The Week in Soap: 5th March ’17

I got back into the swing of making soap this week. Having realised that I need to be making far more to keep up with demand, a new process was required.    Previously I would usually make three different batches during an evening’s soaping, once a week, but the new routine is four batches a night, twice a week. By doubling up the batches – ie making two lots of two fragrances, rather than three lots of one, I find I can make the four batches as quickly as three, if not faster.

Wednesday was the first day of the new regime – two lots of Welsh Rose and two lots of Bewitched on the cards.  But, wouldn’t you know it, I ran out of lye. Arghhhh – I felt sure I had a second tub but nope…  Nevermind, I had enough for three batches: two Bewitched and one Welsh Rose:

2 Bewitched, 1 Welsh Rose

Two Bewitched, One Welsh Rose

More lye was ordered and arrived within 48 hours, so I was able to make more today – two lots of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey and two of Blodau (Flowers):

2 OMH & 2 Blodau

Two OMH & Two Blodau (Flowers)

I clearly need to have a better handle on inventory.  I do have have the Soapmaker 3 program, which comes highly recommended, but haven’t got round to using it yet. :-/ Maybe that should be one of April’s goals.

This week I also delivered another couple of batches of ‘Ar Lan y Mor’ (By the Sea) and Potters’ Soap – exclusive fragrances/designs for Glosters in Porthmadog:

Ar Lan y Mor / Potters' Soap

Ar Lan y Mor / Potters’ Soap

I also finished off wrapping and packaging the mini guest bars for Plas Colwyn Guest House right here in the village – these are just a small selection of them:

Mini Guest Bars

Mini Guest Bars

We celebrated St David’s Day on Wednesday, and as is traditional, I made up a big batch of Teisen Gri (Welsh Cakes) for the village school show.

Welsh Cakes

Welsh Cakes

I’ve been asked again to share the recipe, so I’m planning on getting that written up this week and posted here on the blog.

This is my little three year old in her traditional ‘welsh lady’ costume, singing her heart out at the front of the stage. She’s normally pretty shy, so it was wonderful to see her enjoying her moment in the limelight…

Little Welsh Lady

Little Welsh Lady

 

I also managed to get out for ONE run this week – 5km on Friday morning. If you saw the post about my goals for March, you’ll know that I want to run at least 30km this month. Easily doable, IF I can get my running mojo back where it was in January. Throw some motivation my way?

 

A Belated ‘Week in Soap’ – Tutti Frutti Cut…

I almost didn’t post a weekly update this week as it’s been a strange one, work-wise. The children have been off school for half term, and although the youngest only goes for two hours a day, I’ve still missed that time to ‘get stuff done’. Days have been spent entertaining the children, and evenings have been mostly spent wrapping and labelling for a couple of BIG wholesale orders I have going out this week.  Then we had a weekend away visiting family, so I have very to share on the soapy front.

But then I remembered that I needed to show you the cut of the Tutti Frutti that I made last week:

Tutti Frutti - freshly cut

Tutti Frutti – freshly cut

Coloured with micas from U-Makeitup and Happy Olive, they didn’t let me down 🙂

The children start back at school tomorrow, so I’m hoping this coming week will be far more productive on the soaping front, and keep an eye out for my February update coming up in the next couple of days.

 

The Week in Soap: 19th Feb ’17

I have at least 6 draft posts half written, but somehow it’s got round to Sunday again and I’ve not managed to even think about finishing any of them…

It has, however, been a busy week… I’ve been busy wrapping and labelling the bars for the shop in Didsbury, all 150 of them.  It’s a big order for me, but I’ve got a week or two to get it all together.

On Thursday I agreed to supply a local guest house with soap on an ongoing basis. It’s self catering accommodation, and they want to leave both full sized and mini bars for their guests.  The first lot of regular bars has been delivered, and this coming week will see me cutting and wrapping the mini sized bars for delivery before the weekend.

I’ve made another five batches this week, three on Monday – First Kiss, Love Spell & Peace:

First Kiss, Bewitched, Peace

First Kiss, Bewitched, Peace

That little heart was added for Instagram as a nod to Valentine’s Day, as I didn’t get around to making any Valentine’s specials this year.

