Learning soap- beginning fears and doubts

I can only tell you of my experience and hope that it will help you on your journey. In the beginning I was terribly over whelmed, scared and even intimidated. I can tell you not to be, but that would be wrong of me, as these are all normal feelings. I will however, try to set your mind at ease, some what anyway.

First you have to decide which method of soap making you would like to use. If you haven’t chosen one yet you can read my blog for a glimpse into different methods. http://lizdavissoaps.com/exploring-the-different-types-of-soap-making/ I personally chose cp soap. I do have an area dedicated to making soap where there are no distractions that could become a safety issue. If you dont have this option you might want the mp method. No matter what your choice I think this should be your first decision.

Next I did a lot of research books, blogs, forums, etc. the information is endless and this is where it got got overwhelming for me. I started reading and one person would say this and another that. You should do it this way or that way. Then I really got a kick out of the ones who would preach about safety and how important it is to wear eye protectors and gloves then Id watch their tutorial video and they would have none of the above on. This steered me away from that person. I’m a practice what I preach person, not a do as I say not as I do, person.  All and all what I realized here was that every person is an individual and will have their own ways of doing things. You will too over time. When I first started, I kid you not, it took me over two hours now I can do it in half that. At the end of the day no matter how or what order things are done as long as your calculations, measurements and temps are accurate you will surly make soap. I would suggest that you find someone to follow that you feel comfortable with or relate too. This makes it much easier then jumping all over the place and confusing yourself with the multiple directions out there.

Which will bring me to my next subject. There are a lot of awesome soap makers out there. This can be very intimidating and make you doubt your ability especially if you mean to turn soaping into a business. I looked at some of these soaps and could not believe them. How could I ever compare? It will take me years to be this good! I seriously questioned weather I was barking up a wrong tree. I also at the time didn’t realize the different methods of soap making and the pros and cons of each. One allows you to make pretty molded soaps where another can make colorful swirls and designs. Again it’s what you want to do with your soaps. Personally I decided that I wanted to keep my line pure, simple and usable. I knew asking my husband to wash with a cupcake shaped soap was not going to cut it. I also didn’t want to make soaps that sat in a dish for decoration. I’m not knocking it at all, they all are really great soaps, but to each his own.

Cost was another thing that made me nervous and yes it can be costly. You can find a lot of your set up supplies at garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores. Dishes, utensils, stick blenders are items that can be bought 2nd hand. Towels to cut up into rags are another find if you don’t already have at home. As far as your molds you can find all kinds of things that will work for this, if you cant afford to buy them, as they can be rather pricey also. Walmart, Kmart and such are great places to find molds on clearance after a holiday. You can also use a pringles container or a shoe box. I would suggest buying a new scale as I said earlier weight needs to be accurate. Now your materials such as oils, butters and scents will cost you. I would recommend looking at soap suppliers online. Check out grocery stores, costco and other places to see what your best prices are going to be. I know some soap makers buy a lot of olive oil when it goes on sale at their local grocer. I mostly use Bulk Apothecary. They have comparable prices, customer service and shipping times are pretty good also. Most of the time if you search online you can find a coupon code to help offset shipping cost.

I also spent a lot of time trying to understand the science of soap. There were all these terms coming at me and I thought I had to know exactly what was going on. Don’t stress this part as I did. I read one blog that said not to worry about trying to understand the science, that it would eventually just click . At the time that wasn’t real acceptable for me but I went with it. I wish I could remember who posted that. I would like to say thank you because they were right, it did. I spent a lot of time before I made my first batch but now I look back and realize that I was procastinating due to fear. It’s kind of like hands on training, It will all come together. The wait time before I could unmold my soap was hard, but when I did it was such a good feeling to see that I made soap and yes I can do this and so can you so just dive in and do it. You will be glad you did.

My hopes are that this may have helped you feel more at ease as you jump into the fascinating world of making soap or if you have decided that you will just buy your handmade soap then I will be happy to assist with that also.

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Exploring the different types of soap making

There are several methods of soap making to choose from. Each has it’s advantages and disadvantages. It is really up to the individual person and what works for them. With all the methods of soaping individual artist come up with their own techniques and ways of doing things. My preferred choice is cp and I’m sure my ways differ from many. My goal of this post is just to give you an ideal of what choices you have and help lead you in the direction you may want to go.
Melt & pour soap is the simpler method of making soap and is also called handcrafted. Many consider this as a hobbyist craft because it allows room to be creative, layering soaps, imbedding objects like designs or small toys, pour into different shaped molds, create desert like designs and much more.The base (a mix of fats) is premade when the soaper receives. Many prefer this as they do not have to mess with lye, which is a caustic chemical and can cause very serious injury. The base is simply melted down and additives are added such as color, fragrance, moisturizers, exfoliators and so on. While the mixture is hot it is poured into molds and once set it is ready to use.
Hot and cold process soaps also called handmade soaps and are very much alike. They both have a base made from scratch using oils and butters of the soap makers choice. Then you figure out how much lye to add to water making a caustic soda. This is usually done with the use of a lye calculator, but can be done manually. Please note that you should NEVER add water to lye this can cause a small explosion and is very dangerous. The lye mixture is then added to the melted fats. Now this is where it differs…
In the hot process or hp method the lye and fats mixture is further cooked at a low temp in a crockpot for several hours. Some people do this on the stove or in the oven. Once it reaches a gel phase, a waxey mashed potato texture, you can then put in your additives. While it’s still hot it is spooned into molds. After it sets it is unmolded and can be used right away or is set to cure longer. This is allows more water to evaporate prolonging the life of your soap
In the cold process or cp method the lye and fats mixture is stirred just before it reaches trace, a pudding like texture you can add fragrance and or color. Some add color at trace to add swirls and designs. It is then poured into molds, covered with plastic wrap and wrapped in towels to maintain the heat created from the chemical reaction to speed the saponification process. After 24 hours or so it is unmolded and cut, then set to cure for 4 or more weeks. This time allows the saponification process to finish, neutralizing the lye and water, creating a hard durable bar.
There are soap makers who combine them both called the cold process in the oven method or cpom. I do not know a whole lot on this process to speak of, but for the most part you make soap using the cp method and put in oven to further set.
Rebatch or hand milled is another process that some use. A commercial bar or scraps from a handmade soap are grated. Mixed with a liquid such as water or most commonly a milk and slowly melted until the mixture becomes transparent. You can then put in the additives of you choice. This process can usually be used to save a botched batch of handmade soap.
I hope this information has helped you on your way to choosing which kind of soaper you want to be. Happy Soaping!

