Thursday, May 26, 2011

Soap Making Blues

Oh the joys of learning to make soap. My journey began last summer. I had a friend who sells soap and I LOVE her soap! It is creamy, smells good and lasts quite a while. Having pondered soap making before, i decided it was time to try my hand at it. How hard can it be really? Oh how little I understood. Making soap is like baking bread, or making cheese, or painting. When you start you keep it simple, and then experiment from there. SO I bought a book that had pictures for each and every step. I got my gloves, goggles, and all the other safety stuff. But I was scared to death of the lye. In fact my first batch I made barefoot. BIG MISTAKE. I glob of liquid slipped to the floor and landed on my foot. I did not really notice, until my foot started to have a burning sensation. OPPPS. I panicked and over reacted as usual. My dear husband, bless his heart, had read that vinegar counteracts the lye... I think he saved my life. (LOL). Some how I missed that note.
So Meticulously I followed the directions. I weighed everything, measured, oh heavens I was over cautious. After about 3 hours I had my first batch in the mold. WOW... I was not sure this was for me. The killer is that you really don't know what you have until 3 weeks from when you make your batch. SO 3 weeks later I had made several more batches and all were curing on window sills, pantry shelves, or where ever I could find. I even gave some away!. Once I started using my 100 percent vegetable oil soaps all made from this one recipe, I found out I did not like the soap! REALLY... it dissolved pretty fast in the shower and formed a goo on the counter where it rested. Most of the bars smelled wonderful, and they would get you clean, but I needed to go back to the drawing board. So I tried a different recipe this time which included beef tallow. Others had said it made a harder bar, and my soap making friend used it. I went scouring for a recipe and found one in my goat products book. I had only recently started using goat milk as a liquid.. that is another entire story!
So I found a castille soap that is mostly olive oil and some beef tallow and coconut oil. I made an 8 lb batch. DO you know how much soap that makes??? We are still using it 5 months later... Which is fine, if you like the soap. Again, it had problems. The soap turned out very hard, and I felt like the Lye amount was really high. Being a novice I really have no clue. I made three fragrances of this 8 lb batch. I have Irish Tweed, a divine scent for men, Clean Cotton, which was really strong and is better as an air freshener than as soap, and Madagascar Vanilla, a wonderful warm tropic vanilla scent. The bars were oddly shaped, but fragranced well. After waiting 3 weeks.. I finally tried them. Hmmm. The soap was hard and slimy. Not gooey, but slimy like having bleach or oil on your hands. I didn't like that at all. Of course I had already given bunches away based on looks and smell alone. I finally finished my first bar of Clean Cotton when I tried the Madagascar vanilla which looked like chunks of fudge. To my horror, upon using the first bar, i noticed that it ran... it looked like melting chocolate running down the side of the bathtub!
I was pretty defeated at this point. Frustrated that each batch posed it's own set of problems. Between scent, molds, goat milk, and colorants I was fit to be tied.


I joined a few Yahoo groups hoping to find someone to help me. I knew there is something I was not getting and the books were not helping me. I would scour recipes for soap and not understand why they used the ingredients they did.. or how do you know how much lye or water to use. I could not continue making batches of soap that I did not like and would not use. SO I began asking questions and I am here to tell you... I have more knowledge and feel much more confident.  I decided to stick with Lard and Tallow based soaps. They make a harder bar and I can get tallow free. *(Thank you my dear hubby) I also missed the lather in the last batch so i wanted coconut oil in my soap. After reading and playing around with the soap calculator recommended by one member, I came up with a recipe that I think will be fantastic.

It is 7pm. I just finished making a 4 lb batch of Tallow, Lard, Coconut, Olive, and Castor oil soap. I selected 3 fragrances and decided to use some goats milk in the soap. Everything is prepped and the soap making begins. In hind sight it all went really smooth. UNTIL I poured it into my molds. I am using PVC gutter downspout material since I like the way it shapes the bars. I carefully duct taped the bottoms after attaching parchment paper.. the 3 tubes were positioned in a 5 gallon bucket waiting to be filled. SO I poured, tapped, poured the next, tapped, poured the last,.. OPPS not enough room... tapped the bucket on the counter to remove air.. AH more room.. There it all fit... THEN the horror! The duck tape had let loose and the bottom of my bucket is filled with 3 scents of soap.. all swirling around and intermingling every time I rapped the bucket. Deflated does not begin to express how I felt when I realized what had happened. Defeated again... The good news, is regardless of how strange the soap may end up looking or smelling.. it will still be soap that a person, our family, can and will use. So I did not waste my time entirely, but I learned yet ANOTHER lesson in soap making. Mr Edison made many failed attempts before he invented the light bulb... Some day I will arrive with enough botched batches of soap being made and finally have it all figured out. At least I hope that is how the story turns out!

Good day and Good night!