Saturday, 23 April 2016

on soap making and a (minor) moral dilemma


The other day I noticed that we were running low of soap. I always make my own, it is enjoyable, creative and useful, too. I like to choose the properties of my soap,  a hard bar with a soft creamy lather, or maybe a softer bare with fluffy lather, anything is possible.

I am a boring soap maker. I generally make my soaps plain, with a hint of fragrance (fragrance oils are expensive) and I stick to easily available fats, coconut oil and olive oil for example. I am happy to experiment though. I found some almond oil at the supermarket the other day and spontaneously bought two bottles to make soap with. This being a spontaneous purchase, I didn't research the use of almond oil for soap making beforehand. It is generally used as an additional oil, rather than a base and makes a soft bar. I discovered this when I was looking for recipes to use. A maximum of 15-20 % almond oil is recommended, using palm oil or coconut oil as a base. Fine, I thought, I have plenty of palm oil in my cupboards (as you do). Except that it was palm kernel oil instead, which makes a difference because the properties are quite different. I did some maths to work out if a combination of almond oil and palm kernel oil would make a good bar but couldn't quite get the proportions right. I got a bit side tracked at this point. When I got back to the task I decided to use olive oil as well and I got my calculator out again.  I have a great little book that I use for my soap making to help me with working out proportions. Btw, I used cheap olive oil, not the golden green liquid I like on my salad. An hour and a couple of coffees later, I had it all sorted and I had also found a recipe for a hazelnut oil soap. I discovered a bottle of this, probably purchased on a whim in the distant past. It wasn't rancid but I figured I'd better use before it turned.

I got all my soap making equipment ready, gloved up and started weighing out the sodium hydroxide (lye). It generates a lot of heat when it is dissolved in water and takes ages to cool down. Alas, there wasn't enough for one batch of soap, let alone the two I had planned. Now sodium hydroxide is not something you get a the corner shop of course (not in ours in any case) and I may have uttered a swear word or two. Ok, lets make it three. But I am resourceful and called up Richard to get some from the lab. It is handy to be a scientist sometimes, and to be married to one. He found some in a dusty corner and I went to get it straightaway. It is cheap as chips and I don't feel too guilty for taking some from work. It is only ever used in tiny amounts to adjust the pH of solutions needed in the lab.

I made two batches in the end, one with almond oil, palm kernel oil and olive oil. The other one with hazelnut oil and palm kernel oil. I scented the first batch with white musk, the other one with fresia. I didn't use any colourants. Most soaps turn a creamy white, which is rather nice. Soaps that contain a lot of olive oil are a bit more yellowish because olive oil is quite dark. You can see the difference in the photo collage above. As I was gazing at the two different bars of soap I started ponding colourful soaps and how nice it would be to make not only useful soap but also to make pretty soaps. It crossed my mind that it would be wonderful to make a lemon meringue pie soap.

I spent an evening watching YouTube videos on making colourful soaps with beautiful patterns. What did people do before YouTube? The possibilities are endless. Countless exiting colours, swirls, stripes, layers, swirled stripes, spinned swirls, anything. I did indeed find a soap recipe and tutorial on how to make lemon meringue pie soap. Not far of anyway:

Find the recipe and photo here
Who would have thought? I have been obsessing about making this soap. I don't have the colour pigments to make this soap, and I also ran out of lye. Due to my recent fabric purchases for a second quilt I also am completely skint. My next pocket money is only due in May. I recently confessed here that I do borrow money from my children. I am now admitting to also borrow money from our general expenses account. I am shameless but in the end I do pay my debts. I just couldn't wait until May, I really couldn't. No doubt it is morally wrong to spend money I don't technically have. I am slightly troubled about my double standards, I wouldn't encourage my children to borrow money for example, but I would suggest to be patient and save up. In my defence I just reallocated some of the groceries money to my fun fund. Temporarily. 

I found a buttercup yellow pigment, which I liked.  For good measure I added burlesque pink and clementine orange to my shopping basket. I also ordered titanium dioxide for white, and a large amount of sodium hydroxide. I stopped short of adding lemon meringue pie fragrance. I don't like the smell of lemon curd it smells eggy and I don't like the idea of washing myself with an eggy soap. I ordered ordinary lemon fragrance oil instead. I was hoping to make soap this weekend but the fragrance hasn't arrived.  For now, I shall continue to look for pretty soaps like those below. 

find the recipe and the photo here
Find the recipe and the photo here

I'll be sure to share my lemon meringue soap soon, maybe next week. In the meantime, I hope your weekend is going well. I am enjoying a quiet Saturday afternoon. The chores are mostly out of the way, the weather is fine, the children happy and the dog is asleep after a long walk. Sam made me a coffee and I am happy. Wishing you a splendid weekend. xx

25 comments:

  1. This post made me laugh, Christina! I have to say that considering you have four children and a dog I am very impressed that you find time to make your own soap. I have a budgeting/borrowing system that sounds very familiar to yours. :-)

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  2. I'm so envious that you make your own soap I'm also very impressed too. It tickled me greatly about the stolen sodium hydroxide. I felt a little better about printing patterns off Raverly to my office printer. In my defence we changed all the printers in the shops & have enough free ink now for HQ for the next 33 years. I understand pocket money stealing sorry borrowing issues. I stopped myself by putting Harry's money straight into his bank account. He is however old enough for that. I do however have the luxury of double pocket money this month and next. I feel a little soap making coming on. Enjoy xx

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  3. Oh gosh, that lemon meringue pie soap looks good enough to eat. I'd love to have a go at soap making (ditto candle making) but don't have a good track record with chemicals and hot liquids (or, come to think of it, naked flames and sharp knives). You've also reminded me that my son owes me a fiver. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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  4. I've never made my own soap but now I'm wondering why not with all those wonderful ideas and fabulous fragrances. I may have to look in to it a bit further.

