DETROIT — Stone Soap Company, Inc., founded by Ralph Stone in Detroit, Michigan in 1932, is America’s oldest chemical manufacturer specializing in carwash chemical products, according to a company press release.
After 90 years of being in business, the company continues innovating products, reinventing itself and is still prospering and going strong.
During the period between 1932 to the late 1960’s, the company made soap the old-fashioned way — by reacting animal fat (or vegetable oil) with alkali, a process known as saponification.
The principal markets served by the company’s soap products included industrial laundries, restaurants and the commercial hospitality market.
Many of the company’s earliest distributors serviced the household market with private labeled soaps and home cleaning products manufactured by Stone Soap.
One such Stone Soap entrepreneurial distributorship servicing the Michigan household market were two gentlemen, Richard DeVos and Jay Van Andel.
They approached Ralph Stone in the mid 1950’s to partner with them in a new type of international business model which involved a multi-level marketing approach to distribute home cleaning products.
Ralph declined their partnership offer for the home market because Stone Soap was busy pioneering the emerging commercial carwash market.
Devos and Van Andel went on to establish Amway in 1959.
Ralph Stone was interested in the emerging commercial carwash industry because Detroit was the epicenter of all things automotive.
With the ‘Big Three’ automakers (GM, Chrysler and Ford) being based in Southeastern Michigan, all phases of the early commercial auto wash industry were born in the Detroit area and Stone Soap was there from the beginning, inventing most of the early chemical products that made commercial carwashing possible.
For the world’s first automatic carwash that opened in downtown Detroit, synthetic spray wax for drying cars was invented at Stone Soap.
When the world’s first commercial self-serve auto wash opened in a Northern Detroit neighborhood, it was Stone Soap that invented pressure wash detergents that made self-serve car washing possible.
In later years, Stone Soap inspired exciting new products and introduced its Rainbow® line, vibrantly colored and highly scented products, including shampoos for triple-foam automatic wash operations, and foaming brush shampoo for self-serve applications.
More recently, the company has been awarded several patents for making innovative products for the carwash industry.
As the company enters its 90th year, Ralph Stone’s sons, Kenneth as president and Steven as executive vice president, carry on the Stone Soap legacy of manufacturing quality chemical products for the carwash industry, while providing exceptional customer service internationally.