Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Soap Adventures

I've wanted to make soap for a LONG time.  I even bought a large container of lye at my local hardware store about 4 years ago.  It seemed daunting and I was intimidated by measuring stuff so carefully.  And what if I wasted a litre of precious fats???  NO! 

So, what changed my mind you ask?  I visited my friend Ashley down in Calgary where she was touting the fabulousness of her own homemade laundry soap.  (see her blog about it here:  Cleaning 'Eco-logi-nomically' don't worry, she's a clever and interesting writer)  Having made my own laundry detergent in the past, that sucked, I stated that with my water I'm sure it's just not gonna happen for me.  She then proceeded to tell me about castile soap, which among it's many virtues, apparently does not leave any residue and that I should try again with castile soap. 

In our discussions I discovered that traditionally castile soap uses ONLY olive oil as it's fat.  Nowadays the term has been diluted to also include other vegetable fat sources.  But learning more about it I was again inspired.  I had all the ingredients at home already and I was going to try as soon as I could. 

Thinking that since I didn't want to go the "weighing carefully" route, I looked and found a recipe with cup measurements!  YAY! 

It was so fun!  It worked!  I stirred for an hour!  I felt so old-worldly and connected to my ancestors.  I patiently waited exactly 48 hours to check on my soap in it's cozy mold wrapped in towels.  I looked.  It was gorgeous!  A creamy yellow colour.  I cut into it... it was soft as custard.  WHAT??? what went wrong?  (stop laughing all you pro-soapers) 

That was when I decided to get a little more serious about it and asked for advice on several forums that I could find.  They were all so kind and gracious to me even though they had probably said this a million time to many other naive, silly people like me.  "Always run your WEIGHTS through a lye calculator and RUN RUN away from any recipe that uses cup measurements" 

Some of those nice folks said I may be able to fix it if I weighed all my ingredients again and then ran it through the lye calculator.  After I weighed it I found that the recipe had told me to use nearly 3x the lye that I would have needed for that amount of fat.  Yikes!  And the recipe had also said that the soap was good to use immediately.  Good thing we didn't or our skin would have burned off! 

On a different forum a lovely person helped me with how much other fats I could add if I grated the existing soap and rebatched it.  In following her advice I came up with a batch of soap that looks like this.  Not bad...especially considering they won't burn my skin off once they are cured.

Before the advice I found a stick blender and a proper scale at a thrift store and decided to try a proper recipe, with weights and everything.  That batch turned out beautifully and I get to use it in a few weeks.

Also in the meantime I found a really cool recipe for liquid laundry soap.  Well, it turned out not liquid so much as a scoopable thick cream.  But it works quite well if I use 1/2 c. vinegar in the rinse load.  With our hard water I need the vinegar to get rid of the soap scum.

So that's that.  It's been fun.  And now I know why people say making soap is addictive :)


  1. Oh, goodie, goodie, goodie!!!
    If you can part with any, I'd love to buy my soap from YOU from now on! Can you bring me a batch!? :)
    And your photos are beautiful.

  2. fer sure! I'll come down to three hills soon maybe... maybe you need to take a day trip to see your mum?