GOT THE SUDS: Washpool Farm Soaperie owner and head soapmaker Melissa Thomas in the store.
GOT THE SUDS: Washpool Farm Soaperie owner and head soapmaker Melissa Thomas in the store. Contributed

POWER OF PURCHASES: Soaperie revived by dedicated following

IT WAS just a few months ago that Melissa Thomas put out a plea on social media, fearful that bushfires and drought would spell the end of her Ballandean business.

But so profuse was the popularity of her eco-friendly venture, Washpool Farm Soaperie, that orders worth $4000 flooded in within 24 hours from supporters wanting her homemade soapmaking business to survive.

For Mrs Thomas, the flood of support showed her just how much power all people held in their hands through their purchases, which co-incidentally is the driving force behind many decisions at Washpool.

A decade ago Mrs Thomas was living northwest of Roma with her family when years upon years of drought took hold of land on their cattle station and drove a neighbour to take their own life.

The family moved to the Southern Downs hoping for more rain, but also gave the opportunity for Mrs Thomas and husband Warren to enrol their children in school and start Washpool.

"My husband is down to half his cattle ... once that's gone and you haven't gotten cows it's really a loss of identity,” she said.

"He can come up here and cut soap and get involved in things, which helps with the business ... it's something else in our life that's bit positive.”

FAMILY AFFAIR: Jessica Thomas, daughter of Washpool owner Melissa, helps out with markets.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Jessica Thomas, daughter of Washpool owner Melissa, helps out with markets. Contributed

Mrs Thomas, who has a PhD in education, has a love for learning but also a sensitivity to shampoos and sulphates, which were the two driving forces behind her desire to learn to make her own soap.

While she has completed a few courses, the mother-of-four children aged between 35 and 13, is largely self-taught and is completing a degree in cosmetic chemistry.

She uses only natural ingredients, such as shea and cacao butter, to make soap on-site, buying as many ingredients as possible from Australia and those she can't she buys fair trade.

Mrs Thomas believes in voting with purchases, so ensures she supports worthy causes.

"We're supporting women in particular in third world countries that are trying to earn an income, where you put your dollars makes a real difference in lives,” she said.

In turn, she hopes others will show support for her sustainable, natural and eco-friendly ethos.

"If you've got children then you really want the world to be a good place for them to grow up in then every choice we make is critical,” she said.

Washpool Farm Soaperie owner and head soapmaker Melissa Thomas with husband Warren on their farm in greener times.
Washpool Farm Soaperie owner and head soapmaker Melissa Thomas with husband Warren on their farm in greener times. Contributed

While the low waste movement is helping the planet, it's also making a difference on a local level.

"While everyone is being put off work because the crops aren't being planted yet this year and the farms haven't ordered seedlings. The fact that people are purchasing things like soap for us we can maintain employment,” she said.

Mrs Thomas is developing a plastic-free shampoo bar, which she's hoping to debut at the upcoming Brisbane Eco Expo on September 13-15 at Brisbane Showgrounds.



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