April 26, 2010

The calculator, my notes, every book and magazine I had on soap making were on the counter- I was the boy scout- ready for any soap making eventuality.

The basic ingredients for round one: olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil and lye

Ready with all the necessary ingredients and tools . . .

Here's my soap at "trace".  More nerdy soap talk later . . .

My first batch of soap- cut and ready to cure.

Talk is cheap. I finally made my first bar of soap. I’ve been reading about it, talking about it, thinking about it- even dreaming about it. It’s done! I was so pickin’ nervous about the lye that it took me forever to finally get my rear end in gear and actually make soap. I’m naturally a cautious person, so when I read about how the lye solution could “eat through tissue all the way to the bone” (seriously, that’s what the book said), it made me sort of nervous. Well, more than sort of. Before you freak out about the lye, too, and decide never to use the soap that I make, here’s the skinny on lye and soap. ALL soap has lye in it. Seriously- all of it- even the very gentle stuff for sensitive skin. Crunchy companies hide the lye by calling their oils saponified (saponified coconut oil is an example of what they might say on an ingredient list). Saponification is the process by which an oil is mixed with lye to make soap. So, saponified coconut oil is just coconut oil mixed with lye. Larger commercial companies call the lye by it’s chemical name sodium hydroxide (for solid soap) or potassium hydroxide (for liquid soap). Either way, they all use lye. The good news is that the saponification that begins to take place when you mix the lye with the oils continues for a good while- a month to six weeks. During this time, the soap gets milder and milder. By the time the soap is done curing, it is pH neutral and (hopefully) quite gentle. I even purchased test strips so that I would know the pH before I start giving my soap to friends. Today, for round two, I made oatmeal and honey soap. Tomorrow, for round three, it’s lavender. I’ll let you know how it goes.


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