Making Soap My Way - A Tutorial Of Sorts
I have always made soap in the kitchen using my regular pots and kitchen stuff. I have read a lot of books about making soaps and most of them are very good and thorough, but sometimes I feel that they make it sound so difficult and complicated. I like things to be easy and simple. So my favorite book about making soap is by Anne Watson "Smart Soapmaking" (even if the subtitle is a bit more complicated: "The simple guide to Making Traditional Handmade Soap Quickly, Safely, and Reliably, or How to Make Luxurious Handcrafted Soaps for Family, Friends, and Yourself". I love the humor in that). She gave me the courage to go ahead and try it.
Over time I have developed my own way to do things and I have gotten pretty set in my ways. I always use the same equipment: same pot, same glass measuring jugs, same spoons, same everything. Except the recipes. I just can't make the same recipes again and again. I always need to tweak them a little bit, at least. And now suddenly, I have a need to make soaps. There are a few that are asking to be made. I have sometimes wondered what kind of soap I would make first. Once I started again. It was Rhubarb oil soap. A very strange recipe, if I'm honest. I have no idea how it will turn out. Might be a total failure, although I thought of it as a luxurious face soap. But that is another post. This one is about the process.
My equipment consists of:
- A pot - I use that for the water/liquid and to dissolve the caustic soda
- A large pyrex class measuring jug with a handle - That is for the oils
- A small pyrex class measuring jug with a handle - This one is for the caustic soda
- ---I do not use the measuring jugs to measure, just as containers---
- A slotted spoon - to stir the caustic soda solution
- Two thermometers - one for the soda and one for the oils
- A digital scale - to measure everything
- A stick blender - to mix everything
- And the most important equipment of all is my computer... and SoapCalc www.soapcalc.net/. I use that for every single recipe and save them as pdf.
- And then there is the camera, or the phone these days. (Which I know isn't good because the photos are not nearly as good as on a proper camera. But I have gotten a bit lazy. I need to change that.)
I would also recommend goggles and gloves and an apron. Lye is very caustic and it does burn. The raw soap is also very caustic and it does burn. You do not want to splash this stuff on yourself and definitely not get it into your eyes. Having said that, I have to admit that the hazmat-like outfit that I wore in the beginning has given way to a bit lighter safety gear.
I always use a small pin (knitting needle, the end of a thermometer or a chopstick) to make swirls in my soaps to decorate the tops. I studied the way other peoples soaps look like and I tried to get different looks. But mine always looked the same. The funny thing is that when my cousin and I were doing this together and she would use the same implement and the same type of movement we could easily tell our soaps apart. So I guess this is my look.
I added dried flowers. That may be too cutesy for some, but when I was looking through my old photos as I uploaded them to Flickr I really loved the look of them. So even if they get spoiled when they get wet I still like them like that.