There’s something about the Old Dutch Cleanser Mine that keeps me coming back for more.

The mine

The mine is located in the El Paso Mountain Range off Highway 14 near Burro Schmidt’s infamous tunnel to nowhere.

Sometimes referred to as the Cudahay Mine

Cudahay Mine is actually Cudahy Camp, which was a small settlement that sprouted in 1923 with the founding of the nearby Old Dutch Cleanser Mine.

While the dirt roads leading to the mine don't necessarily require 4WD

While the dirt roads leading to the mine don’t necessarily require 4WD, a vehicle with higher clearance is strongly suggested.

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On the way to the mine there’s an area that overlooks Last Chance Canyon. The colorful terrain is a result of differing sediments and volcanic rock strata. The strata has been exposed through uplifting along the El Paso fault which created the El Paso Range.

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A dirt road southwest of the overlook leads down to an area that has obviously been mined before.

Old Dutch Cleanser was one of the most recognizable brands of the early 20th century. The domestic scouring agent, along with Comet and Bon Ami, was one of the biggest players in the pumice-based kitchen cleaner categories.

Old Dutch Cleanser used to be one of the most recognizable brands of the early 20th century. The domestic scouring agent was also one of the biggest players in the pumice-based cleanser category.

The mineral deposit containing pumicite is in the El Paso Mountains. It is contained within the sedimentary layers in the lower half of the 7,000 foot-thick Ricardo formation of Pliocene age. The deposit crops out as part of a nearly continuous northeast-trending belt that measures up to 600 feet in thickness. It stretches 7 miles northeast from the general vicinity of the old site of Red Rock, at the mouth of Redrock Canyon, to the south slopes of Black Mountain. Sands, clays, and ash were deposited in a lake which, in geologic time, began to develop north of Ricardo.

The mineral deposit containing the pumicite that was mined here crops out as part of a nearly continuous 7 mile northeast-trending belt that measures up to 600 feet in thickness.

The Old Dutch Cleanser deposit is the thickest and uppermost of six layers of white, thin-bedded, fine-grained, pumicite. The pumicite is interstratified with various other pale-colored sedimentary rocks giving it

The Old Dutch Cleanser deposit is the thickest and uppermost of six layers of white, thin-bedded, fine-grained, pumicite. The pumicite is interstratified with various other pale-colored sedimentary rocks giving it a marbled appearance in some sections of the formation.

The terrain

A short, steep path leads down from the parking area to the Old Dutch Cleanser Mine.

The first The engine that pulled the tramway up and down the mountain.

The first thing you’ll notice after making it down to the mining area is this old 30’s vintage truck frame and engine.

The mine was in operation from 1923-1947.

The mine was in operation from 1923-1947, so this rusty old thing hasn’t been running for at least 69 years.

Still looking pretty good to me.

Still looks pretty good to me.

The powder magazine where the explosives were kept for the mine.

The powder magazine where the explosives were kept was a little more accessible than the last time I was here.

The trail past the engine leads to the entrances to the mine.

The trail past the engine leads to the old tramway and entrances to the mine.

Enjoy the views as you make your way there...

Enjoy the views as you make your way there…

...but watch your footing, it's 700 feet down to the bottom.

…but watch your footing, it’s 700 feet down to the bottom.

Initially, hand labor was used to remove slabs of the semi-hard, brittle material for placement in 1-1/2-ton side-dumping cars pulled up out of the mine into daylight by burros.

Initially, hand labor was used to remove slabs of the semi-hard, brittle material for placement in 1-1/2-ton side-dumping cars pulled up out of the mine into daylight by burros.

was lowered to loading bins over a 475-foot- long inclined rail tramway.

It was then lowered to loading bins over a 475-foot long inclined rail tramway.

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After making it down to the base of the tramway, the mined rock was trucked 7 miles south to a siding on the Southern Pacific Railroad at Saltdale. It was then delivered to Los Angeles, where it was processed and blended with other material to produce Old Dutch Cleanser.

After making it down to the base of the tramway, the mined rock was trucked 7 miles south to a siding on the Southern Pacific Railroad at Saltdale. It was then delivered to Los Angeles, where it was processed and blended with other materials to produce Old Dutch Cleanser.

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There are

There are several openings into the mine.

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This one is my favorite.

This one is my favorite.

Just a little jiggle

Just make sure you’re not standing beneath it when the next earthquake hits.

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Look, it’s a petroglyph…not!

There are 19 tunnels that come to the surface, but there are about a dozen tunnels that do not.

There are 19 tunnels that come to the surface and about a dozen that don’t.

There are numerous tunnels perpendicular to the mine shafts that were used to transport the pumicite to the central extraction tunnel.

Numerous tunnels running perpendicular to the mine shafts were used to transport the pumicite to the central extraction tunnel.

The tunnels are huge. Some are 40 feet wide and 20 feet tall and go for hundreds of feet, down at an angle of 45 degrees.

The tunnels are massive. Some are 40 feet wide and 20 feet tall and go for hundreds of feet down at an angle of 45 degrees.

One of the reasons I keep

One of the reasons I keep coming back to Old Dutch is to watch the expressions on my friends faces when they first walk inside.

Most of my friends wouldn't dare enter most of the mines I explore but this one

Most of them wouldn’t dare enter the mines I usually explore but this one is perfect for beginners.

It's dry, not claustrophobic and you don't need rappelling gear to get into it.

It’s dry, not claustrophobic and you don’t need rappelling gear or balls of steel to enter it.

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Sure, a cave-in could happen but there's plenty

Sure, a cave-in could still happen but with multiple access points in and out of the mine, it’s doubtful you would get trapped inside.

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I guess there’s also a chance you could die if one of those large rocks happened to drop on your head but let’s not think about that right now.

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Twelve men were employed to produce 100 tons of pumicite per week.

Believe it or not, there were only 12 men employed to work the mine but they were still able to produce 100 tons of pumicite per week while it was in operation.

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Ghost Pants

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The mine produced 120 thousand tons of material before it was shutdown in 1947 when pumicite was obtained from other sources.

The mine produced 120 thousand tons of material before it was shutdown in 1947.

It's always sad to say goodbye to Old Dutch but I know it's only a matter of time before i return once again.

It’s always sad to say goodbye but I know it’s only a matter of time before I return once again. Below is a video I took of my last visit to Old Dutch and the nearby Holly Ash Mine, which was a direct competitor with the Old Dutch Cleanser Mine. [*Note: The second mine in the video is incorrectly labeled as the Holy Ash Mine, it’s actually the Holly Ash Mine]