Soap Lessons Learned

Before I write about lessons learned, I wanted to thank everyone who entered my giveaway of the Eco Craft book. Janice of Flushing, New York won it. It will be in the mail to her tomorrow. Stay tuned for more craft book giveaways.

Also, we finally got rain last night – a whole inch! It was muddy harvesting this morning at the ABE Community Garden, but we’re so happy to have it. And with the rain came some cooler temps. Yeah!

But now about the soap. We’ve not made any in quite a while. It’s not that I’ve not wanted to, it’s just been so hot and there are so many other chores that need attention.

Our soaps

However, I have spent some time thinking about what I’ve learned from the five soaps and continuing my soap research. Here are some things I’ve learned.

  1. Always run any soap recipe through a soap calculator. Here is my favorite. Even if you decide to use my recipes. It’s good practice when you make your own, but also it never hurts to double check.
  2. Start with an easy recipe with three oils. My basic soap is a real easy one.
  3. Don’t use GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract). I did in my first several because one of the books recommended it, as did a website. After much research, I found that it is not necessary. Save your money.
  4. I combined my oils and lye water around 95 – 100 degrees. I’ve found out that getting the temps of these two solutions exactly the same is not necessary. In fact, the lye water can be mixed up the day before. Some soapers even mix up the oils the day before! Not worrying about getting them exactly the same temp takes some pressure off making soap. But I would be careful about not combining them when they are still real hot, although other soapers do that.Β  I’m not comfortable with high temps and I don’t mind waiting for the temps to come down to 100.
  5. Mix the lye water solution first. Since it gets hotter than the oils it gives the lye water time to cool down.
  6. Buy or make a good mold. We bought this one online that the sides have hinges so it’s easy to get the soap out.
  7. Line the mold ahead of time. Don’t wait until you are ready to pour or even mix to line the mold.
  8. Get a nice cheap tablecloth to cover your work counter. I bought mine at the dollar store. For $4 it’s worth the money, makes cleanup easier, and will last a long time.
  9. Lock up the pets and kids so you aren’t disturbed while soap making.
  10. Be sure to keep notes. I have a folder where I keep my notes and my recipes.
  11. Join some online soapmakers groups. I belong to both Southern Soapers and and soapmakers on Yahoo groups. I’ve learned a lot from some of these seasoned soapers.

I spend about 45 minutes getting the kitchen ready and probably as much time cleaning up and putting all of the supplies away. The actual heating, mixing, and pouring doesn’t take long at all. So all you need is a couple hours of uninterrupted time and you’ll have some great soap. That’s it for now. Our next soap will be a 95% olive oil and 5% castor oil. I’ve got the recipe all printed out and ready to mix. Now to carve out the time to make it.