Soapy stuff

Hey girl, let’s make some soap

I clearly remember the day I decided I wanted to make soap. I was jogging (if you can even call my meager attempts at lifting my feet off the ground, jogging) in a local park when I came across a little flea market. A girl – not much older than I was – had tons of yummy smelling soap on display. I picked up an oatmeal bar (honestly, it could have been vanilla or lavender or rose…but for the sake of a legit story, I’ll stick with oatmeal) and sniffed it with a smile. It was delicious. The girl started to tell me about how she makes the bars in her basement, and I was instantly intrigued. Now, at the time I did not have a basement…I still don’t come to think of it…or the real push to try it for myself, but the thought of making me own soap stuck with me over the past few years. Every now and then I would think about it, look through some websites and debate buying a few supplies to get started, but I never pulled the trigger…

…until last winter.

Something inside me said that now was the time to try this whole soap-making thing out. So, I did my homework. I read up on the science of it, watched tons of videos, ordered supplies, and started slowly. Extreeeeemely slowly. My first bars were melt and pour (M&P for short), which basically just means that you melt down pre-made soap and add your own colorants, fragrances, and any other additives you want (think shredded loofah or grape seeds). I loved the fact that they were fairly simple to make and came out great, but really wanted to get my hands dirty and make soap from scratch using the cold process (CP) method.

The thing about making CP soap, is that it’s a bit intimidating. First off, you’re working with lye (sodium hydroxide) which, if you’ve seen Fight Club (thanks Eric!) you know is corrosive  and has the potential to wreak some serious havoc on your skin if you’re not careful. Long sleeves, gloves and goggles are a total must. So, I had to get over the whole fear hump. When I finally decided to give it a try, I used Soap Queen’s super helpful recipes and supplies to stock up and get started.

Chocolate lavender almond meal soap

My first bars were chocolate lavender almond meal, and I fell in love with the process. They were fun to make and smelled amazing. I was so happy with the results that I was hooked.

My next tries, however, were all over the place in terms of the final product. I’ve made some great bars from recipes  found around the web, but making my own recipes has occasionally resulted in disaster. A rose clay soap that looked beautiful after setting, wound up crumbling in my hands after I cut it to cure. What is curing?? You ask. Well! I’m glad you did because a year ago I had no clue what it meant either!

Curing is basically a game of having to exercise extreme patience while your soap finishes going through a process called saponification the chemical reaction that happens when you combine lye and oils. During this process, water evaporates, the bar gets harder, and the pH balances. The process takes about 6 weeks, so soap making is a commitment. But, once curing is complete and your pH is at a balanced level, you are good to go and can start using your soaps. And that was your science lesson for the day. You’re very welcome!

Anyway, back to talking about my recipe disasters. Another one wound up smelling like something I would rather throw in the trash than wash my bod with. And, making soap? Not that inexpensive. These oils and colorants and fragrances cost serious dough. So, in an effort to stop wasting money making soap that just doesn’t cut it (get it?!), I decided to put that money where my mouth is and sign up for an intensive soap-making class which is happening this coming weekend.

My goals are anyone’s guess. In theory, how cool would it be to make this a side gig and open an Etsy shop? But, time and money are a huge factor. I’m hoping that the class this weekend helps me learn how to dive in head first in an educated way, and gain confidence in my skills.

If you’re interested in the soap making process, or just want to be my guinea pig, stay tuned! I’ll be posting all about my experience and gifting some goodies soon.


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