Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another step closer to living off the grid

We are sensitive souls with sensitive skin around these parts.  Sometimes finding fragrance, dye, and chemical free products is a challenge.  Let's take bar soap for example.  Prior to this summer, we were happy users of Dove sensitive skin soap.  It cleaned and was scent free.  Then, our tricky CSA owners ran a Mother's Day special: free handcrafted soap with the week's produce box!  I picked up an unscented bar, took it home, and gave it a go. 

Have you ever used pure soap?  Soap that only contains water, oil, and lye?  We noticed an immediate difference.  Homemade soap is much less drying, even compared to Dove which contains “1/4 moisturizing lotion.”  I guess you don’t need moisturizing lotion if using natural ingredients.  So of course we couldn’t go back to using commercial soap.  We tried, but I felt so itchy and desiccated after that first shower.  That was the evil plan of the CSA owners in the first place.  Lure them in with free stuff and then make them pay.  Home-crafted soap is severely marked up in price.  The average around these parts is about a dollar an ounce which equates to a $5 bar of soap.  That is a pretty steep price for something that ends up in the drain.

You know it was only a matter of time.

After dropping too much money on handcrafted soap, we invested in some soap making supplies and started making our own soap.  Here is some partial documentation of our first run.

The Soap Guide
Our Reference Guide.  A Good resource.
Note the protective gear.
Donning protective gear.  Lye is a hazardous chemical after all.
Measuring out the lye.
Measuring out the lye.
Adding the lye to the water.
Adding the lye to the water.
Temperature of the lye
Initial temperature of the lye water.
Oils used: palm, coconut, olive.
The oils we used: olive, palm, and coconut.
Temperature of the oils
The initial temperature of the oils 

Next comes probably the most important step of the process.  Once the lye and the oils have reached about the same temperature (80-100 degrees), you add the lye water to the oils and mix with an immersion blender until you reach the mythical state of "trace." When trace is reached, you pour the mixture into the soap mold and let it incubate for 24 hours before cutting.

However, as you can see, it was going to take a while for the lye to come down in temperature.  It was late, and I valued my sleep more than I valued complete documentation.  (Besides, if you are really interested in making your own soap, you need to read more than just this post.)  So I left Mr. F. with a hour or so more of work while I high-tailed it to dreamland.   

Soap in the mold
Soap in mold after incubation.
Cut bars of soap.
Cut bars ready to "cure" 4 to 6 weeks before use.

One batch yielded about 16 bars of soap.  Not so shabby.  My inner squirrel was very pleased.  We are currently halfway through our first bar and have no complaints whatsoever.  Yes, it is another thing to add to our already crazy lives, however, at least we only have to do it once a quarter or so.  Our skin and our pocketbook thanks us.

1 comment:

Kari said...

Did you like the soapmaking book you used? I've tried making soap in the past, and it was just ok. I'm looking for a good reference book. Have you tried making laundry detergent? I'd also like to try that but am looking for a good recipe. Your blog is fun - you're a great writer!


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