Rub-A-Dub

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends.  I can’t believe it’s been nearly five years since I last shared my homemade soap-making adventures with you. At the time, I’d been making my own soap in three different fragrances – gardenia, lavender, and almond with oats & honey for a few years.  I made one batch of each fragrance about twice a year, so about six batches a year in all.  Sister Michelle and I made them mostly for ourselves due to allergies, and we’d occasionally give a couple of bars away to friends who expressed interest.  We used homemade wooden molds, we used a knife to cut them, just eyeballing the size, and they weren’t necessarily pretty.  In fact, they were pretty ugly. Looking back, I realize they didn’t even smell very strong because we cooked the oils so long to burn off the lye that it got so hot, it burned off the fragrance.  But it was moisturizing and had a nice lather.  We called it “hippie soap.”

This was our old “hippie soap” in my old house.

About a year and a half ago, I was in the middle of a “too much in pain to really do anything productive” mood when I sporadically looked up any updated soap-making techniques. There’s actually a lot out there now as opposed to when we started.  (Back then, everyone was so secretive with their success secrets.  I guess once the cat was out of the bag, there was no reason not to spill the beans, and the secret-keepers then decided to capitalize on getting the most hits for their how-to videos.)

I learned a LOT of amazing new techniques, and I also played around with ingredients until I developed a much better recipe.  The results:  We now make really beautiful bars of soap that smell amazing and are still very sudsy and ultra-moisturizing.  So, Sister Michelle and I took our soap show on the (metaphorical) road and opened a soap shop.  Or maybe it’s a shoppe.  We haven’t decided yet.

We started off just selling to friends and family, but we’re starting to get referrals from them now, so we had to set up a Facebook Page (which is still short of about half the photos I need to add because we had less than four bars in stock of each of those, and I like to include four in each promo photo).  However, I don’t really want a full-time career in soap-making, so I have no plans to take it to Etsy or any of the other on-line sales sites (especially because postage rates are so high now), or even to the local Saturday markets that sell such goodies (because I have no desire to come into contact with all the germs).  It’s just for a little extra income and because we have fun making it.

We’ve developed about twenty fragrances so far plus other seasonal scents.  Sister Michelle loves “Autumn Pumpkin” the best, so even though we were done selling that fragrance in November, she still uses it.  My favorite is “Gift of the Magi” which was a Christmas scent of frankincense and myrrh with stripes of gold mica and gold-covered frankincense nuggets on top.  I have one customer who comes a couple of times a month to buy the Dark Chocolate Birthday Cake soap and a sea sponge for her many girlfriends’, daughters’, and granddaughters’ birthdays.  (And I think also because she loves chocolate!) But Coffee Shop seems to be just about everybody’s collective favorite.

A lot of people tell us they smell good enough to eat, though I wouldn’t recommend it.  They may look and smell delicious, but I can almost guarantee that they still taste like soap.  Our regular fragrances include Goat Milk Oats & Honey, Coffee Shop, Casanova, Berry Blue, Spearmint, Lavender, Country Apple, Goat Milk Dreamsicle, Lemon, Naked, Gardenia Garden, Raspberry Beret, Lavender Lemongrass, Peppermint Orange, Peppermint Lavender, Hawaiian Luau, Pink Diamonds, Garden of Eden, Dirty Hippie, Spruce Forest, Dark Chocolate Birthday Cake, and Hazelnut Toffee Birthday Cake.

At any rate, I wasn’t really writing about this today to promote anything, but just to show you the (HUGE!) difference between my former “hippie soap” and what I’m making now.  (Though if you wanted to Like my Facebook page, I wouldn’t mind in the least.)  I went from six batches a year to a minimum of that each month.  It’s a lot more artsy-looking now, don’t you think?

Let’s chat:  Have you ever made homemade soap?  Have you ever used homemade soap?  Do you have allergies that prevent you from using any particular store-bought item and force you to make it at home instead?  Would you ever use soap that smells like food?

Rub-a-Dub

As I’ve shared with you before, I’m allergic and/or sensitive to just about everything under the sun.  (Sigh.)  For example, when it comes to laundry, I absolutely adore the scent of Gain… for about three minutes.  After that, my lungs and sinuses burn like hell, my throat gets tight, and I want to throw up.  (Sigh.)

In fact, this happens with many laundry soaps.  And when the smell doesn’t try to kill me, I usually get an itchy rash after washing my clothes in the stuff.  (Sigh.)  So what’s a girl to do?

I make my own laundry soap, of course!  Not only do I get to bypass the nasty allergy stuff, but I get to save tons of money as well.  It literally costs less than $2 to make enough laundry soap for a two month’s supply of detergent, and today I’m going to share with you how to make your own.

I used to make the liquid soap, which I liked very much.  However, when I make laundry soap, I typically make enough to last six months or a year, and that many liquid containers took up way too much room.  I had some friends who also made their own soap because they have a lot of small children, and they wanted to save money.  When I told them my dilemma, they turned me onto something called “Mom’s Super Laundry Sauce.”  (If you haven’t seen it yet, you can Google it and find it everywhere.)

The people who invented Mom’s did an excellent job as far as making a soap that saved money, but the basis for their soap is Fels Naptha, a strong bar soap made for laundry, and you might be surprised to learn that I was, in fact, allergic to it.  (Sigh.)

So, I used the basics of their recipe and created my own, which I will share with you now.