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Handmade or manufactured soap?

    Handmade soaps were being made thousands of years ago. Long before the man made chemicals and/or preservatives that are added to manufactured soaps of today. It was made with natural materials containing Water, lard and lye. Soap making evolved over time and other fats such as beef and goat tallow where used. Now we have the option of making vegan soaps,  using plant oils, which most people prefer. However, I have to say that lard makes a very nice bubbly soap. Another great factor is the natural skin loving glycerin that handmade soaps produce. Most mass manufactures remove this to use in other products and/or resell for more profit. Also small batches are made with handmade soap so care and attention is given unlike machine operated production lines. Handmade soaps are naturally so much better for you and our earth . Do yourself and skin a favor make the switch and order a bar today.
This alone should speak volumes…
Handmade Ingredients:  Water, Olive oil, Coconut oil, Palm oil, Lye
Manufactured Ingredients:  Pentasodium Pentetate, Anatase Titanium dioxide, fd&c color, d&c color, Pentaery thirty tetra-Di-T-Butyl hydroxy hyrocinnamete, Sodium Chloride, Water, Sodium Tallowate, Titanium dioxide, Coconut fatty acids, Sodium cocate, glycerides, tallow mono, Di-hydrogenated & ethoxylate

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Soap making pioneer women worked their ashes off

First I have to give props to the Babylonians for the start of soap making some 6000 years ago. At least that is where it is believed to have started, however, this is not known for sure. Of course it was not the soap of today but the concept of mixing fats, oils and salt remains. It was used for cleaning pretty much everything but your body back then. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it became common soap.
The making of soap was pretty much the pioneer woman’s job, she worked her ash off. Which is why I felt a need to write a little about her and the very hard, hot and stinky (literally speaking) chore she had. I’m sure I won’t even began to cover what it was really like in that day and time, but hope you will get the gist of it.
Animal fats, grease drippings and wood ash from the fire were collected all year long as soap was made only once, maybe twice a year. The animal fats and or drippings had to be rendered down to remove impurities and the smell as much of the fats turned rancid over time. They didn’t have the luxury of a refrigerator or as my grandma called it the ice box.
The ashes were used to make the lye. They did this with the use of an ash hopper. Ashes were dumped into the hopper and water poured over them producing lye which drained out of the bottom.
Ash Hopper...Copyright Johnharmon.com
Ash Hopper….Copyright Johnharmon.com
The fats and lye were mixed together in a large kettle and boiled over a open fire for 6-8 hours. The mixture would be left to cool usually overnight. Once cooled this made a soft gel like substance. This was stored in large barrels and would be scooped out with a ladle as needed. Mixed with a little water it became foamy and was used to wash everything from clothes, eating utensils and their bodies.
Soap makers in the city, where soap was sold and transported, would throw salt in at the end of boiling to create a hard soap. Most farming families did not do this as salt was expensive back then and was needed in other aspects of their lives.
Today us soap makers have it much easier then they did. We have tools and supplies readily available to us. Don’t get me wrong there is still work involved in the craft, but we choose to do this, the pioneers had no choice. With all that being said support handmade soap makers and order a bar today.

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Why I chose to craft handmade soap

I think the better question here should be why not? I mean you have such an interesting history, a fascinating science and an exciting art all in one. I couldn’t think of a better craft to master.
The history dates back some 6000 years ago and was first used to clean textiles like wool. After that it expanded into medicinal purposes and later came the personal hygiene use.
The science of it is just crazy. How you can mix the fats of animals and ashes from wood to cause a chemical reaction producing soap. Now days we have lye and plant oils which makes life a lot easier. On top of that as the soap cures it neutralizes the lye leaving a truly natural soap.
The art of it is the fun part. You make a recipe using oils and butters with skin loving properties. Then it gets really exciting because the possibilities are endless. Adding color, fragrances, exfoliating agents, shapes, sizes and so on. The best part of it all is you get to share your creations.
Handmade soap is simply wonderful to make and use. If you aren’t making it you should be using it. Order a bar today and your body will hug you.

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