Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bath Bombs and a New Challenge

When I flipped the mold with the bath bombs over last night, I was surprised to see that all the bombs dropped out of the molds with no persuasion. I am impressed.

They smell amazing, too. Even though I forgot to put a bit of glitter into the molds yesterday, I sprinkled a little glitter on the bath bombs today and they look even better.

As far as soap goes, I'm feeling a little uninspired. Or, I was until the February challenge was posted on the Soap Making Forum. This month's challenge is a spin swirl, something I'd never even heard of. After doing some researching on Pinterest, John and I decided it might be fun to try. Yes,  you read that right, John and I. We came up with the theme of "wood".

I showed him the thread with all of the black & white entries and he started critiquing each soap by "masculine" and "feminine". When I showed him what a spin swirl is, he suggested something "male". Neither of us cares for brightly coloured soap but when I showed him a wood coloured soap, he thought it was kind of cool, especially considering that the guys around our place are into renovating, building, and burning wood. He thinks it will appeal to the men in my life. I agreed.

All I'll say for now is that it's in the mold. I used a small box, 4" x 4" x 4" and a recipe for 1 lb. It was supposed to be a slow tracing recipe but I've learned that when you use beer as your liquid, you will accelerate trace. It traced so fast I didn't even have time to add scent. We shall see how it turns out.  I have a feeling I'll be trying it again.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hemp Soap Week 2

In the continuing saga of the hemp soap, I tried it again this week. It lathers even better than it did last week. I'm finding it interesting trying it every week, seeing the difference from one week to the next.

This week's lather felt creamier than last week's. I wonder what it will be like next week!

I've been intending to make soap this week but, so far, it hasn't happened. I did, however, make bath bombs. I decided to try out the new mold before the grandkids and I make them for teachers next week.

These are scented with rose and ylang ylang. On the other side, I've embedded a rose bud. I had intended to add a bit of glitter but, in the end, forgot it. I'll try to remember next week because I think it will add to the overall appearance. I'll also have to remember to pick up more rose essential oil as I used up the last of what I had.

This is the first time I used a silicon mold for bath bombs. I'm a little leery about breaking them; according to what I've read online, I need to leave them for 24 hours so that's what I'll do. I'll let you know how they turn out.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

No Soap.... Yet

In a little while, after I finish this post, I will be making another batch of the Java Jumpstart. I seem to be out of that one; it's become one of my most popular soaps. That's a little later, though, after the dishes are done and this post is published.

For now, I'm just relaxing. That doesn't mean my weekend has been unproductive. I have made a batch of face/hand cream. One of the ladies at work requested some cream; she has eczema on her hands and a lot of commercial products aggravate her condition. I've made cream for her in the past and she's liked almost everything I've made her.

I found an interesting recipe in an e-book I found on Amazon, for one cent! Not a bad deal, if I say so myself. It's a book by Anne L. Watson about lotion making. This recipe is called Ingrid's Magic Potion Lotion and is filled with all kinds of good things. I changed one ingredient, as I didn't have any evening primrose oil and I used less water than the recipe calls for as I wanted more of a cream rather than a lotion.

The ingredients used in this recipe (as I made it) are macadamia oil, shea butter, apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, rosehip oil, argan oil (subbed for the evening primrose oil), and vitamin e oil. I scented it with a bit of lemongrass and patchouli, something I won't do again. I'm not thrilled with the scent, to be honest, although it does dissipate quickly. Thankfully, I only scented it lightly. (I just gave a jar to my upstairs neighbour... she LOVES the scent!)

It's a lovely cream, though. It's absorbs quickly, leaving my hands nice and soft. I used a bit on my face last night and loved how it made my skin feel. With all those lovely oils in it, it's no wonder!

Last week, I said I'd use the smallest of the Two Vices soaps as a tester bar. Well, today I lathered up and can report that I'm impressed. The bars have hardened up nicely (they'll get harder as time goes by) and the lather came easily.

Even though the soap is only one week old, it didn't make my hands feel overly dry or tight and the lather is decent. I have a feeling I'll really like this soap after it has fully cured.

I also went out yesterday to pick up a few supplies and look for a heart-shaped mold for Valentine's bath products. I told the grandkids that we'd make bath bombs for their teachers. I went to my favourite kitchen store to see what they had and came home with this mold:

They're the perfect size for a hand soap. Unfortunately, the only heart shaped molds they had were tiny, candy sized molds, not suitable for making bath bombs or even soaps (well, guest soaps maybe). Michael's was my next stop. There, I found this silicon mold:

It's not quite as flexible as the other silicon molds I have so I think it should be alright for making bath bombs. I may have to do a little experimenting later. I already have a tried and true recipe for bath bombs and I have all the ingredients. Perhaps next weekend, I'll make the bath bombs with the kids; they'll love it! And I'm sure their teachers will appreciate a package that includes a bath bomb, a bar of soap, a jar of hand cream and a lip balm, all hand made.

