Soap Making

Chamomile castile soap bars curing

Ben weighs out lye on our ancient balance
I have a hard time explaining exactly why I find soap making so satisfying. While inquiring about some soap making tools at a craft store recently, the incredulous clerk couldn't help but ask, "Is it really worth making your own soap?"

Well, I guess that depends.

Does soap making save money? Decidedly no!

But is it worth it?

I have to say, Yes!

Maybe it's the suppressed chemist in me, but there is something super fun about mixing various oils together, heating them to a designated temperature, and then adding a lye solution, watching the saponification reaction begin before your eyes.

And when it's finally finished, weeks or even months later, the homemade bars have a lusciousness that store-bought soaps can't approach. It turns out that in commercial soap making, the glycerin that is naturally produced, gets removed to be used in cosmetics. But in a homemade bar, there's plenty of glycerin, and that makes the soap luxuriously moisturizing. For use in the dry winter time, nothing beats a bar of soap made with oils such as olive, coconut, and shea butter.

Like making anything from scratch, when you make soap, you, the maker, are the one who controls what goes into it. This year we wanted to make some botanical soaps, so I steeped chamomile and calendula flowers in olive oil.

Calendula (left) and chamomile (right) steeping in olive oil

An immersion blender makes the process so much faster!
When the mixture thickens enough to "trace" it is ready to pour.

We've been using a silicon bread pan as a mold. 
The wooden frame helps it keep its shape.

Calendula petals on soap batter. 
It will cure for 24-48 hours in the mold, 
and then be turned out and cut into bars.

If you are interested in trying your hand at soap making, you can find some good instructions online. You don't need any fancy equipment other than a couple of scientific thermometers. I used recipes from The Nerdy Farm Wife and Lovely Greens.


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