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The mystical art of soap making

The mystical art of soap making

“Stir your soap in a clockwise direction with a sassafras stick under a waning moon”….

 

image001I started soap making about a year ago. I give all my success to an awesome book called Smart Soap making by Anne Watson. When I tell people I make soap – mostly they crinkle their nose and say “ehh, with Lye?”. The answer is ‘yes’ – I make soap with lye – all soap is made with lye, even super luxury soaps you buy in specialty stores. Folks think that soap made with lye can be harsh – and in the past this was true since the quality of ingredients was unreliable. People who made soap rendered their own fats and made their own lye from ashes and rainwater. There was no test for the strength of the lye except for floating an egg in it. Today soap makers purchase the lye and fats used in making soap and measure them in precise amounts. Properly made – no lye remains in the soap after it is mixed – it is all consumed in the chemical reaction called saponification. So fear not – and try some natural homemade soap!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday on the farm I processed a batch of Peppermint soap and documented it to share. Crafty people shy away from making soap because they don’t want to “mess with lye” – like we’re slinging it around the room or something. I wear safety glasses and gloves and I wear long sleeves, etc. making sure my skin is covered. Just like any other household chemical or cleanser – just be careful. So, first we need a recipe for our soap – today we’ll make a veggie soap.

 

 

 

Soap is made by mixing fats and lye. I measure out my Olive Oil and Coconut Oil. image003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image004Next I measure my water and lye then, taking them to a well-ventilated area, I stir them together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image006Next, we melt the fats and then wait until each individual mixture (the fats and the lye/water) are between 90 and 110 degrees.

 

In the meanwhile, I prepare any additives which will go into the soap. Today I will add some red soap colorant and Peppermint Essential Oil.

 

Once the proper temperature is achieved, it is time to combine the lye with the fats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image010I mix with a stick blender until it begins to look like – hmm – like homemade pudding before you put it in the fridge.

 

Now I stir in my essential oil and then twirl in my colorant with a knife blade to give it that ‘swirl’ effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image011Finally, I pour it into my very fancy soap mold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image012We now wait approximately 24 hours for the soap to complete the saponification process and harden. When that is complete, I tear away the cardboard and then slice the soap into 8 bars.

 

We’re not done yet – now we put the soap bars in a ventilated area for 2-4 weeks to let some of the moisture evaporate and to let the pH level drop a bit. If I use the soap after only a few days, it will be fine, but it will disintegrate and get mushy. It is important to let the moisture leave the soap so it behaves – well – like we expect soap to behave.

 

While soap making not be something you might ever want to try, now you know the basic process of how we get those bars that make us clean. I should mention that a lot of soap you buy in the grocery store today is not actually soap. These are typically labeled body bars or moisturizing bars and are made with other types of chemicals and additives. In conclusion, you will generally find that homemade soap may be slightly more expensive than bar soap at the store; however, the benefit is using a product that has only 4 ingredients – and you can read them all without a science degree.

 

 

Stacey Gricks is a full-time mom, full-time project manager at an IT company, and part-time crafter and farmer. She focuses her talents on soap making, crocheting and quilting. When she’s not in her craft room you will likely find her in the woods, in her garden, or in the kitchen canning or baking. Stacey volunteers with a local 4-H club in which her daughters participate and speaks at local craft events. She is the owner of Beaver Creek Stitches on Etsy and can be found on Facebook at Beaver Creek Farm Shop. Stacey resides in her grandparent’s farmhouse located in south-central Pennsylvania with her husband, three children, 3 dogs, 6 goats, and  50 chickens.

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