Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Yes, you can make your own soap

Lately I keep running into people who want to learn how to make their own soap.  Soapmaking can be an art form, most definitely, but it should also be a basic skill.  After all, up until the last hundred years or so, nearly all housewives knew how to make the soap for their families' needs.  Even though I make soap and sell it, I would like to see more people making their own.  There's nothing quite as nice as making your own anything.  So, R, I, and T--this tutorial is for you!  (And for you, too.)

This is my version of a fruit/veggie wash soap, using just olive and coconut oils, based on this recipe from the Soap Queen blog.  It's a mild, unscented soap, and very simple to make.  It's mild enough to use as a hand soap, as well.

Here are the very basic supplies you'll need--

I love this mold from Bramble Berry, but it's not an absolute necessity.  For the first several years of soaping, my primary molds were Rubbermaid plastic divider trays and a cardboard box that once carried cups of yogurt.  (Just line your molds with freezer paper, shiny side up.)


Lye is absolutely essential to making soap--it can't be made without it.  How else can you get oils and water to blend together and harden into a bar?  Lye (sodium hydroxide) can be dangerous stuff, but with a dose of caution, it shouldn't scare you away from making soap.  Take bleach, for example.  You most likely have a bottle of it in your house, but you keep it away from children, avoid the fumes, don't use it on your bare skin and use it strictly according to the directions.  Use the same precautions with lye.  Just wear safety glasses and gloves and wear socks and long sleeves on the off chance the lye mixture happens to splash.  You can also cover the counters with newspaper to make cleanup easier.

You can find lye at many hardware stores, in the plumbing aisle.  Make sure it's 100% sodium hydroxide; for the record, Draino is not. 

Measure as carefully as you can.  You'll definitely want a scale, so you don't have soap that won't harden or the other extreme, soap that will strip the first layer of skin right off....or at least feel like it!

The Recipe

14 oz. coconut oil
8 oz. olive oil
3.5 oz. sodium hydroxide
8 oz. distilled water

Weigh out the oils, either altogether into the pan or separately before adding to the pan.  Melt the oils over lowest heat.  I use a stovetop but some use a microwave.  I turn off the heat before all the coconut oil is melted and let the few remaining chunks melt on their own.  You want the oils melted, not hot.

Measure the water into a stainless steel or plastic bowl (don't use glass or aluminum.)  You'll notice that as you slowly sprinkle in the lye and stir to dissolve, the mixture heats up.  I usually set the bowl in a sink containing a few inches of cold water so the lye mixture won't get too hot and will cool down more quickly.   Stir carefully so you don't splash and make sure every lye crystal is dissolved.

The lye heating up the water
All lye is dissolved.
When the outside of the bowl is room temperature or slightly warm (not hot) to the touch, you are ready to mix with the oil.  Carefully pour the lye mixture into the melted oils and stir it with a stick blender.  You can also use a whisk, but it will take longer to thicken.

You will eventually notice that the mixture thickens and no longer separates.  When you can drizzle a stream of soap across the surface and it doesn't sink back into the mixture, it has reached trace.   It's now ready to pour into the mold.

See the drizzle across the top?
Pour into a mold and just leave to sit on a counter until it hardens.  I usually let it sit overnight (12 hours or so).  You will be able to tell if it's too soft to cut.  After it's cut/unmolded, I set the bars on pieces of plastic canvas to dry and cure for 4 agonizingly long weeks.  After that, you can keep a bar next to your sink and use it to wash all your produce (and of course, impress everyone with your new skill.) 

This is just a basic overview and if you find that you enjoy making your own soap, there are many sites to help you learn more about the science of soaping and how to make your own recipes with scents and colors.  Here is a great place to start and one of my favorite resources.

And that's it!  You have a way to clean your produce--it's inexpensive, you know all the ingredients and you made it yourself!  It's not so hard, huh? 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Little Lesson in Laundry

Have you done your laundry this week?  As I was doing mine, I thought that I'd collect some of the most valuable tips I have learned and share them with you.  Sadly, most people don't see laundry as a skill.  In treating it as a simple chore, many housewives have missed the finer points, of which here are but a few.

1. Don't keep reminding family members to clean out their pockets.  Do it yourself!  It provides the housewife with a Source of Income, including the highly valuable Garage Sale Quarters.  Keep an inconspicuous jar or piggy bank in the laundry room to collect your earnings.  I scored with $.97 in one pants pocket alone this week.

2. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we send a couple of loose pairs of pantyhose through the wash cycle.  Add a bra or two and you have the makings for a family puzzle night.

3. Speaking of undergarments, be strategic about hanging it on the line.  Yes, you may have gotten fabulous clearance deals on underwear following the most recent holiday.  But remember, your neighbor won't be able to look at you in the eye when you see him around town.  He'll be wondering if you're wearing the St. Patrick's Day underwear with "Lucky" splashed across the backside or perhaps those Christmas wonders with candy canes that say "fa la la la la" all over.  Or maybe the cheapie panties you love that sag in the backside or have lost any sense of elasticity.   We all give our neighbors reasons to question our sanity, but let's not encourage the rumor mill run any faster.

The Distracted Housewife hanging laundry.  Note absence of undies on the line.
4. And for yet another thought on this same topic... When tossing underwear into the washer, make sure one leg is not caught over the center agitator.  Those panties will never fit you the same again.  Unless of course, you have a disorder in which one thigh is 8 times the size of the other, in which case finding underwear is just one of your many problems.  (Note: This is not simply a theory.)

Now, armed with this newly-discovered wealth of knowledge--let's get to that laundry with renewed vigor, housewives!!

This post linked to Simple Lives Thursday, WholeHearted Home Wednesday and Homestead Barn Hop.