Thursday, June 27, 2013

Soaping!


Here is what happens when a chemical engineer with an interest in all things craft, homegrown and homemade has too much time on her hands. I started soap making a few months ago and I think I'm really hooked. I'm not comfortable giving out recipes or methods, the rest of the world wide web will do that for you just fine. But let me tell you about the goodness and fun that's happened with a few surprisingly simple ingredients! 

It's actually a whole lot like cooking. Except when I cook, I never really follow the recipe. And in soap making, you must follow the recipe to a T. This is where my many years of lab training come in handy, too. It's useful to be aware of where your hands are and what they've touched in the process, since lye is involved and lye is really corrosive.


Soap is basically made by combining some liquid and solid fats with lye, and then the fun starts. The additives! Today, I made a kitchen bar that I'll call 'Lemony Lather' because it has homegrown lemon balm, dried lemon zest and all sorts of wonderful essential oils with citrus notes. 


The herb and citrus zest give the soap a fun texture and a tiny bit of scrubbing action. The soap is wonderful to get the kitchen smell of one's hands. I pour the custardy soap mix into an enamel dish that I'm using as a soap mold. Those antique photography trays are so extremely useful, enamel is like glass, very unreactive and stable.

 The second bar of the night will be a very minimalist 'castille type' soap with nothing but coconut and olive oils. I'm hoping it will replace the kids' body wash, we shall see how that will go down.
 When done mixing, soap needs to sit in a warm, undisturbed spot for a day. I cover it, put it under the piano, and wrap it nicely with an old wool blanket. It will be cut tomorrow while in a still-kind-of-soft state, and then sit on a basement shelf to cure.

 To bridge that gap, you can take a look at some older soaps, starting with a 'gentle glitter' bar that has shimmery mica in it, for sensitive skin.
I experimented with a vegan and palm-oil free very moisturizing oat meal bar, my first time trying this neat marbled coloring. It's not a pretty bar, came out kinda dingy looking, but really nice on the hands.
  
The first iteration of the kitchen bar had rosemary and lemon balm, and looks like this after being cut and cured for a few weeks:

This last one is my favorite soap so far: The Mocha Mud Bar. It's scrubby, thanks to coffee grounds, cinnamon and cocoa in the mix. Smells a little of cedarwood and cloves, too. It's the perfect clean-up soap after gardening. The photo is my first time trying my own soap, a big moment because the soap takes so long before it's safe to be used. Four weeks of learning... yeah. That again. Patience.


    
The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
The Self Sufficient HomeAcreThe Self Sufficient HomeAcre

17 comments:

  1. We learned how to make soap a couple of years ago and went on a soap-making marathon! We gave soap out for gifts that Christmas and they were VERY well received. Our favorite was one we mixed in dried rosemary from our bushes - heaven! Thanks for sharing this post. (stopping by from the Self Sufficient Home Acre hop)

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's similar to beekeeping. Some people are scared, some people are hooked immediately. It appears we're both the second kind :-)

      Delete
  2. These look great! The citrus one is especially appealing to me. I have wanted to try making soap but haven't taken the leap yet. Your post makes me think it is possible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the feedback! I cut it today and it smells pretty good of citronella.

      Delete
  3. Coffee grounds!
    We love your oatmeal soap around here. If you still have some come December, I'll take some to Belgium!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to hear it, and I'll load you up for December!

      Delete
  4. Soap has been on my list for a long time, but so far I haven't jumped in. I have excess goat's milk at the moment...whenever I find myself alone without curious children I will give it a go. Yours look lovely. Great scents and herbs :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is definitely a late night activity. I'm as lenient as they come (my 2yo is my assistant beekeeper) but this project is strictly for me. Thanks for the visit!

      Delete
  5. Your soap looks almost good enough to eat! I would love to try it one day but I don't know...I can't follow a recipe exactly...I am always tweaking things a bit. Another reason I maybe shouldn't try soap making is because of your comment "It's useful to be aware of where your hands are and what they've touched in the process" makes me a little nervous...I cut myself every single time I am using a sharp too, haha...I get so focused on the task at hand, I forget where my hands are!

    Maybe I should just buy my soap from others like you who have the skills to make such lovely products :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the visit! I am toying with the idea of selling at craft fairs or etsy ... not sure yet!

      Delete
  6. Your soap looks great!!
    I am collecting up supplies and plan on jumping on the soap making band wagon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do it! But be warned, it's addictive!

      Delete
  7. Your soap looks beautiful! I would love to learn how to make soap, it's on my to do list!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Love this. Soapmaking is one of those things that is on my someday list. I've always been intrigued, but not willing just yet to take the time to do it. But I love seeing others do it!! :)

    Margaret @ Live Like No One Else

    ReplyDelete
  9. OOOooohhhhh, lemon balm soap! Sounds divine! I plan to try my hand and making some soon also. I have a rosemary bush in the backyard, maybe I will try that one first! Thanks for the warning about the addictive nature of soapmaking ;)

    ReplyDelete
  10. HEY! I love this post. YOU have been featured at the Creative HomeAcre Hop. Hope to see you back again this week!

    http://back2basichealth.blogspot.com/2013/07/welcome-to-creative-homeacre-hop.html

    ReplyDelete
  11. Mmmmm, the mocha mud bars sounds awesome! I've been thinking of making soap and I think THAT would make me try it! Thanks for posting!

    ReplyDelete