Soap

I made soap. Yep, I actually made my first batch of soap. πŸ˜€

Last year I attended a soap making workshop. It was a great morning out and I learned a lot but the structure of the course was a little loose and I felt insufficiently prepared to trial soap making. I was scared for sure. Mucking around with lye is not a wise idea. So, what to do? Dial a friend. πŸ™‚

Gav from Greening of Gavin fame gave me a hand (he also teaches soap making workshops which I highly recommend) and helped set me on the right track. After gathering together my ingredients it was about finding a child free moment (or 30) to set about making soap. Last night I had 3 kids in bed and a husband out so I decided to give it a whirl. Scales, ingredients, jugs, jars, spoons, thermometres and a saucepan on the stove. The wood stove was on so I saved on fossil fuel usage by warming the oils on the wood heat. πŸ™‚ Oils melted and warmed, lye in a stainless steel bowl outside (the fumes are awful) and then time to mix. I had my lovely stick blender too, purchased 2nd hand from eBay a while back. I gave it a go in just the melted oils to find out limitations before splashing occurred. Hot oil is far less damaging than lye and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t sending highly alkali oil and lye over my lounge or bench. A deep breath, one last read of the instructions and in went the lye. Blender in and carefully and warilyΒ I mixed it through.

Blending away I reached trace in mere minutes! I was most impressed. πŸ™‚ In the absence of any soap scent to add I slugged in a goodly glurp of gardenia oil. Id seen oils used at the last course I was at and knew I needed to use far more than I thought I would so I doubled the amount I felt was reasonable. A heavenly smell reached through the house instantly. Good choice of oil! πŸ™‚ Blended through and then I was at the nice thick custard into a milk carton stage (called trace in the more professional than me world πŸ˜‰ ), performed with less ease than I hoped but little spillage too (thankfully). I have a 1L milk carton (the poor mans soap mould) and another carton with enough for a single large bar in the bottom covered in glad wrap and wrapped in a woolen blanket to cool slowly. Most happy.

The clean up was harder than one would expect. The soap covered gear doesn’t froth up yet as the soap needs to do its thing first so LOTS of detergent to lyseΒ (break down)Β the fats and oils used to make the soap, gloves to protect my hands from the alkaline soap I’d just made and a scrub all around. I’ve never enjoyed washing up so much as I did last night – the scent was heavenly. πŸ˜‰

I will peel open my soap tonight, cutting it free from its cartons and then slicing in order to let it set in bars. They will need to sit on a wire rack and cure for about 6 weeks by which time my gifted soap will likely be all used up. Perfect timing!

If you want to have a go making soap I highly recommend either buying yourself a soap making kit (I followed the cold-pressed method) or attending a course (Gav’s would be awesome πŸ™‚ ) and learning how to do it properly. In all seriousness, lye is a potent substance and if not treated with the respect it deserves it can cause serious injury.

As an absolute beginner soap maker please do NOT follow my instructions as they are not eve instructions. Take the time, do it carefully and you will safely be able to make your own safe soap. πŸ™‚

And sorry for the lack of photo’s. I was not intending to post about this but I’ve had my hand forced (you know who you are LYNDA! πŸ˜‰ ). πŸ™‚ If you want to see photos of what it looks like or find instructions then pleaseΒ check out here. πŸ™‚

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15 thoughts on “Soap

  1. Sue says:

    A friend and I have plans to make our first batch each together. I am working on safety in numbers!
    I think the idea is that husbands and kids will congregate at one house while we make soap at the other!
    Really looking forward to it.

  2. Linne says:

    Congratulations, Jess! I had friends when I lived in Victoria, BC, who made soap a couple of times every summer (they are twin sisters). One has a husband who is very handy at woodworking and he made several soap moulds for them to use. This is another thing I always meant to do, but haven’t yet. However, my Mum’s mother and grandmother made their own soap. They made their own lye, too, by putting the ashes from the stove in a barrel with holes punched in the bottom, then pouring water on the ashes. I think they had a bucket to catch they lye as it oozed out. In those days, soap was made outdoors over a fire in a large iron kettle. I think it was stirred with a long-handled wooden spoon. They didn’t use oils, of course; the fat from the hogs was saved and rendered, then the melted fat was used with the lye. I’m pretty sure there was no scent added, either. I’ll have to ask my Mum about that.

    Your method sounds much, much simpler and I do like the idea of using oils as the base. I buy some goat’s milk soap here at times, but have no idea how milk is incorporated into the soap-making. I hope you are going to post more about this as you continue your experiments. I find it so interesting . . . ~ Linne

    • One day I would like to make soap from tallow and wood ash ye but I figured it would be better to learn to make it in the modern way before trying to work out the strength of the lye etc. I need the understanding of the process enough to know how to adjust if it’s too much or too little lye iykwim. πŸ™‚ With our sheep and goats will should have a good supply of tallow and Ignisa provides more than enough ash so I’m all set for the ingredients. In the meantime I am keeping an ear out for a soap making book that covers all the in depth info and talks through INS table I think it’s called (how much lye is needed for each oil used as it changes depending on oils) and a few trustworthy recipes too. Tallow soap is likely to be a lot less luscious on the skin but when the SHTF it’s not likely to matter how creamy ones skin is. Clean will be more than enough. πŸ™‚
      And yes, learning how to use goats milk in the soap will come into play I am sure although once again once the SHTF would one be wasting a precious commodity such as milk in soap unless there was a serious glut or a necessity (I know it can help those with skin allergies)?
      Yes, using the stick blender makes it reach trace a LOT faster but in a post peak oil world unless one has extra energy to use with solar or wind generated energy it will be back to the world of the spoon.

  3. Kathy says:

    I made soap for the first time last November and wrote about it on my blog. I had my friend with me and we did it together. It’s very exciting your first tach of soap. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

    • It’s an exciting moment to know that it’s one more of the old skills to tuck under the bet. One more wish and desire that is achieved and that next time it will be closer to just being part of what we do. It’s great to now you’re 1 more step away from dependence on modern society and that you are 1 step further removed from the chemical cocktail our daily lives contain. It is nothing short of awesome learning how to, and actually making, soap. πŸ™‚ And it was a HEAP easier than I expected too. πŸ˜€

  4. Lynda says:

    Good post and so glad you are obedient. You will try and do anything and so often succeed. Hats off to you Jess. I was only thinking this morning that i needed to book into one of Gav’s soap courses. Gardenia oil would be lovely and i imagine soon you will be doing another batch and adding botanicals. (hint hint) They would make lovely gifts for your friends. (hint hint). I understand not taking photos during the process but some after shots wouldnt go astray.

  5. narf77 says:

    Clean hoppers πŸ˜‰

  6. […] it to trace (making it thicken). The tallow took a lot longer to come to trace than the oils last time I made soap Β and my poor little hand mixer was getting quite warm but it got there in the end. Into the cling […]

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