Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Soap-making and other catch-up chores

I've known for awhile now that our soap supplies were winding down, but wanted to wait for a cool day before voluntarily standing at the stove melting the solid oils that are part of my soap recipe (which changes, depending on my mood and what I have on hand, but there is always at least one solid oil and one liquid one). 

Depending on the oils you use, sometimes it can take awhile and besides, there are so many summer activities that beckon during the warmer months... there are tomatoes to can, greens to harvest, tomatoes to can, beaches to walk on, and oh, did I mention tomatoes to can?  

Ya, but that's all over now. Soapmaking is a great fall/winter activity.

I generally make enough soap to last for about a year, which means that I can choose the day I make our year's supply of soap.  I generally wait until I have about three bars from the last batch left, as soap takes several weeks to cure, so a little time to sit in the cupboard will only result in a more gentle and mild soap -- a good thing for those of us with sensitive skin.

 Soapmaking is not difficult at all, but does require fairly careful calculations in order to assure your soap will be of a firm consistency and not too strong -- after all, lye is a caustic and if you're going to be using it to make something which will come in direct contact with your skin, you just can't be too careful. And it does require a close adherence to the directions, or the results can range from disgusting to downright dangerous.

But if you are willing to follow directions and observe a reasonable amount of comment sense, soapmaking is easy and fun.

The most amazing thing about making soap is that you can take a caustic substance and a bunch of oils and through a miracle called "saponification,"which happens when you mix the oils, the lye and the water together in a specific way, it renders the oils totally non-oily and renders the lye gentle enough to clean your skin without irritation. In short, it makes an entirely new substance.

This time around, I decided to make a deliciously fragrant soap out of cocoa butter, shea butter, olive oil, and vegetable oil.  The house smells wonderful right now, and soon I will have lovely bars of soap curing in their molds.

If you have any interest in soapmaking, there is a great website which can take you through each step, and which also has a great lye calculator so you know how much lye and liquid to add to your oils, as well as how to safely do it.

It's here: https://www.thesage.com/index.html

Later this afternoon I am harvesting some pomegranates for fresh juice (always a pleasure to have at this time of year) and planting some more onions.  It's nice to have an entire day devoted only to the homestead.  


  1. I haven't ever tried making soap. The lye scares me. I think I would really enjoy it. Which essential oils do you add, if any, for fragrance? I do make lotion and find the cocoa butter a very difficult scent to combine with other fragrances. Not that it doesn't smell good, but it is awfully chocolatey!

    1. Because I use cocoa and shea butter, I don't add any essential oils for the reason you stated -- it already smells like cocoa! I have tried adding lavender essential oil with other recipes in the past, but I must not be adding enough because the scent is never very strong by the time the soap has cured. But I don't mind, just a nice basic soapy scent is pretty good too.