04 June 2009

Do you Zote?

You have seen those lists before...the ones that are titled "You know when you have been in Mexico a long time if"... and then they go on to list a bunch of silly stuff. Well, I would like to add an item that really isn't so silly. When I got married a little over a year ago I first noticed that my wife Gina uses a pink bar of soap for washing her clothes as well as for bathing. She smells so good after bathing that one day I grabbed a bar of that soap and showered with it and I have been hooked ever since. It is called "Zote" (ZOE-teh) and it has been manufactured and sold in Mexico for about forty years. This is the soap that you see Mexican ladies use when they wash their clothes on a corrugated washboard or "tallador" (tabla de lavandera). It generally comes in a big bar of 400 grams and it comes in several colors, pink, blue, and white but the colors are just dyes and all three colors supposedly work the same. Here in Irapuato all we have is pink and white. I have never seen a blue bar so they must use that in some other regions of the country. The name "Zote" comes from the size of the bar. If you add the suffix "zote" to the word "jabón" (ha-BOHN) which means "soap", you get "jabonzote" or "big bar of soap" just like "favorzote" means "big favor".

There is method to this madness. Although Zote is a little stronger than generic bath soap it is still mild enough to be used by most people. It is made from from beef tallow and coconut oil that are neutralized with caustic soda during the soap making process. It also contains salt (sodium chloride), glycerin, oil of citronella, optical brightener and dye. It contains no abrasives. It is the oil of citronella that makes it smell a bit lemony but not overpowering. It is said that the oil of citronella also acts as a bug repellent but I am not so sure about that. I haven't repelled any bugs with it yet. For washing clothes, especially things like sweaters, delicate garments, and underwear, this stuff can't be beat. It works very well on tough to clean spots like shirt collars and cuffs and it can also be used as a spot remover. You dissolve half a bar in two quarts of water and boil it down into a paste. You then put the paste over the stubborn spot or stain and put it out in the sun to harden. Then you just lift off the paste and the stain will come with it. Save what you didn't use for the next time or use it in your washer.

This soap has other uses as well. It seems to be the "WD-40" and "duct tape" of the soap world. Some people also use it to wash dishes. They even say that the pink Zote makes excellent catfish bait. I don't intend to try fishing with it but I do intend to keep bathing with it at least until something falls off. Anyway, if you've never tried it you ought to give it shot. It comes in two sizes, 400 grams and 250 grams but most people just buy the 400 gram bar and cut it in half if they need to. When the bar becomes too small to grasp comfortably you save it and when you have a bunch of pieces like this you can dissolve them in water to make liquid soap. You can also use Zote in your washing machine by grating it. Clothes washed with Zote seem to stay fresh longer. You can really brighten dingy clothes by soaping them up and then putting them in the sun for awhile before rinsing them. Maybe we should have a contest to see how many things we can do with Zote. In any case I'll bet that the winner will come out squeaky clean.

42 comments:

Amber said...

This is great! I've been living in Mexico for nine months and haven't used Zote because I've no idea how to. I am totally going to run out and get some now. Thanks!

Leslie Limon said...

I have only seen the pink and white Zote. The pink is my favorite. It works great for getting those hard to remove stains from my childrens' socks. There is always a bar of Zote above my lavadero!

Chrissy and Keith said...

oh, I absolutly have to have some NOW! That gives me reason to go to Ranch Market this weekend.

glorv1 said...

How great Bob. Unfortunately we don't have that here. It does sound like a great soap though. At least your squeaky clean. Have a great weekend.

Calypso said...

But is it bio-degradable ;-)

We get it in 200 gram bars here in Xico.

Alice said...

Do I have to boil it to a paste to remove stains or can I moisten the stained area and do a direct application of zote?

Bob Mrotek said...

Calypso,

Bio-degradable? Hmmm, I don't know for sure. I think so. I will put a bar on the back fence and see if it biodegrades or whatever. The people in Xico probably buy it in 200 gram bars because they have small hands :)

Amber, Leslie, and Chrissy,

Thanks for the retroalimentación (feedback).

Bob Mrotek said...

Alice,
If the stain isn't a real humdinger then all you have to do is rub some Zote into the stain after wetting the cloth and then put it out in the sun for awhile and then rinse. This works fine for most stuff. For a really stubborn stain use the paste method.

Jaimetown said...

Wow Bob, you could be 'el portavoz oficial' for the folks that make Zote.

1st Mate said...

Hey, Bob, if you get this post translated into Spanish and send it to the Zote people I bet they'll send you a case of the stuff! Or at least that's how it works in the States.

Richie's 2ts Inspires said...

Just pass by to peek- But can't leave w/out leaving my footprints.

