Saturday, February 13, 2010

My intro to soap making

I love a good DIY project. It is so satisfying to know I saved money, did something useful, and cut one more item from our list of store-bought necessities, but even I know that making soap seems a little... pioneerish. However, I had a problem. My normal soap shop, Bluehouse Soaps, closed temporarily for a family move last summer and has still not opened. Thankfully, just before closing, I ordered almost a year's worth of soap and hoped they would be back in business when my stock ran out, but alas... my last bar of all-natural "mermaid soap" is gone. I had to make a choice... try out a new online store (which I might not like, would likely cost more, and I would have to order a lot to justify the shipping), switch to all-natural soaps from a store (which aren't nearly as nice as homemade ones), or just make it myself.

Why even both with natural soaps? It's mostly a sensitivity issue for our family. All four of us react in one way or another to agents in most commercial soaps. I have to be extremely careful with Ginny's soap because commercial soaps make her miserable, but many natural soaps dry her skin too much, so it has to contain oatmeal and other natural moisturizers... try finding a soap like that at Target! I am also leery of introducing unnecessary chemicals when they can easily be avoided. Who knows what's harmful and what's not, so I'd rather skip the SLS, phthalates, and perservatives when there are plenty of chemical-free alternatives.

So, back to the soap making. After a shower with my shrinking bar of "mermaid," I set out to find out how hard it would be to make myself. I mean, I wasn't going to mix animal fat and ashes, but if there was an easier method it might be worth a shot. And I found one! A method known as "melt and pour" is the perfect start to making soaps just the way you want them with none of the nitty-gritty. Simply put, you buy a soap base, melt it and add your "extras" and let it harden again!

Like I said, we have sensitivity problems and Ginny needs that moisturizing element, so I went with two high-quality bases from Brambleberry: one made with olive oil for moisturizing properties and one made with goat's milk for soothing properties. I got a couple of nice scents for Hannah and I, one that smells like oranges and strawberries, and one that smells like cookies. For Ginny and Lee who react to scents, I got some grapefruit essential oil which, in my experience, smells just like lemon meringue pie when it's put in soap! I had intended to mix the bases together, but just for fun, I separated them in layers and scented it like cookies for my first bar. The bottom base (goat's milk) is normally a pure white, but I mixed in organic baby oatmeal.

Isn't it beautiful??? Who needs expensive soap molds when you have an empty margarine container! The soap smells like heaven too. In fact, my husband was so inspired by the delicious scent that he decided to make chocolate chip cookies while the soap hardened in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I had to cut the lovely bar in half so it would fit on a soap deck, but in doing so separated the two layers. They seemed to have melted together again, but I don't know how permanently! I guess mixing bases is a better way to start after all.

My last "mermaid" is now completely used up, so I put my new soap to use this week and I have to say I'm impressed! The goat's milk base lathers up very nicely for a homemade bar soap and with all the extra moisturizing parts (olive oil, oatmeal, and goat's milk), my skin felt even softer afterwards than normal!


  1. That is neat! Where do you buy the stuff to make it?

  2. ... I like the soap even better now that I've used it a few times! It lathers up SO well and smells great!! I totally recommend trying it!