Soapy stuff · Weekends

Soaping on a Sunday

When I really started to think seriously about this whole soap-making endeavor, I thought that taking a class was not only a good idea, but necessary to up my legit factor. I really imagined that I would have some breakthroughs and have tons to talk about here on the blog.

Alas, I did not and I do not.

OK, let me try not sound too defeatist. We all know I’ll be able to talk about something. There were definitely interesting things that I learned. Like how to soap at room temperature instead of heating up oils and mixing lye separately. (We used a method where we measured our solid oils, mixed our lye solution and added that to the oils to melt them. We then added in our liquid oil (olive oil) and hand-mixed a bit before stick blending.) I never knew about this method and it definitely seems like it would be a time saver, so I’ll keep that info in my back pocket.

I also really appreciated someone sitting down with me and doing the calculations for recipes. You see, soap making is 1/3 math (yuck!), 1/3 science (cool!), and 1/3 creativity (my juices are flowing!). And, as someone who barely passed geometry, it was helpful to do calculations with a group and get my “middle school” on.

But there were some annoying things about being in a soap-making class with 12 other women. First off, Sunday was one of the nicest February days on record and I was stuck in a room with a bunch of people. Some of those people were super nice, while others made me give an eye-roll or two. But, I digress.

Here’s play-by-play of my Soaping Sunday.

7:30: wake up, get coffee, workout, shower. Load bag full of goggles and spatulas and aprons (thanks Alisha!), pop the address in my phone and start my journey to the middle of nowhere. (Literally. I wound up somewhere down by the docks of Newark and was honestly a little uneasy about the secluded location.)

9:45: text my boyfriend and send him my maps location just incase I die. Then I realize the workspace is actually really cool. For being in a creepy local, the building is pretty awesome. Sleek and modern and full of startups and small businesses, I breathe a sigh of relief and find my way to the room where the class would be held.

10:15: we start by going around the room, sharing our love of soaps and fragrances and essential oils and natural remedies. I have never felt like more of a basic bitch.

11:00: we get into the nitty gritty. We learn the history and science behind soap making. Did you know that soap making has been around since 2300 B.C.?! A lot of it is just a refresher for me, but it’s good to hear the information in person. After going through the fact-learning and algebra equations, t’s time to make some soap!  And this is where the annoying part begins…

1:00: we are asked to break into groups of five, and I learn that I really like to have control over my product. Leaving the measuring and mixing to other team members proves to be tough for me, but I try to give up the reigns a little bit. We start out by making a swirl soap with lavender, orange and peppermint essential oils. It looks funky and cool and I’m happy with our teamwork!

3:00: some bitch steals my fragrance and uses it all.

3:45: the frozen milk for our goat’s milk soap won’t melt.

4:30: we are just now starting our final soap. We were supposed to be done at 5. That ain’t happening.

5:00: this recipe calls for some beer. I wish I could drink it.

5:45: we want to take a group picture, but we can’t find two of the girls so we stand around for 15 minutes.

6:00: we finally take the picture, clean up and say our goodbye’s.I end up leaving with three plastic containers of soap. I would share the pictures, but the soaps are still too soft to unmold because we used plastic containers (unmolding from wood or silicone can be done a bit sooner than plastic).

Overall, I enjoyed the experience and it really got me psyched to start making my own recipes. As soon as I got home, I started jotting down ideas for my soap line’s first 3-5 soaps and I’m so excited to share them with everyone. However, these things take time and you all need to simmer down! (hehe, just playing)

Anyway, my shopping cart of soap making supplies is full and I’m about to hit “checkout,” so I’m sure I’ll have some yummy soaps coming soon enough! Until then, I’m headed to a friend’s house to work on an upcoming blog post about essential oils. SO KEEP CHECKING BACK HERE! Better yet, follow the blog! Just pop your email address in and you can get these lovely posts right to your inbox. Fun times, yes? OK, I must run.


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.