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?
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
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.