Thursday, March 8, 2007

Soap's On.

No, not soup. Soap.

I have been working like a madwoman cranking out logs of soap for an auction. So, if you were wondering if I had done ANYTHING with my living room yet, the answer is still NO!

But I did make soap. It makes the house smell SO GOOD! For the auction, I have made 4 logs of "slice-your-own-bar" soap, lavender, morning mint, lemongrass and ginger, and vanilla cream. Now I am putting together 2 baskets of soap goodies, mint and lavender, which will hold a few bars of soap, bath salts, and bath "fizzies." I still have to make the bath salts and fizzies; will do that this afternoon. I also have to mosaic a framed mirror and tie together one of those polar fleece no-sew throws. Gotta turn it all in Saturday a.m. PANIC TIME!
Here are a few photos of the soap-making process:

Here I have prepared the molds and lined them it with our expensive, exclusive supply of an unseamed Ziplock bag, and taped it into place. My husband made these molds from an online plan years ago, and they are holding up very well.

Here is the mold after putting on the end caps and securing them with our high-tech holding-together device, rubberbands tied together.

Next, here's the part where children are banned from the kitchen and are preferably in bed: I prepare the lye solution carefully, first using the online lye calculator at Magestic Mountain Sage, then adding the lye to the water (never the other way around - could erupt in a volcano of lye!). I always do this in the sink, so if there is an overflow, it is contained safely.
This may look like boring pitchers of water, but this is the lye solution. I have only 2 molds, so only 2 batches at a time.
The lye heats up HOT! It needs to be around 110 degrees for mixing with the oils, so I mix the lye solution first so it will cool down by the time the oils are ready to add.

I use coconut oil because of its lovely lathering properties once it has been saponified. It is a solid oil at cooler temperatures. It is hard to get out of the container when it has been cold, so I stuck it on top of a heater vent for a while to let it soften a little. Easier to scoop out that way.
I measure out all the oils next, being very precise with measurements (if there is not enough oil or too much lye, we could have lye-heavy soap and THAT is not moisturizing!) I weigh out the hard oils first (the coconut oil and the stearic acid) to start them melting in the microwave, then add the liquid oils to cool down the warm, melted solid oils. When the lye and the oils are at about the same temperature, which can take up to 40 minutes depending on the house temperature, I add the lye solution to the oils, stirring thoroughly to incorporate. The soap mixture starts to get cloudy at this point.

Next comes out the most worthwhile piece of equipment for soapmaking that I own; the stick blender. Ten years ago, I started making soaps and it would take me 3 or 4 hours of regular stirring to get the oil and lye molecules to bond together and achieve the almighty "trace," the point where the spoon you are stirring with leaves a "trace" of itself on top of the soap, kinda like vanilla pudding consistency. Now it only takes about 6 minutes with the beautiful stick blender. You are done mixing the oils and the lye solution when the mixture comes to trace,and that is when you can add additives like scent and color and any herbs you want. This was the pattern the stick blender made as the soap came to trace.

Choosing the scent is the hard part . . . only because there are so many essential oils and fragrance oils to choose from. And endless combination!

And trying to figure out what color I want for which soap is the next hardest . What you see in a pigment or other colorant is not necessarily what you get when you mix it with your soap; the lye really has an effect on the final color in your soap, and so does the color of the oils that are used. Some oils are more yellow (or green, like olive oil). So, here are some color tests I did this week with my current soap recipe:

I will keep these cups as reference for the next time. When I was making the lavender soap, I couldn't find my old notes about which pigments I used for which soaps, so I guessed, and guessed wrong. I did not want green!
After adding in the fragrance and colorant thoroughly, I hurry to get the soap poured into the molds before it gets too hard.
Here is my soap. I love making soap; everyone in the house has their own favorite, and I love to give them away as gifts. I love the way the house smells while the soap is curing, and I just enjoy the creative process. From left to right: Morning mint, lemongrass and ginger, vanilla cream, lavender (color experiment gone awry), another mint which is slightly more yellow because it was made with a greener olive oil, and lavender (intended color).

Now I better go get busy with the bath fizzies and bath salts. And the mosaic mirror.


Alice said...

That soap is so gorgeous and appealing, I can practically smell its sweet bouqut right through my computer screen!

And my toes are tapping to this Celtic Music. Thank you for a multi-sensory experience of beauty this morning!

Anonymous said...

Frankly speaking your soap making instructions are very informative. Thank you! I am going to add a link to this page from my
href="">Natural Bath Products
site. And if you do not mind, I will add your soap recipe to my collection of soap recipes here. y the way, do you have an online catalog or price list for your product? I would love to have it please, if it's possible. thanks!