Adventures in soap making!

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I have to admit, I’m not really one for following instructions.. or using exact measurements.. I like to do things my own way, and make things up as I go. So when I first got the idea to make my own soap from scratch and started reading about how tricky soap making can be, how important it is to weigh out all the ingredients and to follow instructions exactly or you’ll end up with a disaster, I, of course, brushed it all off. It can’t be that hard.. And I’m sure I can sub a little this for a little that. I mean I do it with cooking and baking allll the time and it turns out fine. Well most of the time it turns out fine.. I pretty much took this approach the entire soap making process and you know what? It turned out great! So much for finally learning my lesson, if anything soap making has strengthened my belief in winging it. That being said one thing I do take seriously is safety precautions. Especially when working with highly caustic materials (lye) or oils/fats at high temperatures. I made sure to wear long sleeves, thick rubber gloves, and safety glasses.

I learned that homemade soap is pretty much just two ingredients fat and lye. Everything else is just additives for scent, texture, or sensation. I finally tracked down some lye at the home hardware in the small town I live outside of. I had went into the city at first and tried home depot, RONA, shoppers drug mart and grocery stores. I couldn’t find that stuff anywhere! Apparently it can be used to make methamphetamine so stores have stopped selling it in small quantities, if they carry it at all, which means I ended up with a 3 Kg jug of the stuff.. I’ll have to make a lot of soap offset the cost of all that lye.. Next I needed fat, I looked up a bunch of different recipes online, jotted down a few common oils/fats and headed to the store. Of course since I didn’t actually write down a specific recipe I came home with grape seed oil, olive oil and vegetable shortening. Three ingredients which I could not find combined in any recipes online.. No problem, I’ll make my own recipe! (See above, I’m a substitution addict) I found a soap calculator online that allows you to add in the percent of fats you want and tells you the weights you’ll need and also the amount of lye. Pretty cool! I made a 10/45/45 mix of grape seed oil, vegetable shortening, and olive oil respectively. Lastly I needed some additives I picked up some essential oils and nettles extract from the health food store to add to my soap. So I’m finally ready to make my soap, I’ve got all my ingredients, all my tools a pot, thermometer, glass bowls, measuring cups and no scale.. Damn. I wasn’t about to let the little problem of not being able to weigh my ingredients deter me so I looked up the weights of 1 cup of each oil/fat I had, did some calculations and somehow ended up with measurements that made sense in my head. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best! I used the cold process when making my soap, instructions and a great tutorial can be found here.

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I also added some food colouring to my soap once it reached trace. I picked orange oil, bergamot and a touch of lemongrass for my scents for an uplifting, cleansing mix and it smelled very nice! I also added stinging nettles. The nettles extract is a great astringent and can create a nice tingly feeling on the skin. Now to wait.. you have to wait at least 3 weeks before you can try out your soap. I forgot to cut mine into bars after 24 hours but I kinda like the jagged pieces the way they turned out. Looks more like soap from lush then homemade bars.

2013-01-05 12.35.36So flash forward about a month and I finally got to test it out! It turned out great! It felt silkier and smoother than any other bar soap I’ve ever used and didn’t dry out my skin at all. Unfortunately as the soap dried over the past couple weeks it lost a lot of its smell and now only has a faint hint of orangey bergamot. Not nearly as fragrant as I’d like. I’ll have to remember to add extra essential oils to the next batch.

All in all a very successful soap making endeavor! It’s such a satisfying feeling to make something from scratch, to know exactly what’s in it and be saving money in the long run. I also can’t wait to give some away to my family and friends. I’m already thinking up new fun ingredients for the next batch. I’m between a calming lavender/chamomile with lavender flowers or a super wake me up coffee grind infused soap or maybe both!

Have you tried soap making? Have you been successful and if so what are some of your favorite ingredients?

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2 responses to “Adventures in soap making!

  1. Amazing Sara! I am sad I missed the finish product 😦

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