Rodger N., a 46-year-old electrician in Georgia, still remembers when his dad taught him about GOOP. After a long day in the garage, his father taught him to dip his hands in a bucket of it and scrub off the grease and grime. Rodger’s been a GOOP guy since. He can’t work without it.
Dad was the kind of guy who’d spend every spare minute tooling around at the workbench, and Rodger followed in his footsteps. Today, he’s a metalworker who can lose hours on end in the garage, and — like his pop — he swears by the “absolute original” GOOP.
“None of that new stuff,” Rodger tells me. “I have nothing to do with any of the others.”
In Rodger’s mind, GOOP is the industrial-grade, no-nonsense soap you use in the garage, and that’s all it is. Nothing gets grease and soot off better.
“Couldn’t care less about Gwyneth Paltrow and her creams,” a mechanic tells me in a Reddit message. “I just use the stuff because it works.”
Long before Paltrow commandeered the Goop label to sell vagina eggs and coffee enemas, hard-nosed mechanics loved a waterless soap called GOOP. They still do. It’s a no-nonsense, factory-grade hand soap perfect for cleaning your hands after a long day in the shop. No offense to the host’s of Paltrow’s podcast The Goopfellas, but these guys are the real Goopfellas. GOOP is soap. It’s good soap. What else do you want?
I talked to mechanics to see why they stick by it — and what they think of Paltrow’s line of sketchy supplements, crystals and other wellness products.
“During the 1970s, GOOP ruled.”
Dan, a 59-year-old woodworker in Missouri, started using GOOP with his dad and brother in the garage. “In the ’70s, I was a teenager helping them work on cars,” he tells MEL. Dan says GOOP was the premier soap for anyone who considered themselves a handyman. “It seemed like only hand cleaner we ever used,” he says. “Everyone used it, like STP. If you knew about cars, you bought GOOP and STP oil treatment.”
For Dan and the men in his garage, GOOP was the only thing that worked. “I remember once when we were out of GOOP, we got so frustrated trying to get your hands clean with regular bar soap or dishwashing liquid,” he laughs.
Rodger also swears by the old stuff: the original GOOP from 1949. “My favorite kind of GOOP, by far, is the absolutely original product,” he says. “I have nothing to do with any of the others because that old original is so reliable!”
“The more experience you have in your shop, the more honed by wickedly truthful simplicities your craft will become. GOOP is one of those simplicities.”
“One of the largest branches of craftsmanship is metalworking,” Rodger says. “When you work with wood, your hands are gently treated with sawdust and glue that you can rub off. It’s beautiful and smells lovely. … But working with metal is the dead opposite.” Your hands become black “with a horrible mixture of metal dust and oil and grease,” he says. “Because metal-on-metal contact produces the black metal ‘soot,’ we’ll call it, and oil and grease repel water, your invariably blackened hands are now very hard to wash like a normal person.”
“Really, orange GOOP is the best stuff ever,” writes redditor JustMakeSomeShitUp1 in the subreddit r/mechanicadvice. “I once worked a labor-ready job where we made a playground and the flooring was made of shredded-tire rubber mixed with this thick industrial glue to make a springy surface, and that shit was literally stuck to my arm for five days.” They tried every trick in the world to remove it, including gasoline. The only thing that worked was orange GOOP. “It works on everything oil-based better than anything else, and requires no additional washing,” they rave. Of course, “an extra wash with Dawn doesn’t hurt afterward.”
Redditor LividWonk says he was introduced to GOOP “way back in the day” while working on a roofing crew. “We were pouring on buckets of emulsified asphalt and other hybrid elastomeric sealants, then painting it all with a heat-reflective aluminum coating. It was hot and messy, and Goop was the only thing aside from gasoline that would take that shit off. Which is good, because a Brillo shower hurts.”
JustMakeSomeShitUp1 has a routine for when things get beyond grimy: “Orange GOOP, wipe clean, wash with Dawn and use a green Scotch Brite [scouring] pad to really help work that dish soap in and scrape the grime off, [and then] get a nail brush to clean under your fingernails.”
“The more experience you have in your shop, the more honed by wickedly truthful simplicities your craft will become,” Rodger says. “GOOP is one of those simplicities. You keep a light handy so you can use your eyes to see things, you get some GOOP hand cleaner so you can clean up when you’re done! It’s that simple.”
“They sell pricey, phony, ineffective New Age crap to gullible people.”
The reason mechanics like Rodger and Dan like GOOP so much is because it’s uncomplicated and it works. They know it works because they’ve seen it work. Few people can say the same for the Goop wellness line.
Rodger tells me he’d never heard of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop before I asked him about it. “I am a fan of movies, and have noticed her thick interest in what one might call a ‘holistic lifestyle’ in the entertainment rags of year’s past,” he says, “so reading up on her new business venture, which is centered around a bunch of effeminate and weird powders and creams and hilariously expensive clothing… it seems very understandable, hah!”
Dan admits that “somewhere in the ’80s,” he found something better and moved on from GOOP. “I didn’t switch because GOOP changed, I just tried Fast Orange one day and liked it better. It smelled better — GOOP had a petroleum scent, Fast Orange smells like orange — and the pumice in Fast Orange makes it a more effective cleaner.”
As for Paltrow’s Goop, he says he’s heard about it: “I think they sell pricey, phony, ineffective, New Age crap to gullible people.”