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  5. I've wanted to make my own soap for ages, just haven'g gotten around to it. My daughter made me some one year and it was lovely. I buy hand-made soap from Etsy and I know it would be cheaper to make my own.
    Borrowing from your food budget to make soap sounds ok to me. If you didn't make your soap you'd have to buy it and that would come out of your food budget. So it works out.

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  6. I would love to make my own soap one day, just got to be brave and go for it

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  7. You have opened up a whole new world, I do buy home made soap when I go to craft fairs and such but to make your own, what a joy. Not too sure if I am brave enough to use chemicals.

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  8. Is there no end to your talents?! I'm so impressed that you always make your own soap, I bet it's gorgeous. The coloured ones are so pretty, I shall look forawrd to seeing what you come up with. CJ xx

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  9. Enterprising! Reading this post has both entertained, and informed me. Thanks, Christina :) Having switched at the last moment from a bachelor of science degree to a bachelor of arts degree, I suspect I am an unlikely candidate for concocting homemade soap. However, last weekend my blogging friend, Taci, gave me two lovely small slabs of homemade soap along with two round crocheted face scrubbers and I have been feeling very posh and pampered using them this week, so this post tempts me to think I could make soap if I dared. Also, this post has reminded me that the making of soap is a supporting part of my heritage. My maternal grandfather, Papa, recorded before his death about fifty years ago that as a boy he helped his father and father's father in New England, near Boston, Massachusetts, to make the rounds in a horse drawn wagon collecting grease, bones and tallow for soap making! Imagine! xx

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  10. I havent made soap for a long time, its on the list but we have a lot of soap in stock at the moment, I do have some soap bases left from the shop that I plan to use up as well.

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  11. Oh my goodness Christina, when you recommended soap making to me as an alternative to knitting and sewing I didn't realise it was quite so complicated! Given my complete lack of craft skills I can see this is way beyond my level! I'll just admire your efforts instead!

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  12. Now you have got me thinking. Soap making? I wonder. Better not go there yet but it sounds intriguing. Looking forward to seeing your lemon meringue ;) B X

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  13. love the sound of your fun fund! sounds like an excellent idea. I need one of those.

    the soap making sounds fascinating.

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  14. I have never made my own soap but the girls had some in a party bag in December from a home maker family and the girls have been pestering me ever since. I should get the stuff because they are getting to be a pain to get in the bath! It might help! Jo x

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  15. I am not sure where you find the time to do what you do. You work, have four children, a dog and a house to keep up! I am amazed at your soap, I love it clean and simple. How fun that you are now delving into other types, I wish you luck and can't wait to see what you come up with next.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  16. I tend to relocate money too, I think it's fine as it always gets replaced :) And you got such lovely soap!! Looking forward to seeing it!! xx

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  17. how fantastic that you make your own soap. I remember making soap at Chemistry club when I was about 12 and it was horrid - in texture and smell. I buy lovely handmade soap from a farmers' market and I use it not only to wash my hands, body and face but also my hair. I would love to have a go at making my own so thanks for your inspiration.

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  18. If it helps just think, soap is a household expense. The whole cost should come from the housekeeping really!! Hope you enjoy your new fragrances and sorts of soaps! xx

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  19. Pocket money? A fun fund? Now why didn't I think of that.......

    I have long wanted to try soap making, I just need to be brave......yours always looks wonderful. Do you have a seperate pan/equipment just for soap making?

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  20. You are so funny! I can wait to see your lemon meringue soap which sounds luscious. And I'm borrowing your idea of pocket money. I always feel guilty about spending on myself... But spending my "pocket money"... That's different somehow!

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  21. Wow that is super. I like the idea of making my own soap but I have never tried I think I am a bit put off by all the science of it (for example is there a risk of explosion?) see I'm a bit clueless about it really. Yours look fab can't wait to see the rest. xx

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  22. I've never made my own soap. How brilliant. Lemon meringue pie soap sounds lovely. Surely money for soap should come out of the household budget..?! It does in our house anyway. Sam x

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  23. Hey Christina,
    I do love the fact that you cook the books in the same way as I!! I always repay my debts, but I can be a bugger at going over my monthly budget. I'd love to make my own soap. That's quite possibly a craft that even I could master!
    Have a lovely week, my friend.
    Leanne xx

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  24. Wow - how clever and fab to make your own soap - and they all sound fab. Love the colours!

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  25. I love that you make soap for general family use, not just as a special treat. Sounds like your science background is a help! I have never made soap, I wouldn't know where to start. Have you ever thought if making some to sell? X

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Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment, I love to hear from you, I really do. I sometimes reply by email but I am not all that reliable... Christina xx