Saturday, November 28, 2009

Soapy Saturday

In my latest attempt at avoidance of the things that I really should be concerned with, my ditzy brain has been consumed with a longing to make homemade soap. I've always coveted those creamy, pretty bars of handcrafted soap that I see at the Farmers Market. I've never bought any because the little voice in my head keeps chanting "you can do that." The chant became a clamour so I hastened to the Internet to do a little research.

The Internet soap making websites are full of dire warnings about the dangers of Lye. You can't make soap without Lye but you can hurt yourself terribly with Lye. There were little pictures of a woman disfigured and blinded by a soap making gone wrong. I pointed her out to my little nagging voice and told it to hush. It commenced a muttering and a few days later I found myself examining the cooking oils on the grocery store shelf. Then I contemplated buying a stick blender and the next thing I knew, I was in the hardware store buying the dreaded Lye! I lined everything up on the counter and looked at it for a really long time before I cranked up the nerve to begin.

Blind dogs are not a crucial component of soap making, even if they think they are. I should have named my blind dog VISA, because he's everywhere I want to be. Soap making commenced after all dogs were banished from the room. Wearing my hand fashioned and totally unneccesary HazMat suit, I warmed olive oil and lard into a big pot. Then using slow motion movements worthy of a bomb disposal unit, I added lye crystals to a pot of distilled water. Holy Nuclear Reaction Batman! That was cool. I waited, but the Lye didnt launch itself off the counter and assault my eyes. Although it looked like it wanted to.

I fiddled back and forth with a candy thermometer until both pots had cooled to 100*F. I poured the lye solution into the warmed oils. Using my stick blender and whisk with increasing confidence, I stirred the coffee coloured goop until I achieved the magical state of "trace". My soap goop soup had the pudding consistency of trace within 15 minutes. I was amazed. I did it! And I still had both my eyeballs! Soapmaking suddenly became a non scary and intriquing thing to do.

I scooped out a cup of soap and blended it with cocoa. I drizzled that mixture back into my lovely pot of gloop and swirled it thru. Now I didn't just have non threatening and homely homemade soap - I had created a docile and attractive soap. Into the plastic margarine tub mold it went and I quickly swaddled it in a towel. I left it to nap on top of the pellet stove but I couldnt resist a few peeks and pokes. Soap needs to continue the internal chemical heating process for a few days in order to neutralize the lye. Then it needs to cure for 2 to 4 weeks before it is safe to use.

Most things I attempt for the first time do not turn out as well as this soap has done. Usually I need to rethink or redo something in order to get it right. They say soap making is addiction and I can see why. My creative juices are bubbling over with thoughts of growing this herb or that flower to add to my soap. There is a whole universe of essential oils for fragrance opening up before me. And best of all, homemade soap is cheap!


  1. Good for you making soap the "dangerous" way. I've bought plain melt-and-pour soap and milled it into something pretty myself, but I've not braved the lye highway just yet. I might try it at some later time, but being pregnant and with two other little ones under 4 I don't think I can brave it just yet. Maybe when these are a bit more manageable and I can banish them from my kitchen long enough, (they're all VISA like your weirdy dog - whom I'm completely in love with after reading your post, by the way) then I'll try it myself. You're blog is fun, and I love your writing style...keep it up!

    Much bloggy love, from a fellow blogger and HT member. Vashti

  2. Good and informative post and I like your way of taking things. I remember I once tried to make soap at school and got success..