Well, I do have a lot of time on my hands.
Some months ago I got bitten by some sort of beekeeping bug. With that came honey, beeswax and related areas of intrest, one of which was soapmaking. At the time, this was sort of frustrating, since I lived in the flat of a friend and didn’t really want to handle caustic chemicals in her kitchen (or maybe I just couldn’t get my hands on any lye). Now, I have moved and I live with my father who – not that surprisingly – happen to have plenty of lye in his cellar (don’t ask, someone was probably trying to toss it and there you go).
A couple of weeks ago I made a honey and lavender olive oil soap:
I was a bit heavy on the honey (and perhaps also on the raw beeswax), which probably is the explanation of the small red dots in the soap (not pictured). According to Google-wisdom, this apparently disappears with the curing of the soap and doesn’t affect the quality of the soap. Double-checking the numbers I discovered that I had made an extreme water reduction (water at 25% of oils, when 35% is recommended for beginners). Maybe this was the reason for the red spots? I rebatched everything (hot process soap, see pics) but a couple of slices of the soap, adding some milk-and-honey mixture. The rebatched soap still smell good, has the expected tan colour (from warm milk and honey) and is very soft (unlike the non-rebatched bars I saved). The smell is lavender, but with a caramel over/undertone, which is very nice. It is supposed to be cured for a looong time, at least six months, but preferably longer. Looking forward to see how t developes.
Sort of embarrassed over miscalculating the water-oil ratio I decided to make another batch today. This time a beer soap. Beer is another one of my obsessions. I used one of my favourites, actually. Sotholmen Extra Stout by Nynäshams ångbryggeri, my close-to favourite Swedish microbrewery. I calculated (correctly, this time) and made sure to reduce the beer with a pince of salt and the peels of two lemons until I reached the proper amount of fluid. Making cold process soap is not that difficult, but it is very important to get the oil-lye balance right. I recommend lye calculators and/or the iPad app Soap Calculator before making any cold process recipe. There are a couple of different calculators available. I bought the Soap Calculator for a small sum, choose it for the easiness in changing to metric (seriously, change your bloody measuring system already!).
Sotholmen Extra Soap
Oils: Olive oil 600g, Coconut oil 180g, sunflower oil 20g, canola oil 60g, beeswax 10g.
Fluid: 300g, 150g reduced stout boiled in lemon peel and some salt and honey. 150g water.
Lye: 120g (in a 45% solution, so 120g lye and 150g water was already in solution).
EO: 5g lemongrass essential oil.
I choose to rebatch/Hot process parts of this soap (just because), adding cocoa powder, ground coffee and ground oats. This is the result:
Home-made soap is different from commercial soap in several ways. The glycerin (an humectant) in industrial soap is commonly extracted, making common household soap more of a detergent bar than a soap bar. Of course, there are more fancy forms of commercial soap as well, many of which have added glycerin and other ingredients. Another advantage, making your own soap you can be perfectly sure what goes in it. It also gives you an opportunity to avoid palm oil, which is very common in commercial soap. Besides, it is fun!
There is plenty to read about soapmaking on the internet. Below is some links to get you started, or just to gawp at the pretty swirls and colours (my next soap project).
Soapmaking Forum: a great forum with plenty of inspiration.
Miller’s Homemade Soap Pages: plenty of information.
Offbeat + Inspired, category soapmaking: a great DYI blog with a very nice design. I can warmly recommend the Introduction to Cold Process Soap Making for Beginners-post and I can’t wait to try the Peppermint Mocha swirled soap.
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