Thursday, May 29, 2008

Soap Making trials

Yes, soapmaking has its trial. Even after making soaps for 6 years without having to use a recipe because I've done it so many times it has become more of a pattern of movement, sometimes things just don't go right. Apparently, I made the mistake of leaving the lid off one of the buckets which allowed moisture to seep into the granules of powder. As the photo shows, these little granules refused to dissolve into the mixture. This was a problem. You see, when making soap, part of the process involves using lye. This sounds horrifying, I know, but indeed one cannot have soap with out it. Lye is a VERY caustic chemical but the process known as saponification reduces it to a state of usefulness and makes it harmless. (soapmaking 101).
I deduced that if I removed the moisture from the powder, it would become flaky and powdery again so I put it in the oven in a pot on a very low setting.

I use a jar to scoop it out and even it was stuck in the glob so hard I couldn't get it out! Several hours later I checked on the experiment only to find out that my hypothesis was incorrect! The powder actually turned liquid! At that point, I just decided to put it away and deal with it tomorrow (which is always a good way to deal with stress, right!?)

I continued making the batch of soap that I had begun in the first place. Olive oil is one of the 6 oils I put into the soap. This makes for a beautiful, rich, bubbly bar of soap. Each ingredient must be carefully weighed and combined in the proper order to ensure the saponification process.

Once the ingredients are combined, they are vigorously blended together. Here I am using what is commonly referred to as a stick blender. Usually these are used for making milkshakes, but they also are indispensable when making soap! I blend until "trace" which is a thickened state.
Once I add whatever fragrance and color I want, I pour it into the molds and let it set overnight. This batch is Plumeria.

Next I cut each bar by hand and set it on the shelf for 6 weeks to allow it to cure. After that time it is ready to sell. So this is what it takes to keep my family and friends clean and smelling nice! This is my creative expression which I love to express, so more than anything it is a labor of love!

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