One of the fastest growing hobby businesses of the last 10 years is soap making. The process of soap making can be a tedious somewhat dangerous enterprise, which begs the question, why? Why are so many Americans pursuing a task our colonial ancestors were glad to be rid of?
The trial and error method of soap making was a long and thankless task that sometimes left the maker with an unusable commodity after many hours of hard work. Oprah relates how as a child her grandmother tried to teach her how to make soap and she declined not seeing the purpose in her young life.
Have you ever looked at the ingredient list of a modern day bar of soap? Common ingredients include DEA, Isopropyl Alcohol, BHT and Triclosan. This is just a starter list. Can you imagine what all these chemicals are doing to your skin?
Most commercial soap ingredients are petroleum based. This alone should be enough to scare off the average soap consumer. The commercial soap making process strips commercial soap of the best ingredient, glycerin. This is then sold separately by the manufacturer as another profit center for the soap company. Yet this is the main conditional agent available in soap to soothe irritations and protect the skin. Dermatologists across our country are doing a brisk business remedying the consequences of the use of commercial soap.
Along comes the natural handmade soap maker. Making soap from common kitchen oils, including olive, soybean and coconut oils. In home based soap making the natural glycerin is retained in the soap. I would venture to say almost any handmade soap would out perform commercial soap as far as enhancing the natural properties of the skin. This would include both moisturizing dry skin, and cleaning excess oil from oily skin. Handmade soap is good for your body.
With a wide variety of fragrances now available to the handmade soap maker the possibilities for great smelling soap are endless. The most popular fragrances include lavender, vanilla and the love or leave it fragrance patchouli.
Most soap makers I have talked to find soap making addictive. They tell me the idea of creating a wonderfully utilitarian product that one can use, share or even sell to the accolades of others is euphoric. I must agree. One of the most exciting days for me is delivery day from the fragrance company.
Examining all the new scents and imagining the newly possible fragrance combinations, keeps me coming back to my soap making bench again and again.
There are a wide variety of ingredients available to make homemade soap. The list ranges from the basic ingredients of water, lye, and oil to optional ingredients such as oatmeal and even glitter.
The type of soap you want to use determines the ingredients you will need when making your own soap. Some people who make homemade soap stick to the basics and simply add fragrant oils to put some scent into their soaps, while others add abrasive materials such as oatmeal for exfoliating purposes. Here is a list of some common supplies and ingredients used in making soap and what characteristic they can provide your soap:
Basic Ingredients to Make Homemade Soap
Carrier Oils The type of soap you will make determines the base soap you need to use. Do you want your homemade soap to be hard? Soft? Sudsy? You can start finding out about the different base oils by reading the labels of commercial soaps you use regularly. You can also sign on to mailing lists and join soap making groups online; most of the people who know how to make homemade soap are very willing to share information with others.
Carrier oils impart the primary physical characteristics of the soaps. Hard and long lasting soaps can be made from palm oils; soaps that give a good lather can be made using coconut oil and castor oil; olive oil, canola oil or soybean oil may be used to make moisturizing and conditioning soaps; and luxury soaps can be made using cocoa butter, hemp oil, and almond oil among other things. Oils such as almond and avocado oil provide a skin softening characteristic to your soaps. Different oils mean different soaps. Once you become familiar with the properties each oil imparts, you will begin to recognize what kind of bar a particular recipe will produce.
Lye Lye is the most important ingredient in making soap if you are using the cold process. Sodium hydroxide or lye is a very strong chemical and handling it requires serious caution. You also need to choose your utensils carefully when dealing with lye - use only wooden and plastic spoons for stirring and bowls made of enamel, plastic or glass for mixing. Only cold water should be used with lye, and always remember to pour the lye into the water.
You cannot make homemade soap bars from scratch without using lye. If, however, you do want to skip using lye, you can try using the melt and pour method with pre-made glycerin soap bases.
Water Another main ingredient in soap making, water is essential to the process. For the best results, use distilled water for creating your lye solution. You can also use de-mineralized water in soap making.
Other Ingredients Other ingredients you can include when you make homemade soap are herbs, flower petals, glitter, colorants, essential oils, and fragrant oils.
Herbs and flower petals can add scent to your soap, but you should remember that these can be burned when added to hot processed soap. Some other herbs do not look at all appealing when used in soaps. If you want to use herbs in your homemade soap, do your research and find out what herbs can are good for use in making soap.
Colorants come in different forms - liquids, powders and glycerin based colorants are common. Use these to add color to your soap, however, you should also remember that all other ingredients can affect the final outcome of your soap color.
Glitter can be used to add a certain punch to your homemade soaps. Use cosmetic grade glitter; these come in ultrafine and fine sizes and in a wide variety of colors. Do not use glitter made for use in craft projects as they are not meant to be used on your skin.
Essential oils and fragrance oils can be added to your soaps to give it a therapeutic effect. Some essential oils such as chamomile can be rather expensive. It really is up to you if you want to add essential oils to your soap. If you want to simply add a scent without a therapeutic effect, you can opt to use fragrance oils instead.
Knowledge of ingredients as well as creativity and imagination is required to make homemade soap that is unique from all others. When making your own soap, do your research and do not be afraid to try out new things.