And two batches of Tutti Frutti on Friday – I’ve been waiting on more fragrance oil for this one for quite a while, and I’m nearly sold out, so I got a couple of batches done at once.

Coloured soap pre-pour

Coloured soap pre-pour

Tutti Frutti poured

Tutti Frutti poured

Tutti Frutti finished

Tutti Frutti finished

The colours on the top of the finished batches look a little muddy, but I’m hopeful it’ll be fine inside *crosses fingers*

And tonight I made more bathbombs – I literally finished cleaning up 10 minutes ago, so these are very rough and ready photos, but you get the first peek:

Bewitched:

Bewitched Bathbombs

Bewitched Bathbombs

Lavender Bathbombs

Lavender Bathbombs

I’ve not managed to take many soapy photos this week, but here’s the Blodau (Flowers) bar from last week:

Blodau (Flowers)

Blodau (Flowers)

The kids are off school for half term this coming week, so it’ll be interesting to see how much I get done (especially as we go away on Friday for a couple of nights) but hopefully I’ll get an update out on Sunday at the very least :-/

The Whats and The Whys…

…that is, what goes into my soap, and why. I’m often asked what my soaps are made from. Well, the ingredients in my soaps are no secret – they’re clearly labelled on each and every bar that’s sold, so here goes 😀

Fact is, you only need THREE ingredients to make soap.  A vegetable or animal fat of some kind, sodium hydroxide (NaOH) (aka Lye) and water.  The sodium hydroxide is combined with the water to create a lye solution, which is then mixed with the oils or butters.  The sodium hydroxide combines and reacts with the fatty acids in the oils and/or butters and hey presto, you get soap, (plus, by the way, glycerine. I’ll come to that later).

Clarity

Clarity

Take, for example, a bar of my Clarity essential oil soap (above). The ingredients, as they appear on the label, are as follows:

Sodium Olivate, Sodium Cocoate, Sodium Shea Butterate, Sodium Avocadoate, Sodium Cocoa Butterate, Sodium Castorate, Glycerine, Aqua, Salvia sclarea (Clary) Oil (Sage essential oil), Cymbopogon schoenanthus Oil (Lemongrass essential oil), Activated Charcoal, Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891) & Micas *linalool *citral (*naturally present in essential oils).

Now to decipher the ingredients list above.

All my bars contain six different oils and butters: Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Avocado Oil, Cocoa Butter and Castor Oil. Bear with me here – small chemistry lesson coming up.  If the soap is made properly, there will never ever be any sodium hydroxide present in the final bar, and so it isn’t necessary to put it on the ingredients label. However, the sodium hydroxide has caused the oils and butters to change – into soap – or, chemically speaking, into ‘salts’.  This is why the first six items on the ingredients list are all ‘Sodium (insert name of oil)ate’  ie, they are all salts formed from the original six oils/butters combined with sodium hydroxide.

So why those particular six oils and butters?  I use coconut for it’s ability to give soap a great, abundant lather, but it can be drying to some people’s skins and so I temper it with plenty of olive oil which produces a mild, gentle soap. Cocoa butter contributes to the hardness of the bar, whilst also being moisturising.  Avocado oil and shea butter are considered to be luxury additives – they don’t contribute to the lather or the hardness of the bar, but they are extremely moisturing.  They’re probably the reason my customers say they don’t need hand cream after washing with my soap!

I decided long ago not to use animal fats in my soap. I don’t have a problem with animal fats per se – I’m not vegetarian, and I know from my early days of soapmaking and experimentation that lard makes wonderful soap. It was just a decision I made early on in my recipe development, and I’ve stuck with it.  Similarly with palm oil, I used it in my early soapmaking, but haven’t done for years. I have no problem with other producers using palm oil – each to their own – but it’s not for me.

