Guest Chick from the Ash Tree – the cleanest guest we’ll ever have!

Ashley!

OMG you guys!  Are you in for a treat!  My good friend Ashley is our guest today, and SHE MAKES SOAP!  AND SHE’S GIVING SOME AWAY!!!  I swear to Carla, once I used a bar of her soap I practically threw away all my commercial stuff.  I’ve given it as gifts and gotten other people addicted, too.  And in addition to making soap, Ashley also makes socks, music, and the occasional bawdy joke.  Her family’s roots are in Gainesville, FL where she flourishes in the shade of Live Oak trees.  Visit her soap-making (and buying!) blog at http://ashtreesoap.blogspot.com/.

Get us squeaky clean, Ashley!

Glittering gold dust shimmers on my hands as I type this, lending whimsy and enchantment to an otherwise typical evening.  Dinner was cooked and served hours ago, the dishes washed, the counters wiped down, and finally, I get to use my kitchen for something FUN.

I love to make soap.

I’m using gold mica to color the first of my holiday-themed batches.  It gets everywhere, but who cares?  My kitchen is usually a mess, and a sparkly golden mess makes a nice change.  I’ve named this batch We Three Kings; the bars are richly scented with Frankincense and Myrrh, combining the three original gifts of Christmas lore into one practical bar of soap.  My gold bars won’t enrich your bank account, but they’ll certainly enrich your shower.

Why home-made soap?

Sample-sized Soaps

Besides the tremendous fun of custom-made colors and scents that you just won’t find in a box of Dial, home-made soap is actually better for your skin.  Most commercial bars are actually detergents with preservatives added.  True soap is the result of a chemical reaction between triglycerides (fats and oils) and sodium hydroxide (lye) that yields one glycerin molecule for every three soaps molecules.  This means that home-made soap naturally contains glycerin, which is lovely for your skin, and which is usually stripped out of commercial bars so that it can be added to other cosmetics!  If you have sensitive skin, try home-made soap.

You’ll never go back.

“Back up a second,” you say.  “Lye?  As in, old-fashioned, caustic lye soap?”

Lye is caustic, but soap is not!  In the old days, folks didn’t have the internet for laboratory information about proper ratios of oil to lye, and their recipes often ended up “lye heavy.” These days, we have access to saponification numbers and lye calculators, and it’s easy to develop a cold process recipe that’s “superfatted,” which means that there is NO lye remaining once your soap has cured, just a mild cleansing surfactant with extra emollients to nourish your skin.  It feels fantastic.

Instruction and precautions in soap-making go beyond the scope of one blog post. However, there are wonderful resources online that I encourage you to explore.  The foundation of my knowledge comes from millersoap.com, which has been around since the late 90s and is an absolute treasure trove of information and ideas.  If you’re inspired to make soap in your own kitchen after browsing through that site, then welcome to the ranks of the obsessed!  Here is my basic recipe, which yields about 10 pounds of soap:

60 oz of vegetable shortening (you can also use a mixture of lard and tallow)
23 oz of coconut oil
29 oz of olive oil
15.2 – 15.3 oz of lye crystals (be sure you have 100% NaOH, not drain cleaner!)
36 fluid oz of chilled water
3-4 oz of essential oil or fragrance oil

Soap and Washcloths

A few safety reminders: all measurements are weight, not volume, except for the water.  Protect your eyes and your hands, always add lye slowly to water (not vice versa!), and mix it under your vent hood with the fan on high.  Don’t use aluminum pots or utensils, and make sure your mold is big enough (~286 cubic inches) — ten pounds is a lot of soap!

If you just want some soap without messing up your kitchen, then I’d love for you to come browse my shop.  😉  Or comment and you might win 4 sample-sized soaps and a washcloth.  You can pick which soap flavors and the general color preference for the cloth.

 

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20 thoughts on “Guest Chick from the Ash Tree – the cleanest guest we’ll ever have!

  1. Pingback: Guest Chick from the Ash Tree – the cleanest guest we'll ever have … | Soap

  2. Hey Ashley – great post!
    I love homemade soap – so much better for dry skin than stripping all the moisture away with the normal stuff only to slather on heavy lotion (which often contains some sort of alcohol and gives me razor burn). Also, handmade soap makes a great gift!

  3. Hi Ashley,

    I love home made soaps! I’m so glad there are talented people like you to do the home making part for lazy people like me. It is fun to see how it is done, but thanks for also providing the link to your shop!

  4. Ashley, I absolutely MUST do this (and I thought so even before Abigail mentioned me in my altar-ego configuration there in the first sentence). 🙂 I love handmade soap, and my dad has very sensitive skin and can only use glycerin soaps. I can make him a year’s supply for Christmas! Or, if hubby complains about a messy kitchen, I’ll buy it for him instead. 🙂 Thanks!! Yeah, just what I need is a new addiction. (I’m a sock knitter too.)

  5. Ooo soaps! Are they very perfumey, or is the scent fairly mild? I have allergies, but I am so very tempted by the lovely soaps. Not tempted enough to make them on my own, though. Oh no. And you = less corporatey than certain other soap making companies that may or may not get much of my money for their lovely natural soaps. And now I need to go spend much time looking at your site. Obsessively.

    • Hi, Lizzie! Honestly, it depends on the batch. Some of them pack a punch, and others are rather subtle. If there’s a particular scent you’re interested in, just ask — I prefer it when they’re not too overwhelming, myself.

      Take a look at the ingredients page, too. Sometimes I use essential oils, which are indeed all natural. However, if a batch includes “fragrance oil,” that is synthetic. There are some yummy and popular FOs out there that are too fun for me to pass up, but if synthetic fragrances trigger your allergies, stick with the essential oils bars (lavender-rosemary is Abigail’s favorite).

      Sampler packs are a great way to try them out without investing too much!

  6. OMG, you guise, Ashley’s soap is fantastic. I have a bar in the shower and the rest of it in my linen closet and it makes the bathroom and my linen closet smell SO good. And it makes my skin feel so soft! If you’ve not tried it, do eeeeet!!

  7. Ashley,

    Great post! I love homemade soap.

    Do you ever make soap to order?

    I love peach scented soap, but I have a hard time finding it. I didn’t see any on your site. Do you make it?

    • Ooo, what a wonderful idea! I have not made any peach scented soap, but that’s definitely going on my list of things to try. I could make it with goat’s milk for a Peaches & Cream theme… thank you so much for the suggestion! I’m afraid I won’t be able implement it before next year, though. Financial reality intrudes — I need to make some good sales in the holiday season before I invest in more supplies.

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