GREENWOOD — Mary Harrington is all in on all-natural. The labels for her Mountainess Handmade line of lip balms, candles, detergent and soaps are on brown, unbleached kraft paper decorated with whimsical birds, flowers and cursive. 

The pumpkin in her pumpkin soap is from her garden. The maple in her maple soap is from her dad’s homemade syrup.

Another ingredient is straight from above: Depending on the scent, in her soaps, the fourth or fifth ingredient in is always Maine snow.

Business is good. So good, she’s had to save 40 gallons of melted, filtered snow to last her until next winter, double the amount she set aside this time last year.

To her knowledge, she has the snow-soap-making market cornered.

“There’s a lady in Michigan that does it with rainwater,” Harrington said.


Harrington, 35, grew up in Newry and lives in Albany Township, not off the grid, but she wouldn’t mind if it were.

“I do enjoy it when the power goes out — it gets so quiet and peaceful, you don’t hear the refrigerator humming,” Harrington said. “We barely have Internet and phone service.”

She started what would become Mountainess Handmade making lip balm for her daughters, now 7 and 4, using organic coconut oil, beeswax and cocoa butter. She experimented with different flavors, adding cocoa powder and vanilla for a whoopie pie balm and brewing oils with coffee overnight for a coffee balm.

Each batch made two cups, or 32 little tins.

“You end up with a lot of lip balm, eventually,” she said. Plus, she found that “once you have the materials, there’s so many things you can do with them.”

Mountainess Handmade launched 18 months ago. Orders picked up this past Christmas and she’s busy now meeting demand for balm tins personalized as wedding favors.


Harrington, a Maine College of Art grad, has come to many of her products self-taught. She branched into organic deodorant, sourcing pricey paper tubes, after finding a tutorial online, and turned her lip balm into Bug Off Balm by adding citronella and peppermint oil.

“I think that as a whole movement, people are becoming more aware of what they’re using on their bodies and putting into their bodies,” she said.

She and her husband, Alex Graves, made 400 tins of Bug Off last year. She’s anticipating they’ll make double that this year.

“I wouldn’t give my daughters a bottle of spray repellent, but I’m not afraid of them having that in their pocket,” Harrington said. “It’s all food-grade stuff.”

Her soaps, too, were born from watching YouTube videos. Turning to snow was a practical route; she didn’t like the idea of buying jugs of distilled water and using lots of plastic. The snow is gathered in the 7½-gallon buckets her coconut oil comes in and poured through a coffee filter once melted.

“Usually I have to fill the bucket three or four times (as it melts) depending on the snowpack,” she said.


Oatmeal, cider, honey and lavender in her products all come from Maine.

The Local Hub in Greenwood was the first shop to carry her line, which is now also in Elements Art Gallery and Bethel Bait Tackle & More (hunters use the native balsam and pine soaps as a masking smell, she said.) She also sells online, at the Bethel and North Conway farmers markets and on Etsy.

“It kind of took me by surprise” how much she’s grown in such a short time, Harrington said.

She picked the name as a nod to the outdoors — she loves to snowboard — and to give her room to grow beyond personal-care products. She’d like to get into patches; with two little girls, there are a lot of ripped knees at home, she said.

In late April, the family got back from its annual month in Alaska where they’re building a cabin in the deep woods, 30 miles from the closest gas station. There’s no running water, no electricity.

In other words: perfect.

“Hopefully, next year will be the first winter we’ll actually be able to stay in it,” she said.

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