Bathing Culture founders

Interview: Tim Hollinger and Spencer Arnold of Bathing Culture

Posted by Charlotte Boates on

The folks over at Bathing Culture are probably just as obsessed with bathing as we are (which is saying something). Based in Northern California, Bathing Culture creates thoughtful and transportive bath products. We’re excited to be partnering with Bathing Culture to offer a limited run of our Bath Kits to help you further sink into complete relaxation.

Founders Tim and Spencer started out delivering their now legendary Mind and Body Wash on the back of their bikes, cycling around San Francisco. With sustainability and the power of bathing top of mind, they’ve created something genuinely special. 

We were excited to speak with Tim and Spencer to learn a bit more about how Bathing Culture was started, their favourite bathing experiences, and nature as both an inspiration and something that they give back to.

Bathing Culture founders sitting in the grass

What inspired you to start Bathing Culture?

Tim: Bathing Culture just needed to be in the world. We went on a lot of amazing adventures centred around water and bathing, whether that was jumping off cliffs into the ocean, surfing, going on a night hike to hot springs deep in the backcountry or floating in rivers. 

But when we returned home, the products in the shower were a horror show for both personal and planetary health. There was a huge disconnect between the authenticity of the natural experience and what showed up in the shower — we saw the need for something better.

Can you tell us your most powerful bathing experience?

Spencer: Bathing is therapeutic, and really starts with some of the earliest forms of care from a parent or a guardian. Every time I go to the hair salon, when they pour water over your forehead, it reminds me of when I was a kid and having water poured over me in the bath. Immediately, it triggers that sense of feeling supported, loved, and cared for — that’s all humans really want. 

Bathing is the essence of community in a simple physical act. To switch into recent times, I’ve used it as a therapy for myself. When we were isolated in our houses, bathing was really a sanctuary to have alone time without phones or distractions. 

Tim: My mind goes to New Years 2020 — there was this big party on a farm. Spencer and a friend built a hot tub out of a stock tank, and we had some friends with a sauna on wheels that they brought up. It was cold out, so we got the tub rolling and the sauna going. It was a party that kind of went all night. I just think back on the joy of that. Bathing can be a solitary thing, but it can also be a really fun thing to do together. 

Your team is based in Northern California, and your main scent, Cathedral Grove, is named after the Redwoods of Muir Woods. Describe the Redwoods for us, all senses engaged please!

Spencer: When you’re in the redwoods just north of San Francisco, you’re smelling time. You’re smelling the weather patterns in the Bay Area — we have the hot valleys that suck the air over the ocean, creating the fog that feeds the trees. It smells like a deep breath, like the trees drinking in the fog. 

Cathedral Grove is trying to capture that experience of the redwood trees drinking fog. If you break open the redwood needles, it smells like those woody floral notes. And as we continue to grow, we’re going to keep on focusing on experiences like this that reflect where we live — those places where the well of nature is so deep. 

Bathing Culture founders Tim and Spencer by a bathtub
Bathing Culture has been doing refills since day one, and now there are hundreds of places to refill the Mind and Body Wash. Why refills?

Spencer: We started off with a BYOB party — bring your own bottle. People told us we couldn’t do that and that that’s not how the business works, but it’s really worked out. I’m proud of how we stuck with refills, even through the challenges of the early days. 

Refilling is the embodiment of how we want to do things differently. Not necessarily because refills are so much more environmentally friendly, but more that people have to go out and do things. It’s not convenient to go and refill your bottle, so it’s a starting point for us to put the planet in front of convenience.

Bathing Culture is biodegradable, toxin-free, and made with materials that are organic and ethically sourced. What was the journey like to create sustainable products?

Tim: As we started working on Bathing Culture, we learned about the environmental challenges with packaging, formulations, and the lack of biodegradability for most products. We wanted to address these issues and provide formulas that wouldn’t harm personal health. 

But sustainability isn’t always like a light switch, where something is either sustainable or not — it’s much more complicated than that, and something that we’re always working towards. We use primarily organic ingredients  to avoid mass fertilizers that are derived from petrochemicals, With packaging, we don’t want it to just look great (shoutout to Greg, who does our visual design), but we also always look at the lifecycle analysis of the materials that we source. 

I think for us it’s really important to set a standard, and for our community to know that they can trust us to really work towards sustainability, because it’s our responsibility. Also, we feel that caring about the environment doesn’t have to be shame-based — we wanted to tap into the joy, celebration, transformative power, and history of bathing for a positive mission. 

What’s your relationship to slow living? How do you bring moments of pause into your everyday life?

Tim: Meditation is hugely important to me. We also make time for connections to nature in our daily life. Our workshop and office space is full of plants. One of the things we do is take time during the day to care for those plants, and go and sit amongst the plants. 

We also don’t show up for the sake of showing up. We don’t work 9-5 just because it’s 9-5. Instead, when our work is done, we leave and we live (we can even turn our phones off). 

And finally — what do you think is so magical about the act of bathing?

Spencer: It’s a bit of a mystical experience. It feels transformational, and it’s something that’s hard to put into words — it’s an experience beyond the material. That’s what we’re really interested in with Bathing Culture, is supporting those experiences and using bathing as an assisted vessel to reach them.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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