Next on the list you’ll see glycerine.  Glycerine is a by-product of that chemical reaction between the NaOH and the oils/butters.  It’s often extracted during the commercial soapmaking process, as it’s a valuable commodity and can be sold on to other manufacturers. In handmade soaps though, it goes nowhere. It stays within the soap and acts as a humectant, drawing moisture to the skin and helping skin retain moisture.  (Note, it is NOT a moisturiser, as I’ve seen claimed elsewhere)

Next comes Aqua (water).  Water is needed to create a solution of the NaOH. That’s its only purpose.  Once the soap is made, we soapmakers leave the soap to cure for weeks on end, drying out the soap and trying to get rid of as much of the moisture as possible.

The next two items on the list are simply the fragrance – Sage essential oil and Lemongrass essential oil.  Some soapmakers claim that essential oils added to soaps have therapeutic properties above and beyond the fragrance, but there is some doubt as to where these properties survive the chemical process. Anyway, without extensive and expensive laboratory testing, making such claims is misleading.

The next three ingredients – Activated Charcoal, Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891) & Micas – are colourants.  The first two are natural, the mica has colour added to it in a lab, so can’t be considered natural.

Finally we come to the last two starred items: *linalool *citral (*naturally present in essential oils).  The EU Cosmetic Regulation 1223/2009 lists the 26 most allergenic (ie most likely to cause an allergic reaction) substances and states that if your soap (or other wash off product) contains more than 0.01% of that substance then it needs to be declared.  Many essential oils contain one or more of these substances, and it’s very rare that they cause any problem whatsoever. But rules is rules :-)!

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back soon! If you have any questions about my ingredients, or anything else for that matter, please comment below.

 

Making Castile Soap

Traditional castile soap is made of nothing more than olive oils and a sodium hydroxide solution, and its origins lie in the soap that has been made for many centuries in Aleppo (Syria), from local olive & laurel berry oils. When the recipe was brought to Europe (specifically the Castile area of Spain, with its abundance of olive trees) it would appear that laurel berry oil was hard to come by, leading to it being dropped completely, becoming the 100% olive oil soap that we know today. It’s considered to be the gentlest of soaps – kind to sensitive skin often used as a baby soap (though personally I don’t think very small babies need any soap at all!)

At the beginning of the year I decided to make it one of my goals for January, and hey presto, last week I made my first ever batch of castile.  I don’t always bother with test batches, and I didn’t think an awful lot could go wrong with this one, so dove right in with a full sized batch. The recipe was simply:

  • 1500g Olive Oil
  • 570g Water
  • 193g Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)

I used my usual method – made up the lye solution and left it to cool down to room temperature.  For my regular bars I melt together the hard oils/butters, then add the liquid oils and let it cool down to room temperature, but there was none of that faffing about with this one – I just measured my olive oil out of the bottle and into my mixing bowl.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil

Then added the NaOH and whisked until it was emulsified:

Oil / NaOH Emulsified

Oil / NaOH Emulsified

Gave it a bit of a mix with the handblender until it traced:

Soap Batter at Trace

Soap Batter at Trace

And poured it into the mould:

Castile in the mould

Castile in the mould

I knew from my reading that I probably wouldn’t be able to unmould / cut after my usual 48 day wait, so I left it a little longer, then kind of forgot about it for a couple of days (oops) and eventually unmoulded it 8 days after it was poured. I was happy to note that it was a lot whiter than it originally appeared to be:

Castile 8 days later

Castile 8 days later

Perhaps I’ll only leave it three or four days next time as it was the hardest batch I’ve ever cut, and I feared for the wire on my poor Bud soap cutter.  I took it slowly, and the end result was this:

Castile freshly cut

Castile freshly cut

The usual recommendation is to allow castile soap to cure for a good six months, if not more, as it’s notoriously slow to harden. I’m not convinced though, and will be testing it often in the next few months to see how it’s developing.

By the way, I’ve never actually used castile soap myself. The things I’ve heard haven’t always been particularly positive – the lather has even been described as ‘slimy’, so I’m going to (try to) put the opinions of others out of my head and be as objective as possible.  Stay tuned and I’ll keep you updated 🙂

The Week in Soap: 20th Nov ’16

Despite the enforced slow down recently (update on the building work coming soon), there’s still plenty of great stuff going on.