Great blog to read. Very educational & interesting. Keep writing. Ur good, indeed!

Have a nice w/end!

YayaOrchid said...

What a coincidence! We were just in the valley area of Texas and I purchased two Zote bars at the flea market, because I hope to someday try to make a batch of homemade detergent, as per a recipe on a well known 'green' blog. I do have a question for you. Have you ever heard of a tree, and I'm not sure if this is the name of it, but I asked a guy at the flea market, and he said he'd heard of a tree called 'Jaboncillo" which smells just like the Zote soap. I know because my Sister has the tree, we just don't know the name of it. The guy said it's also called 'Canelon" because the bark shreds a little like cinnamon bark. I ♥ this tree and want to find one for me. And the leaves really do smell like Zote soap!

The Calico Quilter said...

In the past, people used "Octagon" soap bars like this in the U.S. It's a pretty effective soap, no particular smell, just "soapy"! I'm not even sure if it's made any more.

Chrissy y Keith said...

I got my Rosa bar of Zote on Saturday. I have cut off a small hunk for the shower. Very easy on the skins as well as aromatic.

glorv1 said...

Bob I was wondering if it's not too forward....if I could beg you for a bar of ZOTE and of course I would pay you. Do you Zopose you could send me one and I will forward the money to you.Please let me know otherwise I have to wait until yaya's trees if she ever finds them bear fruit to make soap.

glorv1 said...

Bob I just found out it is available here in the US at Mexican stores or at Mexgrocer.com. Thank you very much.

Bob Mrotek said...

Wow! Glad you caught me Gloria. I was just about leaving for the post office with a bar of Zote for my favorite artist :)

Amanda said...

Wish I would have read this earlier, we have some horrible stains, (we thought were oil from the washer but found out it was from the fabric softener) And I cant get them out for anything. I will be looking for Zote when I go shopping tomorrow.

laly said...

hi a friend told me that when she went to Mexico a dermatologist told her you can use Zote to help with eczema outbrakes I just found it and I am gonna use it on my 4 month old, hope it works

Bob Mrotek said...

Don't worry laly. It is very mild and it won't hurt.

Anonymous said...

You know, they have Zote at Albertsons. At least in the DFW area.

Anonymous said...

This is a great blog! I was researching uses and what stains Xote sill remove & ended up here! An FYI for all in the US, or at least Southwest/Mountain West US: Zote may be available at your local WalMart. I live in a very rural area of Northern New Mexico with long Spanish history and heritage, and his soap is readily available at several stores even in our town of 16,000!

Anonymous said...

Home Depot carries the soap now!

suemac said...

I have just made my 3rd batch of Zote-based detergent and I love it. Here is the recipe I use and it uses about 2 heaping tablespoons per washload.

2 cups Borax
2 cups washing soda
2 cups finely grated Zote
Mix together and there you are. i pay $1.09 per bar here in Seattle. This is very economical and works very well. My grater is finer than a standard cheese grater so the soap will dissolve well in the washer.

Annie said...

I finally found zote at a Mexican store. Can't wait to try it out. It is less expensive than either Octagon or Fels Naptha here. If it does what it says on the stains I will be hooked. Thanks!

Laura McGrath said...

Great info, Thanks Bob! I recently learned from a fellow baseball mom that Zote is great for removing the 'orange' baseball dirt from baseball pants. Especially the WHITE ones! Where were the fashion police when someone decided that white is good choice for baseball uniforms? Anyway, I finally found it yesterday at BIG LOTS and I can't wait to try it! Did I really just say that? I can't wait to do laundry? Yep! It's the little things that make us Moms happy.

The main reason I want to respond was to share my knowledge of soapmaking with you. I am a soapmaker and I make it from scratch. That means I take the oils and/or fats and mix it with the 'caustic soda'. Caustic soda is more commonly known as Lye. Caustic Soda, Lye and Sodium Hydroxide are all the same thing. 'Caustic' soda sounds so horrible doesn't it? Well, before it's mixed with oils and/or fats and turned into soap, it is an extremely dangerous substance. But, that's how soap is made. The resulting soap is not harmful at all. I can't speak for all soapmakers because it is possible for ingredients to be off and pH levels not being where they should be, but obviously the Zote people are professionals, eh?

The oils and fats all have different uses and good for different things. I have actually rendered my own beef fat or 'suet' to make tallow and then use the tallow in the soapmaking process. In case you're wondering, I ordered the suet online. You can get almost anything these days. Awesome.

Yes, citronella is a natural bug repellent. It sounds like a chemical, but is an essential oil. All natural.

