Monday, July 25, 2016

I made soap!

And like a terrible blogger, I took exactly zero photos of the process! (Also I was doing this with my mom, sister, and a friend, and I was a little embarrassed about playing at "blogger.") We followed the recipe in a book I happened to pick up from the new release shelf at my local library. It's called The Complete Guide to Creating Oils, Soaps, Creams, and Herbal Gels for Your Mind and Body: 101 Natural Body Care Recipes Revised 2nd Edition (Back to Basics) by Marlene Jones. Quite a succinct and elegant title, no?

Anyway, I'm always up for playing around with body care and household products, just trying to make an effort to avoid harsh chemicals as much as possible, and attempt to be a bit sustainable. Whether or not I'm actually successful is debatable, but there you go. My sister had been talking about making soap for awhile, and I'd seen some classes though the timing didn't work out. There are actually a lot of local soap makers here in Milwaukee, so I even asked one of them if she did workshops, but I didn't hear back. Then when I saw this book, I decided to go for it on my own!

I ordered my supplies through Brambleberry , which I had heard about several months ago on the Craftsanity podcast. I probably could have found most of the ingredients at my local food co-op, but the lye seemed to be mail order only....or drain cleaner. Part of my goal for soapmaking was to try to soothe eczema, so I was really concerned with getting pure lye without anything else funky in it, so I just ordered everything.

While there are some things that I wasn't crazy about in this book, one thing I really liked was the description of allllll the different kinds of oils and fats that can be used to make soap, and why you might use one over another, and which combine well together. As you can see....I took notes.


I used the basic cold process recipe, but I swapped out some of the oils to include those that were good for eczema of very sensitive skin. We used a combination of calendula oil (marigold petals which I infused in olive oil for a couple of weeks before), palm kernal oil, castor oil, and vitamin E oil. We also decided to use goat's milk....because it seemed good and fancy.

As for the mixing, we knew that the lye+liquid step was the most potentially dangerous. The book warned of a "volcanic type explosion" and also that it would get extremely hot. I can't recall offhand what the exact temperature we were looking to achieve was, but the gist was that the chemical reaction could get to about 200 degrees and we needed to cool it down to something like 120. So we took our materials outside, added the lye to the liquid with our ice bath standing by. At first it seemed like nothing happened, which was good and also sort of disappointing!. As we mixed it, the milk took on a bright, egg yolk yellow color (the lye was also white to start). That was exciting! Then we put the pot in the ice bath and took its temperature...and it was something like 80 degrees. This made us a little worried that it wasn't going to work out, so we decided to heat it up on the stove to the target temperature. I have NO idea if this was the right thing to do, but we did it. Once we were at temp, we added our other oils and some lavender essential oil, and Kate took on the stirring job until we think we achieved trace. Basically it thickened up a little, but not super dramatic. By then it had been about an hour though, and we were kind of done. We poured it into silicone square molds - on a cookie sheet so you can move it later! - wrapped it in towels, and left it alone on a shelf in my mom's linen closet, because her house is so big she just has empty shelves, which is crazy.

We let the soap cure for a little over a month. I checked it once before then, and was pretty happy that it seemed to have hardened! The first bar had its inaugural bath last night, and it sudsed up pretty satisfyingly! I was pleased that it seemed pretty moisturizing as well....which was the whole point. I'll try to pop back with a picture when I get the rest of the bars out and ready to divvy up between our little coven of witches / chemists.

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