Mystery of the Disappearing Soap

Halfway through the summer my not-inexpensive shea butter outside shower soap began to disappear once it wore away to about three to four inches long. I was puzzled and found it mildly annoying and couldn’t imagine why the soap continually went missing. Whatever was stealing the soap has developed a real taste for it because the critter can no longer contain its desire, now nightly chowing down even before it is small enough to cart away. I think it is a rat or perhaps a skunk. My husband wants to trap it, but I ask the question–what if it is a skunk and you do manage to capture, how are you going to remove it from the trap??

Who is eating our soap?

I’ve tried discouraging the little borrower by switching from lavender to lilac, verbena, honeysuckle, and gardenia; no matter, it savors them all. It would be fun to film the creature with an infrared camera, similar to the ones used by National Geographic photographers for filming lions and tigers at night. Does anyone have one I can borrow?

22 thoughts on “Mystery of the Disappearing Soap

  1. Perfect solution Charlene! I was about to suggest the soap dish be up high. Similar thing. By the way, we now sell all natural soaps in the gallery: Sailor’s Soap ,Old Dirty Fisherman, Dirty Old Clammer, and Dirty Gloucester Girl. Made in Glosta.


  2. We have caught all sorts of critters, including skunks, in a “Hav-a hart” trap. Simply cover the trap with the critter inside with a towel, blanket, whatever and prop the door open. We have never had a problem with a skunk spraying, they seem just happy to get out.


  3. It must be making the poor thing very sick, wouldn’t you think??? You could switch to a soap in a pump bottle. Better not to have things like mice around anyway because of hantavirus, which is spread to humans by rodents I believe.


    1. Good point Susan re pump soap and hantavirus although I don’t think it is making the creature ill because it has been eating the soap since July. I imagine it is receiving some kind of benefit from the high fat content of the shea butter soap.


  4. Ain’t GMG great?

    I wrote a murder mystery that takes place in Annisquam (The Sum of Her Parts). One of the clues demanded looking into the subject of rodent tooth marks. Here are some excerpts:

    “It [the rib] showed evidence of gnawing that presented as a series of grooves crossing the bone transversely. These were the parallel incisions in pairs that only rodents make. All other carnivores make separated marks.

    Magnification of each individual groove revealed a distinctly u-shaped base. An archaeologist experienced in bone modification would have testified that only a rodent could have produced such chisel-toothed marks….

    Studying the tooth marks on the bone promised to lead me toward the most likely gnawer… I lined up a Duck Point rogue’s gallery, according to animal size, starting with the smallest. The list included mice, voles, chipmunks, moles, rats, squirrels, muskrats, woodchucks, raccoons, and porcupines. After measuring the size of the tooth gouges, I concluded they were too big for the littlest fellows, too small for the biggest ones, and disgustingly right for a rat…”

    I’ll bet with a little googling, Kim, you can find pictures that will pin the culprit down nicely. The size and circumstances make me put my money on a mouse. We had mice chewing on a chocolate sculpture at night, and their marks were virtually identical to those on your soap.

    Good luck,


    1. Thank you David for your great input. I really enjoyed the excerpt from your book “The Sum of Her Parts.” I am looking forward to hearing you talk about your experience in self-publishing at the Sawyer Free next Saturday!


  5. It is undoubtedly a Norway rat (rattus norvegus). Only creatures with ethnic roots from that region take pleasure in dining on soap. I know this because I have visited that country and had the experience of eating lutefisk.

    Be warned — we are approaching the season when you may be offered this delicacy.

    Al Bezanson


      1. Al, please! You are so funny! Ludefisk is not rodent meat, it’s fish. 50% Norwegian, I’ve had it and it ain’t rat meat. I’d really like you to come to one of my openings next month, and have some of my famous fresh creamed herring. Bring your wife, I’d like to meet her.


        1. Fred I googled it and the name literally means lye fish–from wiki: It is made from aged stockfish (air-dried whitefish) or dried/salted whitefish (klippfisk) and lye (lut). It is gelatinous in texture, and has an extremely strong, pungent odor. Its name literally means “lye fish.”

          The process is described further:

          “The first treatment is to soak the stockfish in cold water for five to six days (with the water changed daily). The saturated stockfish is then soaked in an unchanged solution of cold water and lye for an additional two days. The fish swells during this soaking, and its protein content decreases by more than 50 percent producing a jelly-like consistency. When this treatment is finished, the fish (saturated with lye) has a pH value of 11–12 and is therefore caustic. To make the fish edible, a final treatment of yet another four to six days of soaking in cold water (also changed daily) is needed. Eventually, the lutefisk is ready to be cooked.”

          I can’t resist posting (two!) Garrison Keilors comments re lutefisk, also found on wiki:

          #1) Every Advent we entered the purgatory of lutefisk, a repulsive gelatinous fishlike dish that tasted of soap and gave off an odor that would gag a goat. We did this in honor of Norwegian ancestors, much as if survivors of a famine might celebrate their deliverance by feasting on elm bark. I always felt the cold creeps as Advent approached, knowing that this dread delicacy would be put before me and I’d be told, “Just have a little.” Eating a little was like vomiting a little, just as bad as a lot.

          #2) Lutefisk is cod that has been dried in a lye solution. It looks like the desiccated cadavers of squirrels run over by trucks, but after it is soaked and reconstituted and the lye is washed out and it’s cooked, it looks more fish-related, though with lutefisk, the window of success is small. It can be tasty, but the statistics aren’t on your side. It is the hereditary delicacy of Swedes and Norwegians who serve it around the holidays, in memory of their ancestors, who ate it because they were poor. Most lutefisk is not edible by normal people. It is reminiscent of the afterbirth of a dog or the world’s largest chunk of phlegm.


        2. You guys, Kim and Al, come to an opening when I have my fresh creamed herring. I make it with sour cream (or yogurt if I feel like it). This is the best! When I tell people that I caught the herring, they believe me! I make this for the GMG party ( December 8th) and also for men’s night. Ingredients do not include rodent or any other meat, just onion and herring. Now I’m hungry…


  6. As sleuth David Simmons pointed out those tooth marks suggest mouse, but until this case is concluded I would at least maintain rattus norvegicus as a critter of interest. Perhaps I was a bit hasty in assigning the blame. Who knows, r n may have actually decided to immigrate to the New World to escape Viking cuisine.

    In connection with this I will relate how I came to know about lutefisk. It was 1966, at the Grand Hotel in Tromso, and following the customary social hour, or two, I sat down to dine with a local fellow. I had been poking about the country for several weeks on fishery matters and fancied myself to be quite knowledgeable about seafood. He took the cue and ordered up a lutefisk dinner for me. I’ll say that Garrison Keillor was spot on with his descriptions of this delicacy. While I waited for my substitute entrée Lars told of the recipes used by backyard lutefisk makers. Old bathtubs were in demand for the process and I thought he said soaking times were measured in months, not days. This is all vivid in my memory – perhaps in the same part of my brain that stores details of where I happened to be at the time of catastrophic events.

    And Fred – thanks for your invitation – Phyllis and I will be paying you a visit.


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