The only things to worry about in using Zote as a bath soap would be an allergic reaction to a natural ingredient OR a reaction to the dye or optical brightener (whatever that is!). Zote also contains perfume, probably a synthetic. Glycerin is a natural ingredient as well, actually a by product of the soapmaking process. Sodium Chloride is used in a purification process, which I'm not familiar with.

Well, that's probably more than you wanted to know, but I put it in anyway!

Bob Mrotek said...

Wow Laura! Thanks for the soap lesson. I didn't know all that before but now that I do I will appreciate my Zote more when I shower with it in the morning. By the way, you are a super writer :)

Laura McGrath said...

You are very welcome! And thanks for the compliment....must learn to proofread...doh! Thanks for the laundry tips!

Anonymous said...

Ok so it's safe for dish soap? YESSS!! Been wondering this for a few days I LOVE ZOTE!! I found it at walmart for 97 cents! I plan to go by a TON more now that I know what all you can use it for! Thank you so much for this post!

Amanda said...

I use Zote for laundry detergent with this recipe
1/3 bar Zote
1/2 cup Super washing soda
1/2 cup Borax
2 gallons Hot water
Melt soap in hot water and mix in the rest. Use 1/4 cup per load laundry. I buy all my ingredients at Walmart in Florida.

Bob Mrotek said...

Thanks for sharing that Amanda!

Jen.K said...

I love this stuff!! Hard times can turn you to doing some creative stuff and I now make my own laundry soap and I use ZOTE for face wash now and I love it but I do have to use a moisturizer. I recommend this product to everyone! GREAT BLOG BOB!!!

Bob Mrotek said...

Thanks Jen! You made my day. I am happy that you are happy :)

Angela said...

I lived in mexico for 2 years and the washing machine we had didn't work very well. We washed most things by hand and ALWAYS used zote! My daughter spilled grape juice on a white shirt, I washed it with zote and hung it out in the sun...20 mins later the stain was gone. Now that I am back in the states I have found zote in many places I had never seen it before including walmart and family dollar. Love this stuff!

Bob Mrotek said...

Thanks for your comment Angela. It may be interesting to note that I heard from the people who make Zote and they are very nice folks. I think that has something to do with their wonderful products and their success.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if I can make a liquid form of Zotesoap for machine washing without using the soda and borax? Does anyone know what proportions I would use? I have a super large load top loader. I bought a case of Zote off of Amazon about a year ago and I have barely made a dent in it...I think that the soda and borax are causing residue to be left on my laundry which seems to hinder things like abosorption ability of towels. Since my water is not always hot here I do not want to just grate the soap and use it that way.
Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

another zote fan!! a coworkers white scrubs and her fresh smell is what got me hooked! tried the paste on stains! all gone !! also great for cleaning carpet stains and dirty areas ! grate zote, add hot water and with very little scrubbing(of course the degree of dirtiness dictates how hard you will scrub) your carpet is left fresh, bright and fluffy ! my husband is always turning people onto zote, because he loves how fresh our towels smell no matter how long Ive washed them ..and they seem fluffier too !

Toltepeceno said...

Jabonzote is very big here in Estado de Mexico, we love it for bathing. The wife has a washing machine now, so no more using it for clothes.

Sedona Raven said...

I discovered Zote soap on a laundry blog and found my local IGA in Sedona, AZ sells it. It is also available on eBay and Amazon. I grate a bar into a plastic container and add a small handful to my washer along with a tablespoon of washing soda and sometimes Borax. I use 1/4 cup white vinegar for the final rinse. I rinse three times. I love the smell.

At the moment I am wanting to make some liquid to use for dishes. I might try it for showering as well after reading this blog.

Bob Mrotek said...

Sedona Raven,
Don't be afraid to shower with it. You'll come out smelling like a rose :)

Anonymous said...

I like it,have seen it in stores for years and wondered what it was. After trying it,I'm amazed at how well it removes old stains I thought would never wash out. I just rub it on the spot lather and wash with the regular load,it also brightens clothes well. I wondered about bathing with it,but you answered that question. How about giving a dog a bath with it? Since its gentle on human skin,maybe it will be okay for my pet. It has a softening quality on laundry,so how about dog hair? Normally would use pet shampoo,but ran out. Another question is about doing my 92 year old grandmother's bedding,she has sensitive skin,what do you think ?
EXPERIMENTING IN MN

Kathy Jones said...

I saw this huge bar of soap on the shelf at my Walmart and when I got home I googled it. The next time I was in there I bought a bar to try in my laundry. It worked well but left a slight residue in my washer. With a half a bar left I moved it to the bath and showered with it. I just bought my second bar and my son bought one too. In a weeks time my skin has started to feel softer and more moisturized. I don't think I'll be going back to deodorant soap anytime soon.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.