For every two – one quart sized jars (which hold one month’s worth of detergent each!), I use the following:

1½  bars of  Kirk’s Castile Soap
1¼  cup of 20 Mule Team Borax
1¼  cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (This is not the same as baking soda!)
5 cups of hot tap water
2 1-quart sized Mason jars (NOT the wide mouth type)
canning funnel
wooden spoon
large saucepan

(If you can’t find Kirk’s, you can use any other coconut oil based soap.  Because I also make my own body/hand soap from scratch, I know that coconut oil soap is a very hard soap, and it’s an excellent cleanser.  It’s actually quite harsh on skin in that it cleans so well, it strips the skin of its own natural oils, which is why if you use it on your body, you want it to be mixed with other oils… But for laundry, we want the body’s oils to be removed from the clothing, so this is a good thing.)

To make enough for just 2 jars, it takes less than 30 minutes total time.  To make 12 jars which should last you a year, it will take under two hours total time.

Step 1: Grate 1½ bars of soap.  The easiest way is in a food processor.

Step 2: Mix the borax and washing soda together in a bowl.

Step 3: Put 5 cups of water in a large saucepan on high.

Step 4: When the water starts to slightly boil, add the soap and reduce heat to low.  Stir constantly until the soap has dissolved, but don’t let it boil over.

Step 5: Keep the pan on the hot burner, but turn off the heat.  Add the Borax/Soda powder, a little at a time, stirring constantly.  You want the powder to dissolve completely so you can’t feel any graininess on the bottom of the pan.

Step 6: Use a ladle and spoon the liquid equally into two Mason jars.  The canning funnel will help you not to spill.

Step 7: Add warm tap water to each jar until the liquid is exactly 2 inches from the bottom thread where the lid screws on.

Step 8: Screw on the lids and turn the jars upside down for 4 hours exactly.  (Use oven mitts to avoid burning yourself!)

During this time, do not move the jars.  The liquid and soap will separate into two layers, with the hard layer at the bottom (which is the top of the jar when it’s right side up).

At this point, I usually make enough soap to fill 12 jars which lasts at my house approximately one year.  Additionally, I usually have friends that ask me to make some for them, and I make some as gifts, so I repeat the process several more times, keeping the upside down jars in order so I’ll know when their time is up.

Step 9: At the 4 hour mark, open a jar, and use a butter knife to cut deep down through the solid soap.   Cut a tic-tac-toe, then run the knife around the mouth of the jar so that the hard stuff falls into the liquid.

Note:  If you have kids, you’ll want them here for the next step… That’s the fun part!

Step 10:  Unscrew the blade and bottom from your blender and screw them onto the jar.  Then place the jar on the blender and blend for approximately 40 to 50 seconds.  If you see that the mixture just isn’t blending, add a couple of teaspoons of warm tap water and try again.  After about 20 seconds, you’ll see the mixture turn white and “work its way up” to the top (which is really the bottom of the jar).  Mix for an additional 15 to 20 seconds after that.

Step 11:  Remove the blender attachment.  The laundry sauce should be warm and creamy, and it will look like sour cream or marshmallow fluff.

Step 12: To use, spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of sauce into an empty jar, and add a little water.  Fill your washing machine with clothes and water.  Shake the sauce/water mixture well and pour it over the clothes.

This detergent does not produce a lot of suds, but it gets your clothes very clean.  (My son works outdoors in the Florida heat screening pool cages, and he gets extremely dirty and sweaty.  His clothes always look and smell awesome after they’re washed in this.)

Note: We do use fabric softener with this detergent.

Time to talk:  Do you think you’ll ever try making this?  How much do you spend each month on laundry detergent?  Do you have any allergies?

It’s that time again…

Believe it or not, I’m not really into prairie living, but because I have so many allergies and intolerances, I have to do a lot of cooking at home.  Another thing I make at home is laundry soap as well as body and hand soap.  Usually when I make either of these, I like to make enough to last for several months so that I only have to do it a couple of times a year.  This weekend, I made the first batch of body and hand soap.

Step One: Gather your oils and ingredients.

If you’re not familiar with the soap-making process, basically, you mix various oils with lye and heat it.  It’s actually a bit more complicated than that, and everything has to be measured precisely by weight on a digital scale.  There has to be a certain percentage of each type of oil to get the desired results, such as how hard you want the soap to be, how sudsy it will get, how moisturizing it will be, etc.  I like to add cocoa butter and shea butter as well as goat’s milk because these all add extra moisture.  Castor oil and coconut oil add for extra cleansing, and olive oil and almond oil add extra creaminess.

Step Two: Mix the lye water with the heated oils.

After the oil-lye mixture has cooked for the appropriate amount of time (around four hours), I add essential oil to make it smell pretty then pour it in a mold.  Because I use hot process (meaning I cook it), I can unmold it the next day and use it soon thereafter.  If I used the cold process method, it would be more “liquidy” and I could pour it in pretty shaped molds.  But then it would take weeks to “saponify” meaning for the lye to have a chemical reaction with the oil and not be caustic any longer.

Step Three: Cook it for a really long time.

This time, I made gardenia soap.  Later this week, I’ll be making a batch of lavender to which I’ll add some dried lavender buds to make it pretty, as well as some honey-oat-almond, which will smell like almond, and have honey as well as ground oats in it for extra exfoliation.  I actually prefer to use this oat soap in the kitchen because it smells so much like food!

Step Four: Pour it into a mold and let it harden overnight, then slice.

You can buy homemade soaps all over the place these days, as they are increasingly popular.  I did that for a few years, but they used fragrance oil rather than essential oil to keep their costs down, and I became allergic to the perfume in the fragrance.

Step Five: Enjoy!

If you’ve never used homemade soap before, let me tell you that once you do, you’ll never want to use store bought soap again.  The first time you use homemade, it feels like you just washed ten years of yuck off your skin! You’ll also realize after that, store bought soap actually feels slimy in comparison.  Your skin will be softer, your shave will be closer, and you’ll feel the cleanest you’ve ever felt.

Time to talk:  Have you ever used homemade soap?  Do you have any allergies?  Would you use soap with ground oats or lavender buds inside?