Castile, a quick update

I made the first batch of Castile soap back in mid January and, while convention dictates that it should cure for at least 6 months before use, the devil on my shoulder insisted that I try it out this week, a mere 10 weeks later.

I helped myself to the thickest of the end pieces, and snapped a quick photo:

Castile 10 weeks in...

Castile 10 weeks in…

It’s already a very hard bar, easily as hard as my regular bars after their full 6 week cure. This surprised me somewhat as I’d read that one of the reasons for curing for so long is because it needs longer to harden up.

Detractors of Castile soap often use the word ‘slimy’ to describe it, so I wasn’t expecting too much when I lathered up.  I ran a little warm water and started turning the bar over and over in my hands.  After a few initial biggish bubbles, the lather soon settled into a creamy lather with very small bubbles, an almost lotion type texture. I would definitely describe the feel of the bar as ‘silky’ rather than the ‘slimy’! I would have got a photo or a quick video but there were no spare hands around 😀 After rinsing and drying my hands felt soft and smooth, and I can see why Castile soap is recommended for dry or sensitive skin.

I’ve spoken to other soapmakers who say that they’re more than happy to use their Castile soap before the traditional 6 month cure is up. Others tell me that there’s a distinct difference in the texture of the lather if the soap is left for the full 6 months (or longer). I’m going to enroll an extra pair of hands to help and get a couple of photos or a video of the lather as it is now, and again in two and four months time. I should then have a better idea of the beneficial effect (or otherwise!) of the extended cure time.

If you have any thoughts about Castile soap, be they be for or against, please post below – I’d love to hear from you.

 

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 🙂