Now.... time to get this kitchen tidied up so I can make soap!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Two Vices Soap

That's what I'm calling it... the Two Vices Soap... beer, hemp... makes sense to me!

I have to say, I'm somewhat surprised this soap turned out as well as it did. As I wrote yesterday, I substituted beer for the water but, otherwise, followed the recipe as written. I made a small batch, with 8 ounces of oils.

Once it reached trace, which was pretty quickly, I poured it into individual silicone molds. The recipe made almost four bars.

I was able to unmold after about four hours, which was a lot faster than I'd anticipated. Yes, it was a little on the soft side and one of the bars was dented when it tried to escape (it rolled under the spare bed) but, all in all, I'm calling this experiment a success so far.

Time will tell whether the DOS (Dreaded Orange Spots... a sign that the oils in the soap have gone bad) gremlins will show up but I'm thinking this might just be a very nice soap. I tried a little sliver that came off of the smallest bar when I unmolded it and I did get a good amount of bubbles... after only 24 hours!

I think I'll use the smallest of the bars as a sample bar and test it once a week to see how it develops. I'll let you know how it goes.

A couple of nicks and dents but I'm pleased anyway

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Experimenting Again

Last night, I was going through my book of collected bath & body recipes and came across a collection of soap recipes I'd downloaded from a website in 2002, thirteen years ago. One of the recipes is Hemp Soap.

The recipe, as per the website, is as follows:

  • 6 oz wt Castor Oil
  • 14 oz wt Coconut Oil
  • 14 oz wt Hemp Oil
  • 8 oz wt Palm Oil
  • 6 oz wt Shea Butter
  • 6.82 oz Sodium Hydroxide
  • 21 oz wt Distilled Water
 I realize now, after making a few batches, that it really should be in percentages, rather than ounces so I did the math. It comes down to:

12.5% castor
29% coconut oil
29% hemp oil
16.5% palm oil
12.5% shea oil

That, however, doesn't add up to 100%, it's 95.5%, so I changed it around a bit and came up with:

10% castor
30% coconut oil
30% hemp oil
15% palm oil
15% shea oil

I ran that through Soapcalc at 5% superfat and water:lye ratio at 1.5:1. After posting an opinion thread on SMF, it was suggested by a few people that I try it to see what I thought of the finished soap.

So, I am.

I used the percentages above but chose to make the soap with some of the Sweater Weather beer I still have left. I will add some sodium lactate (1/2 tsp) to the batch and no scent other than what's left over from the beer. I'm making a small batch, with 8 ounces of oil.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Oh, the website where I found the recipes for soap and so much more is still up and running and none of the recipes has changed, that I can see, since 2002. You can find it at

Where to Start?

I'm not sure quite where to start, to be honest. Ok, the Andalusian Castile soap..... gone. When I lifted the glass pan with some of the soap batter in it, I found it had separated into a semi firm layer of soap batter and a layer of very zappy lye water. Even after a week, the soap was still fairly soft so I made the decision to scrap it. I don't have the patience or the room to wait and see if it would turn into a usable soap some time down the road; I still have a full batch of castile soap that I made way back in August that won't be optimal until this coming summer. Sometimes, it's best to cut your losses and move on.

The green soap is a thing of beauty. I'm not sure the real formula is as simple as two oils and KOH dissolved in glycerin but the soap paste works. One of the things I like about it is the fact that it doesn't lather much. Yes, you read that right; it's one of the things I like!

You see, when you're cleaning something that you don't want to have to rinse with copious amounts of water, the green soap paste is perfect! I used a bit on a damp wash cloth this morning to clean my bathroom mirror. A quick wipe with a dry soft cloth and my mirror is sparkling!

I also made a batch of Sweater Weather beer soap last weekend (did I write about that one?). I think I have enough of the beer left to make one, perhaps two, more batches (nope, just one.... just checked). I think I'll use the last of the Sweater Weather to make a batch for myself, family, and friends, without the swirls and additives as I have three batches curing right now. We took the grandkids to BNA for dinner last night (my daughter broke her wrist the night before and wasn't feeling up to going out for dinner) and I refilled my growler with their newest offering, the Pantry. Apparently, they raided the pantry and used whatever they had on hand to make this one. I'll try it later today to see if I get inspired.

