Monday, 28 January 2008

Simple Soap Making

I've had a couple of goes at making soap now. The first time I used a recipe from a book; it was a huge mission - I gathered all the equipment, waited for a time when everyone was out of the house, and donned apron, special chemical-spill gloves and goggles.
The goggles fogged up so I couldn't see what I was doing; I had to duck out mid-way through to buy more olive oil as I had underestimated the amount required, and finally - the soap mysteriously disappeared while I had left it to 'cure' on the back verandah. (I later found some of it in the garden; apparently the possums had mistaken it for coconut ice)!! All in all, not exactly a cheap, simple or enjoyable pursuit.

Determined not to let it get the better of me (and due to the fact that we had completely run out of soap and I stubbornly refused to buy any more after spending all that money on my equipment...) I set to and had another attempt. This time I used a recipe from
'The Self-Sufficiency Shoppe'
with considerably more success I might add, and I quite enjoyed the process. We now have enough to last several months. Not only does each piece last a long time, but it is very moisturising and smells wonderful with a special blend of essential oils. It's far better for your skin than bought soap - which has all sorts of extra chemicals added and then has the moisurising component removed (sold seperately as glycerine to maximise profits).

I would still advise that you read the basics of soap-making first though - as there are safety issues to take into account; but certainly don't let this put you off. The library has some good books, or there's a great tutorial on the Aussie Soap Supplies Website.
Anyway - for that quick basic soap recipe...
You need;- half a cup of distilled water, 2 rounded tablespoons of caustic soda, 1 cup melted fat (or 3/4 cup of fat and 1/4 cup olive oil or other oil). A soap mould.
I use 'Frymaster' - vegetable fat from the butter section of the supermarket - $2.50 for 500g and cheap olive oil. For the mould - I use a 'pringles' chip container; or similar round tube. Caustic Soda is readily available from the supermarket - but keep it locked in a cupboard or out of reach of young children.
This recipe is enough to make about 3 - 4 bars of soap; so if it doesn't work out at least you haven't wasted too much stuff, as you would with some of the other recipes.
You; assemble all your things first. Pour the distilled water into a glass or earthenware mixing bowl. PLACE THIS BOWL INTO THE SINK. It will get hot & steamy when you add the caustic soda so use caution. Gloves & goggles don't cost much from the hardware store. Add the caustic soda - STIR CONSTANTLY UNTIL DISSOLVED. Cover with a piece of cardboard and don't let anyone into the kitchen.
While this solution is cooling - melt your fat in the microwave. Add your olive or special oil (there's some great ones to try with different skin/moisturising properties such as emu/coconut/macadamia/avocado etc). Stir together slowly.
Test the temperature of your caustic soda solution with a thermometer if you have one - if not, it's quite OK to get a rough gauge of the temperature by touching the outside of the container. When both containers feel approx the same temperature (ie. lukewarm) remove the cardboard cover from the caustic soda solution in the sink and SLOWLY pour the melted fat in. Stir slowly - it should start to thicken and turn opaque. It's handy to use a stick blender at this stage to speed things along. Add any colours/essential oils/exfollient mixes such as rolled oats/herbs etc. to make your batch extra special, then pour it into your mould.
Allow it to set overnight; wrapped in an old towel. Turn out; cut it into bars, store in a well-aired but dry place for 4-6 weeks. Do a skin test before using; such as the inside of your arm - just to make sure the caustic soda has cured sufficiently. Bec used some of my first batch without testing it first, and got a rash all over her tummy! A bit of vinegar soon cured it although it took a bit of convincing for her to try my second batch of soap!!
The first batch above has lavender added which makes a great exfoliating bar - as well as lavender essential oil, and half of it has pink food colouring mixed in. The second batch just has pink food colouring and an essenial oil blend added; although it came out quite hard and broke apart when I tried to cut it - still great to use though. The third batch pictured above also has an essential oil blend added as well as some LSA mix (bread making section of supermarket) as an exfolient, some rolled oats and a tablespoon of honey. This bar cut very nicely into four pieces using the recipe above. You can use eucalyptus oil to make an antiseptic type soap; or a herbal infusion (3 tspns dried herbs to 250ml boiling water, cooled and strained) in place of the distilled water. Don't overdo the additives until you've had a bit of practise, as this could affect the soap's ability to reach trace. (When it thickens and sets). Have fun!!

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