A few months ago I began investigating animal testing and which companies do and don’t conduct it. I quickly ditched the Ivory bar soap. Despite being organic and natural for many years, this was one area I’d remained conventional. Mainly due to cost. And ignorance. I’d never looked into the ingredients or the company that made Ivory.
I chose to turn a blind eye. Bad.
I know! (I picture Monica from Friends when I say this, she often yelled it so exuberantly).
But once I realized Proctor & Gamble was on board with animal testing, I vowed to stop using their products. Luckily, for me, this only involved bar soap.
Because I’ve also scrutinized Dr. Bronner’s products, and found them to be agreeable with my ever-growing, high standards, I bought a bar of their Peppermint Hemp Pure-Castile Soap. Although it was on sale for $4.48, my pocketbook still winced.
It got my wheels turning. I just don’t want to pay that much. I’m all over making everything I can from scratch when it comes to baking and cooking. I’ve made liquid laundry detergent, coconut oil and baking soda deodorant and have dabbled in liquid shampoo (that’s an ongoing process). I figured, “Why not bar soap?”.
It was a great decision! I’m truly and forever hooked.
During the last week, I became obsessed with soap making! It’s not uncommon for me to latch onto new and varied endeavors. My sister has already asked what’s coming after bar soap 🙂 Liquid dish soap. Shampoo bar soap. I made a different, two ingredient, liquid laundry soap as I edited this!
But anyway, back to hand and body bar soap. I watched umpteen videos on YouTube because for some subjects I prefer visual learning over reading. I made a mountain of notes. Scribbled, messy, thorough and informative. I purchased the necessary ingredients. AND I MADE SOAP last Wednesday and Thursday. By Friday I couldn’t stop rubbing the backs of my hands. They’re so soft! I’d been washing my hands (and I’m a chronic hand washer) with my newly made soap for 2 days. It had to be the soap!
My hands are still noticeably soft today.
Ideally, I’d like to create my own video and share it. After viewing as many as I did, there are definite things I’d like to compile all into ONE lesson. However, since I’m not big on filming myself, I’d need to refine my routine (perhaps) and maybe even purchase a better camera, I opted for a blog post instead. I’ll be doing a second one showing the actual soap making. This one turned out wayyyy longer than I’d planned.
If you’ve never made soap, it can be confusing to jump into. There are different techniques, a myriad of oils and other ingredients, soap making specific terminology and masses of “teachers” on the internet. Some are fabulous, some are NOT.
- How do you know who to listen to?
- Which method works best?
- WHAT kind of soap do you make?
- Is it actually that easy?
I didn’t listen to one person. I studied several soap makers, men and women, and picked up pieces of information along the way. I weighed the pros and cons between hot and cold process soap making (there’s also ‘melt and pour’ and ‘rebatching’, neither of which appeal to me) and chose the one that suited my (sometimes) impatient personality 🙂 I went with fewer ingredients to keep the cost down and also because I just don’t have the know-how (yet) for mixing several ingredients into a GOOD bar of soap.
I can say for sure, it IS that easy! And not at all scary!
Scary? Say what? Yes, many individuals think lye is frightening. Lye, also called sodium hydroxide or caustic soda, is a chemical that can cause severe skin burns, blindness (if you get it IN your eyes) and even death (if ingested). It does sound intimidating.
The good news is, you can handle it, IF you handle it properly.
- Wear the right protective gear (goggles! not glasses!)
- Work in a well-ventilated area
- Keep children and pets away 100% of the time (Mere seconds are all it takes for preventable accidents to occur)
- Move purposefully and carefully
- Be aware of emergency measures, the CORRECT ones, in case of an accident.
You will be fine. It’s all about knowledge, respect and confidence.
My Top 10 Gripes of the videos I watched (not in any particular order except for number one):
- This is the most serious. Recommending vinegar for lye-water splashes and spills. WRONG! For accurate emergency protocol, refer to Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) , government websites or even contact the manufacturer. Do NOT rely on well-meaning soap makers and other bloggers who unintentionally spread the vinegar myth. Internet+1 person who says/writes something+100 people who hear/read it and pass it on=PROBLEM. Before you know it, everyone is believing it.
- No explanation of wording (superfatting, saponification, trace, flash)
- Poor camera work (shakes, too close, too far away)
- Glossing over the need for protective gear (just because THEY made soap 1,000 times doesn’t mean they should ⇒ ever ⇐ neglect safe procedure. Lye is a deadly serious chemical. Accidents CAN happen! Set a good example)
- No reason given for using distilled water vs. tap water (tap water has impurities that can react with lye. Spring water is also acceptable)
- Not enough details about lye (if you leave it open/sitting measured on the counter, it sucks up moisture from the air. Weigh it when you’re ready to use it)
- Too much idle chit chat or (annoying, loud) music on
- Failure to mention cost per bar, or batch, of soap. Or how big is a batch?!