I also did a little more experimenting with liquid soap last weekend. One of the ladies on the Soap Making Forum has put together a marvelous tutorial on making a luxurious creamy glycerin liquid soap. After reading through it a couple of times, I checked my supplies and found I had all the ingredients necessary except sodium lactate and EDTA. I asked if both were necessary and was told that, no, they weren't really needed to make the soap. On reading that, I started making my Creamy Coconut Shea liquid soap!

It had its moments, I'll be honest, but it was fun and educational. And best of all? I LOVE this soap! It's thick and rich and so very silky. I almost don't need hand cream after washing my hands. Almost.

Speaking of hand cream, I made some of that this past week, too. I used to make all my own creams and lotions. I really enjoy making it and love knowing exactly what I'm putting on my skin. Trinity (my 11 year old granddaughter) and I even made lip balm this week, her mom's favourite lip balm, made with emu oil and mango butter (and a few other ingredients).

I received a lovely compliment from my daughter this week. She told me that, because of the products I've made and given her, this is the first winter that her hands aren't cracked and bleeding. She's always used commercial products to protect her hands from winter but they never really did anything at all. Now, using my creams, lotions, and soaps, her hands are doing so much better. That feels good!

Today, it's Saturday and just barely 10:00 a.m. John's out clearing snow at the college and I've already put together another batch of liquid soap base. I'll even have time to make a batch of soap before Kristen (my daughter) and I have to do some shopping (she can't drive at the moment).

This time, I made what should be a clear liquid soap, with the intention of using it in my foaming pumps. The formula is as follows:

25% coconut oil
10% castor oil
65% olive oil

3% superfat

25% lye concentration using glycerin as water

It goes together SO quickly! Right now, the mixture is cooling, turning into a lovely clear, thick soap paste. I'll post pictures when it's done. I wish I'd known about this method a long time ago; it's so easy, so quick, almost fool proof. Perfect!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Salt Bars and More

I have had a weekend of experimentation; it's been fun. I've missed just playing with soap. Ready?

First, the salt bars. They are hardening up nicely and looking good.

In all, there are eight of the round "pucks" and two of the flowers. I scented the entire batch with a combination of peppermint, lavender, and rosemary. The resulting scent is a nice, fresh blend but I do find that the peppermint comes through the most.

The bars aren't quite as white as the picture shows; they're a little more creamy. Hopefully they stay that way. I'll admit, I really want to try these and I'm looking forward to doing just that in a few months. Salt bars are, apparently, better the longer they sit, with a cure of at least 4-6 months. I will have to be patient.

Over on the Soap Making Forum, there has been talk of New Year's Castile soap (100% olive oil soap). Reading through that thread lead me to another thread about a castile soap that should not work, by our current understanding of soap making.

If you're interested in going through the current 66 pages of posts about it, you can find the thread here:

It's interesting reading and it made me want to try it. That happened yesterday afternoon. Because castile soap is supposed to be just olive oil, lye, and water, that's what I used. The recipe in the thread can be found in this blog post:

I can tell you that mine looks nothing like the pictures on the above-mentioned blog. It's in the mold but it ain't pretty.

I think I poured it into the molds too soon; it has separated. I won't even show  you a picture yet. I may have to put it all back into my mixing bowl and start over with stirring it, possibly warming it up first. We shall see. This is an experiment still in process.

That leads me to my third experiment. This one has a story behind it, too. It's about a soap that goes back as far as the 1400's in Amsterdam. My history with this soap is much more recent than that but, as you will see, it's a soap with a history.

For those of you who don't know much about me, I'm from a Dutch background. As a child, I can remember my mother buying and using something called Groene Zeep (green soap) and/or Zachte Zeep (soft soap). Now that I'm making my own soaps, I've started wondering about Groene Zeep but have been unable to find much information about it. 

Until yesterday. John is reading a book called "Amsterdam" and in it was a reference to Green Soap, made by the Dutch along the canals of Amsterdam as far back as the 15th century. According to the book, it was made with a combination of hemp oil, rapeseed oil, and potash. John asked me if that would make a viable soap? I almost jumped with excitement!

Over the last few weeks, I've been reading about liquid soaps made with glycerin instead of water and made with potassium hydroxide (caustic potash) and oils. Potassium hydroxide, as opposed to sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) is used to make soft and/or liquid soaps.

Putting the information from the book together with my recently learned information about glycerin based soaps, I started hunting online. I came across a post on RootsWeb about the Dutch Colonies and obsolete jobs. This one was about soapmakers. It isn't a long article so I will post it here, in it's entirety.

