Category: Soapmaking

New Batch of Soap

We made a new batch of soap this evening — my normal 20% superfat coconut oil recipe but with 2 oz of beeswax. Anya melted the oils, and I mixed in the lye.

I mixed in a cool blue pigment. The portion I was stirring stayed nice and fluid, but the un-colored soap seized up rather quickly. Anya swirled it around in the mold. The cool blue color … turned purple!

All in all, it wasn’t my most successful soap making adventure šŸ™‚ But it’ll clean us up (and we were pretty much out of soap in the house!)

Deodorant Recipe

I needed a recipe for deodorant that didn’t melt in the summer heat, so I added some beeswax to my normal recipe:

  • 2 oz beeswax
  • 6 oz coconut oil
  • 4 oz shea butter
  • 6 Tbsp baking soda
  • 8 Tbsp arrowroot powder

Melt the beeswax and oils, stir in baking soda and arrowroot powders. Pour into container and stir as mixture cools and thickens.

New Soap Molds

I’d seen some incredibly intricate soap molds online – the individual posting the pictures was wondering if anyone who had purchased some could verify the results were as beautiful as the product photos on the store site. No one knew. I don’t have any silicone molds that make a decent sized bar of soap. I’ve got a few that make really thin bars, and Anya loves the little bunnies and fairy. Scott has joked that I could improve some of my ‘cute’ crafts if I’d just put a dragon on it (I assume not a puffy baby dragon), and the seller has a number of dragon molds. So I bought a few molds and they were finally delivered!

Anya was so excited to see them – the soap was removedĀ waaaaaay too soon and it hadn’t hardened. Unfortunately the intricate nature of the mold means your soap should beĀ hard before unmolding. The upper right-hand corner broke off. But the soap is just as intricate looking and cool as the product picture.

Cold Whipped Shea Butter

We’ve evidently had a problem with our thermostat not properly reporting humidity, so our HVAC was not maintaining the desired humidity level. The installer replaced the thermostat last week, and we’ve gone from 60% to 49% relative humidity downstairs. We’re intentionally keeping the lower level cooler than the upper — there’s a lot of solar heating even with curtains drawn. And, well, relative humidity is relative toĀ temperature.Ā So our 60% was more like 50% upstairs … still high. Our 49%, though, is 39% upstairs. And for the first time since I started making my own soap, my skin is a little dry. So is Anya’s. We can just slather on some coconut oil — it melts in your hand and absorbs fairly well — but I wanted to try something a little fancier. And I happened across a good deal on shea butter a few weeks back, so whipping a combination of shea butter and coconut oil seems like a winner.

1 cup unrefined shea butter
1 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons vegetable glycerin

  • Mash the room-temperature shea butter in the mixing bowl. Add essential oils if desired (or melt coconut oil and infuse with herbs).
  • Stir in the coconut oil. If the whole thing is a little melty, stick it in the refrigerator to solidify a bit
  • Whip with a stand mixer until it’s fluffed like whipped cream. Fin. Scoop it into jars (we have a bunch of wide mouth canning jars, so I’ll be using a few of those) and store in a cool room or the refrigerator.

Soap Fluff Explosion

I made our saboun al ghar inspired soap today. First attempt at hot processing soap, and I had a massive soap explosion. I’d read that your container should be at least three times the volume of soap you are processing. I went with five times in an attempt to stave off a big mess. Blended my pomace olive oil and lye/water/salt mixture to a light trace, and set it over medium heat. It thickened, just like it supposed to. It turned into a gloopy oily mess, just like it supposed to. For future reference — the gloopy oily mess stage is where you want to keep a close eye on it andĀ don’t look away for a minute. I turned back around and saw odd foamy soap stuff pouring out of the pot. Oops!

I scooped the soap fluff off the side of the pot and back into the pot and stirred it down. The fluff quickly turned into a slick substance thatĀ did look exactly like petroleum jelly. I added the laurel berry oil, stirred well to incorporate, and let cook for a few more minutes until it looked like petroleum jelly again.

The whole mess was glopped into my large silicon lined wooden soap mold. Now it just needs to set for a while and harden.

Making Soap Molds – Material Research

Before trying to print my own soap molds, I need to identify what characteristics I like in a mold. I find flexible molds easier to work with than rigid ones – I’ve snapped a number of molds trying to remove the soap.

So I am trying to find a material that will withstand heat generated by saponification. It looks like saponification can yield temperatures up to 88Ā° C. I don’t want to buy pounds of different filaments to test them out, but GlobalFSD offers “sample” size filament cuttings that are perfect for experimentation or small niche products (e.g. printing glow in the dark mailbox numbers).

One material included information about temps for printed objects, so I’ve contacted the other manufacturers to see if they provide any sort of guidance.

Material Max C Min C Notes URL
NinjaFlex 65.5 -30
CrystalFlex Ā – Food safe
FlexFill 230 -40
F41 Flex 75 -20

Saboun Al Ghar Inspired Soap

Most old civilizations have traditional artisan production processes that are hard to sustain in the modern world. Some cheeses in Southern France were sustained through government grants until EU regulations considered such support unsporting. Su filindeu pasta now only made by three people in Italy. As war ravages a country, even well sustained traditional methods become endangered. The civil/proxy war in Syria has displaced most if not all producers ofĀ ŲµŲ§ŲØŁˆŁ† Ų§Ł„ŲŗŲ§Ų± (‘Aleppo soap’). While we may not be able to faithfully reproduce the exact process to create what may be the world’s oldest hard soap, I think it is important to preserve theĀ knowledge of the process. The ingredients and proportions. The time and temperature of processing, how the soap is poured onto floors to cool and set whilst being walked on with wooden boards to flatten it out. How it is cut and stacked to cure.