- Constantly sniffing, clearing throat or saying “Um” every 15-30 seconds
- Not showing the finished product or how to store it
- Not demonstrating that the soap REALLY works! (I want to see suds!)
Okay, so I squeaked a couple extras in there. I could conjure up more I’m sure. I’ll restrain myself. Really, all my gripes maybe should’ve only been about the lye. . . . . .so much misinformation out there.
But anyway, about my maiden voyage into the world of soap making. It was very encouraging. Although I told my sister all I cared about was unscented, uncolored soap, I’ve changed my mind in a big hurry. I want to get creative and sell soap!
As if there aren’t 10 million bars of handmade soap out there already, eh? Big dreams.
I couldn’t wait to make more. So I did.
I found a recipe on http://wellnessmama.com and used it due to it’s simplicity. I selected organic oils because, for me personally, it’s important to:
- always use organic products
- avoid chemically processed, and contaminated, conventional oils
- consider things like how the production of certain oils effect the environment, people and wildlife (palm oil is one of the worst culprits – think orangutans and their dwindling population)
Katie’s recipe is:
- 16 oz. (453.6 g) coconut oil
- 16 oz (453.6 g) olive oil
- 137.339 g lye
- 344.73 g distilled water
- up to 1 oz essential oils (I did not use any)
My kitchen scale isn’t so precise. I poured out to an even number (i.e. 454), either just above or below the needed figure and then removed or added a small amount with a spoon, not so the number on the scale visibly changed but I could still see I’d taken some of the ingredient out. Since my soap making attempts were successful, I guess this slight non-accuracy is acceptable. It doesn’t mean I recommend it.
I can’t really recommend anything in relation to recipes or methods since I’m FAR from any sort of expert. Remember, I’d never made soap before Wednesday.
I can show you which brands I used. Organic, ethically sourced, sustainable, fair-trade, cold pressed, raw, vegan, etc.; I strive for as many of these traits as possible, when applicable, whether it’s oil or any other food.
There’s olive oil fraud to be wary of. Yep. Some companies mix other oils (like soybean or canola) into their olive oil and then pass it off to unsuspecting consumers. Kirkland Signature Organic is apparently okay. My research into that is preliminary. I want to be sure!
Palm oil is something I refuse to even consider. It’s in Earth Balance Organic Whipped Traditional Spread but when Boulder Brands couldn’t tell me how their plan to ‘responsibly source 100% of their palm oil by the end of 2015’ was going. . . . . I quit buying it.
Anything less than 100% isn’t good enough for the orangutans!
Fortunately, because I eat a whole foods diet, I didn’t have any other palm oil products to worry about. Nutiva sources palm oil from Ecuador, where orangutans don’t even live. IF I was going to use palm oil in soap making, it would be theirs.
I have to (alright, I’d LIKE to) believe they’re as conscientious about their coconut oil but again, my research into that is also preliminary. All of their red palm products are fair-trade, A+. But only 2 sizes of their coconut oil are, C-. I’ll be sending Nutiva an e-mail to inquire about that.
To further explain in regards to soap making, it seems pointless to make a vegan soap containing ingredients that devastate the rain forests and it’s inhabitants. If orangutans died, does vegan really matter? NO! So I eliminate animal tested products in favor of homemade products that contribute to other atrocities?
That doesn’t sit well with me.
It’s a huge (and often discouraging) responsibility to be cognizant of ALL areas of a product. Sadly, I think it’s something most home soap makers (and many consumers in general) never give a passing thought. Or they boast about being palm oil free, pat themselves on the back, when it’s more than just palm oil.
Every oil (heck, everything imported and a lot of domestic) has a good side and a bad side. Choosing the best option possible is my goal as well as using a minimum of ingredients. When I see someone so proudly making a soap with as many as 5-8 conventional, non-organic oils, all exotic to boot, it makes me crazy. They might as well call it ecocide soap.
I’m very firm in the belief that we, as individuals, and as an entire world, need to be more aware of the choices we make. I can admit, I was extremely narrow-minded for many years. I ate processed food. I threw recyclables in the garbage. I used Comet and Lysol. I bought products made in China.
I simply didn’t think. I just “lived”.
Of course, now I may think too much! It can be overwhelming but I’m no longer able to ignore issues like deforestation, species endangerment and child labor. I don’t want to be someone who says, “Ohhhh, I LOVE orangutans!” and then turn around and eat foods containing the palm oil responsible for the decimation of their habitat and population.