The soap making business (in the Netherlands) goes back till the 15th century and the
ingredients were always strictly regulated in order to protect the
quality. The top years in the early 1600 could be characterized by
small-scaled production; most soap makers had only two or three man on
their pay list. Such a small company could produce between 30 to 60
barrels of the famous green soap per week. During the following 150 years the companies grew, but the production and quality declined.

The Dutch zeepzieders (soap makers) produced two kinds of soap: summer- and winter
soap. The two main ingredients were hemp-oil and coleseed-oil (rapeseed oil). From
Martinmas (11 November) until Shrove Tuesday (six weeks before Easter)
the mixture contained two parts hemp-oil and one part coleseed-oil and
from Shrove Tuesday until Martinmas two parts coleseed-oil and one part
hemp-oil. These two kinds of soap were called winter- and summer soap.
In later years linseed oil became the third ingredient, but it had to be
crystal clear, not turbid.

But increasing oil-prices forced the soap makers to bend their rules
sometimes; in 1704 and 1716 they were allowed to use butter in the
summer soap and in 1709 and 1740 they added talc, which had a negative
effect on the quality. Those deviations from the rules were exceptions,
the quality had to be protected. Soap makers who broke the rules by
using fish-oil could count on a 300 guilders fine and closure of their
mill for at least three months.

Note especially the second paragraph. After reading that, I decided to give it a try. I still had a bit of hemp oil left but I don't use canola, made from gmo rapeseed. I went to SoapCalc and looked for an oil that had a somewhat similar make up and decided to go with corn oil. I made a small batch, 8 ounces of oil.

More or less following the directions for a glycerin based liquid soap, which results in a soap paste, I mixed my glycerin and KOH (potassium hydroxide), heated until the KOH was melted. My first mistake was made here; I didn't realize I needed way more glycerin than I had in my pot. I ended up with something I had to scrape out of the pot. Oh well! I dumped it into the warmed oils and started stirring, and stirring, and stirring, and stirring.

After a while, I stopped, re-read some of the recipes and realized I needed more glycerin. I went back to SoapCalc, punched in a few more numbers to figure out how much more glycerin I needed (at least two times what I'd used), and started pouring in the much needed glycerin. Eventually, it all came together. I put it in a container and went to bed.

This morning, the resulting gel was so thick, I could barely get a spoon into it. I think had I tried, I could have bounced it. It was thick. I didn't have time to do anything with it, though, so I left it until tonight.

After work, I took that container of rubbery, soapy goodness and softened it in the microwave. In the meantime, I warmed up some distilled water and, once everything was hot, started adding some of the distilled water to the gel. Eventually, it softened but it was difficult to get everything the same consistency.

It looked like this at one point...

Appetizing, huh? John agreed that it looked like a jar of snot! He suggested that Ethan might get a kick out of it. I'm sure any boy between the ages of 6 and 10 would, indeed, love it!

However, I wasn't finished with it. I put that jar into a pan of hot water and brought it to a simmer. I let it sit in the simmering water for about half an hour. Here's how it looks now...

Is that not a thing of beauty?

Look at that lather... just from adding hot water to clean the bucket! That was just made last night!
Tomorrow, after it's cooled, we'll see how thick it is. If it's too thin, I'll turn it into a liquid soap; I don't mind that at all. If it's still jelly-like, perfect!

Groene zeep is an all-purpose cleaner. We used to use it for almost everything around the house, from mirrors to floors.

Excited? Me? Nah.... well, maybe just a little bit.

Ok, yeah, I'm excited!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Black & White

That's the theme for January's challenge over at the Soap Making Forum. I'm working on my first attempt right now; it's in a warm oven as I type. Hopefully, my vision will become a reality but I won't know until tomorrow when I unmold it. Just to tease you, I'm calling this one Salt & Pepper. It's unscented as I didn't want to have to deal with accelerated trace.

I also made another batch of salt soap. I tried a recipe a few months back and it has completely discoloured. I've seen so many pictures of white, or creamy white, salt bars but mine have gone kind of yellow and they smell..... off. Not bad, just off. Apparently, they shouldn't discolour like mine did.

See what I mean about the discolouring? I'll be tossing that batch and deleting that recipe. One of the opinions on the Soap Making Forum is that there wasn't enough salt in the recipe (I'm not so sure about that but...). This new batch has about 65% of the oil weight as sea salt. Hopefully, it won't discolour and I'll get to experience what so many others have been raving about.

It, too, is in the mold, individual silicone molds, hardening up quite nicely. I'll post pictures then.

Tomorrow can't come soon enough!