In addition to documenting and preserving the process, derivative processes are developed to preserveĀ some facet of the original product. Fact is, a lot of products are not protected by AOC, PDO, or any of the other “X has to be made in Y using the historic technique Z” regulations. Like the unfortunate not-Cheddar cheese that I find in many American grocery stores, Aleppo soap could be made with coconut oil and dye. And maybe that’s where the objection to cultural appropriation comes from — not an objection to someone respectfully trying to reproduce a cultural artifact but of someone bastardizing the artifact for profit or fashion. Reproducing sacred items for frivolity.

After reading about the displaced soap masters, I want to make a soap inspired by the Aleppo process. I need more experience with hot processing soap to follow the traditional long cook method, but I want to hot process the soap to control which oils comprise the superfat. Fully saponify the olive oil, then add the laurel berry oil and saponifyĀ some of it.

Then comes the actual recipe – the challenge with traditional soap recipes is that the saponification factor of ash varies. Buying sodium hydroxide yields a consistent product useful in recipes with precise measurements. Ghar soap recipes have percentages of olive oil to laurel berry oil, but more or less call forĀ enough ash. I’m debating between five and ten percent superfat. Five percent seems fairly standard for soap recipes, so I’m leaning in that direction. But I wanted to continue researching authentic recipes before finalizing my ingredients.

Making Soap Molds

I want to design and print my own soap molds – special holiday bars or pre-stamped bars. We’re still working on setting up the 3d printer, so haven’t tried anything yet. I have a few downloadable soap mold forms bookmarked (Ā happens to be up in another tab now, but search thingverse for ‘soap mold’ and you will find quite a few).

The trick will be finding an appropriate filament — one that won’t melt at soaping temps (something I need to better understand) but can still be extruded at my printer temp (190-250C). Preferably a not-too-rigid filament with a little bit of flex. That’s trial and error – expensive, too, when buying whole rolls of filament. I foundĀĀ (there’s both a US and European site) that sells small quantities of many filiments, and I’ve purchased a bunch that *seem* like they might work.

What I planned to do until I can identify a perfect filament for non-melting and easy to remove soaps is create positive forms on the 3d printer (essentially print what you want a bar of soap to look like) and then google up a procedure for making a silicon mold (uneducated guess is glop some silicon ‘stuff’ onto the positive form to create the negative silicon mold).

For anyone wanting to play with a 3d printer without dropping a couple hundred bucks on it:Ā check your local library. Ones around here are building “maker spaces” with 3d printers, embroidery machines, engraving machines, large format printers, etc. You pay for consumables (i.e. filament in this cae) but gain familiarity with the machines before deciding to invest in one.

Soap Swirls!

I have triedĀ many times to get swirls in soap. What I’ve actually gotten is halfway seized blobs of colour. Still works, still smells nice … but it doesn’tĀ look like the pretty soaps I see online.

Everything I’ve read says to mix the components to a light trace so it won’t seize before you get it poured and swirled. Many attempts later, I have swirls! Two tricks — I mixed the essential oil into the oil before adding lye. Adding the EO after the oil:lye is mixed was just too much mixing. I also used more water than the normal 2:1 water to lye ratio.

Added the lye water to the oil/EO mixture and used the stick blender until it was just combined. There were no longer oil spots floating on top, the entire mixture was a homogeneous colour. I split the soap into two pots and stirred in the clay with a tiny whisk. At this point, I still had REALLY runny soap.

I used a modified column pour technique — a rounded cup in the middle of a large mold. This made concentric rings of colour. I then used a very thin wooden dowel / gigantic toothpick that was used in a sandwich at a local restaurant and dragged lines from the perimeter of the mold into the center. The shape held! Popped the whole thing in the oven with the light on and let it sit for 24 hours. Removed it from the mold and it wasĀ really soft compared to my normal recipe. That’s the extra water – it needs to cure longer. Bonus, though – it was soft enough to cut easily with a knife.



When cut into bars, there are actual swirls!

New Soaps

We’ve made a bunch of new soaps this past week — mostly using the same 20% super-fat all coconut oil recipe, although I made a 0% super-fat coconut oil soap to use as laundry detergent. We just have to visit some store that actually stocks washing soda (WalMart – not somewhere I frequent, but according to their web site … it’s stocked at every local store here).

We made a rainbow swirl soap with orange essential oil — important thing about making rainbow swirl soap? Don’t try to smooth out the top!Ā The whole top is a consistent lavender colour … cool, though, because the rainbow bits appear as you use the soap. TotallyĀ not what I was going for, though.

Another swirled soap using activated charcoalĀ and greenĀ zeolite clay with tea tree essential oil. Again the swirl didn’t turn out the way I wanted … I think you’ve got to haveĀ really fluid soap batter to get these swirl techniques toĀ succeed. This batch was less thick than the rainbow above … but it still got gloppy as I poured it. Also – there’s a reason the ‘column pour’ technique has a square in the middle. If you use a round object (say, a glass that you happen to have and know won’t be harmed by soap) , you get concentric circles. Not a design with scallops to it.

And I’ve found a few new recipes that I’d like to try — one is using pureed cucumber in place of water in the soap. And one that’s got to wait for next year — using daffodils as the colourant!