to clean my phalanges I would have a mental breakdown right there and then,” he says. “I know it’s almost the same thing of having a bar of soap next to the sink, but there’s something so sinister of having it on a stick.”

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Admittedly, I prefer bar soap for bathing and liquid soap for showering and hand washing. But when I found a rotating soap by Provendi at Quail Store in Philadelphia, something came over me, and when I returned to my body the order had been placed. According to Ashley Olmstead, founder and owner of Quail Store, rotating soaps and wall-mounted holders have been used in public washrooms throughout France since the 1950s—you’re supposedly meant to get a thousand hand washes out of every bar. “Because it’s not sitting in a dish and deteriorating in water, it makes it last so much longer,” she says. “For those big commercial usages, it was preferred. I think even the sensory experience of using that oval is so cool; it’s a fun, nice hand washing experience.”

La Maison du Savon de Marseille, another company pushing rotating soaps on the French market, offers the hardware in brushed matte stainless steel, brass, or copper. (Their naturally scented vegan soap is made from a 100% vegetable recipe in the city of Grasse.) When you eventually run out of soap, you can easily replace it with another bar. “I also was introduced to it in Paris, very similarly, a restaurant,” Ashley says. “I was like, Of course, the most practical thing that is beautiful is in Paris. It’s just so French, and I’m a little bit of a Francophile for sure.” After looking further into it, she managed to find a vendor that sold the kit along with the refills so customers won’t be inconvenienced if they’re ready to commit to it.

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