Our first soap April 20, 2016 22:04

It was the artistic quality and the beauty of handmade soaps that drew us in. The first time we made soap I was so nervous: there was the lye, working with which requires wearing protective gear, the mysterious ‘trace’ that needs to be achieved before the soap is poured... We used a milk carton as our first mould and the book ‘Soap Crafting’ as a guide. Having acquired a stainless steel pot and a stick blender, we set out to making our first soap – a basic recipe of olive, palm and coconut oil.

First of all, the pot was too wide and shallow: the soap butter was spraying the lower part of my face and my throat as I was blending it. Then it turned out I didn’t pay enough attention to the recipe and was 2 ounces olive oil short! After a quick deliberation with my partner I replaced those 2 ounces with sunflower oil. Too late I realized the saponification value of sunflower oil might be different than that of olive oil, which would mean that I used an incorrect amount and the soap could be too alkaline! For those of you who don’t know, saponification value is the amount of base (in mg) required to saponify 1 gram of fat. Imagine my relief when I realized the saponification value of olive and sunflower oils was the same... Phew! Finally, the soap was poured, wrapped in a blanket and left to sleep...

Our first soap in its milk carton :-) Shaping the top with a spoon was such fun!

 

Of course we couldn’t resist peaking at it at regular intervals. We spotted the gel phase! Next day my partner made his first soap. He opted for a simple recipe of olive oil for a gentle, long lasting bar and shea butter to add hardness and nourishment. This was our first experiment. This soap was considerably harder and whiter in colour than mine and after unmoulding – almost crumbly. And so we learned about paying attention to saponification values (although later we started using the website soapcalc for calculating recipes) and the difference that the temperature at mixing can make.

After four weeks of curing both soaps were lovely. They smelled of natural oils and that in itself made my shower so much more pleasant. Whilst my partner’s soap was gentle, suitable for face, mine was relatively soft, with nice lather and bubbles. It is still my favourite soap of all...