1. The third and final stockist of our Christmas bars will receive their order tomorrow. They can be found in:

  • Glosters, Bank Place, Porthmadog
  • Lotti & Wren, Palace Street, Caernarfon
  • Woodcraft, Beddgelert
Christmas Soaps

Christmas Tree, Three Kings, Candy Cane

I have a limited number available for my local / Facebook customers – I’ll be posting them on the page this week.

2. I’ve finally got my bath bomb assessment – woo hoo! This means that I can now officially (and more to the point, legally!) make and sell handmade bath bombs. That’s one of my goals for the year ticked off too 🙂

Bath Bombs

Bath Bombs

3. The Dinosoaps are cured and will be posted for sale over the next couple of days. I’ve already received a few pre-orders and I’m confident they’ll sell pretty quickly.

Dinosoaps

Dinosoaps

4. I managed to make a few restocks this week. These are Boho Baby, Delicious & Botanica:

Boho Baby, Delicious, Botanica

         Boho Baby, Delicious, Botanica

5. This week, I hit the 5K followers mark on Instagram. I know I bang on about it but I do luurve Instagram, and this week I was lucky enough to be featured by HandmadeintheUK.  They reposted one of my photos, and if it received more than 125 likes (which it did), then I go forward to the grand final on Sunday (tonight!) At time of writing I’ve not idea how that will work, but I’m excited to see what happens this evening.

6. And finally, you should notice a few more posts coming through from me in future as I’ve committed to post at least twice a week (see this afternoon’s post here), probably on a Sunday and a Wednesday.  Having successfully completed Blogtober I rested on my laurels for a little too long, but I’m back 🙂

Banishing Soda Ash – the easy way…

I see a lot of discussion on line about how to deal with soda ash on soap tops. Freshly poured soap is so glossily glorious – it can be a disappointment when you come back to it a day later to find it dulled and marred by an ashy deposit:

Ashy Soap Top

Ashy Soap Top

The ash is formed when the lye (Sodium Hydroxide, NaOH) in the soap reacts with Carbon Dioxide CO² in the air, and is totally harmless; the soap is no less effective. Nevertheless many find it to be aesthetically displeasing, and I’ve seen many methods used, some fairly elaborate, to eradicate it.  In my early soapmaking days I was advised dip each individual bar into a pan of boiling water.  Yes, this removed the ash and resulted in wonderfully glossy bars, but wow, it was tedious.  I then read that could simply hold each bar in the steam that came from a boiling kettle. Only kettles these days don’t boil continuously – and flicking that switch 20 times a minute was….tedious.  Then I had a lightbulb moment – I could hold the soap in the steam that came from a pan of water at a rollling boil.  Yes, I am FULLY aware that I could have easily missed one of those steps out… That worked too but was still pretty longwinded and let’s be honest, tedious.  There was also the ever present risk of scalding myself trying to use these methods. I came perilously close, believe me.

These days my ash removing regime is simple, fast and effective. I use an ordinary steam iron, on steam setting, to remove the ash from the soap tops before I’ve even unmoulded them. Half of this loaf has already been steamed:

Half Steamed

Half Steamed

My old, but trusty, Morphy Richards…

Steam Iron

Steam Iron

Holding the iron just a couple of inches above the top of the soap, I press the steam button continuously to cover the soap in steam, moving the iron back and forth. This is the result

Steamed top

Steamed top

Easy peasy!  And absolutely zero chance of scalding myself.  It looks freshly poured but is actually fully set up and ready to be unmoulded.  I usually leave it for about 10 minutes to dry off, and then unmould:

Unmoulded batch

Unmoulded batch

And cut – notice how glossy it still is:

On the cutter

On the cutter

After the cut, before the tidy up – perfectly dry and glossy:

Cut Soap, Still Glossy

Cut Soap, Still Glossy

I’ve made a video of the steaming process, but I’m struggling to upload it :-S Once I figure it all out I’ll add it to this post 😀