Soap making. Sounds so…
Archaic? Wholesome? Old fashioned? Odd?
For me, I remember watching my Grandma Zip in an ratty old housedress and apron, stirring the soap cauldron in the back yard, and my memory was of was of a nasty hard bar that took off a layer of skin and could get the dirt out of any piece of laundry, including Granddaddy Zips post dairy work overalls. Nothing special there.
That was then, now…. check the boutique prices on luxury soaps and you’ll discover that someone has figured out that homemade soap also a way to make big bucks.
At $2 to $4 an ounce it’s more expensive than steak. The soap we use now is all chemicals, so a handcrafted soap from from fats alone with the addition of lye, color and fragrance seems as wholesome as Mom and apple pie.
Or at least that’s what I thought.
That was until I started gathering my ingredients to try my hand at it, motivated by curiousity, a bit of nostalgia and the desire to see what all the fuss was about.
I hadn’t realized that Red Devil Lye was no longer on the shelves until I entered the world of soap making. It’s been outlawed in most states because it’s a component of crystal meth. HOLY COW! That bit of knowledge alone makes me know that anyone who uses it is certifiable.
I discovered that I had to order lye online, after filling out forms and swearing that no, I’m not making illegal narcotics. I’m a good person not up to nefarious activities. I don’t have burners and stills all over my house. All I have is a crock pot and some digital scales…. and my oven. OK….even a hazmat suit for mixing but….
All I want to do is make soap. Maybe shampoo. On hell, maybe even laundry detergent!
I gathered the basics before I began and the more exotic items I ordered online. Cocobutter, shea butter, almond oil, argan oil, palm kernal oil and on and on. Bulk caster oil. Bulk glycern. Other things I buy in the grocery store, again, causing raised eyebrows when I check out with a cart of nothing but coconut oil, olive oil and lard. I almost wanted to say “I’m thinking that if I mix the monosaturated fats with the saturated fats when I cook, they’ll cancel each other out.”
But it would have flown over there heads.
Anyhow, I order my first shipment of lye from The Lye Guy and proceed to make soap. My first few batch was fair. My second batch however was pretty good! And soon, I was whipping up soap every weekend. Discovering that, YES! It was better than anything you could buy. Tailored to be wonderful for my skin and in any fragrance I wanted.
WANTED! (that’s another story but the biggest reason those boutique soaps cost $$$).
Soon, after my soap dish by my bath tub was as big as a mixing bowl, and I’d given as much away to friends and coworkers as I possibly could, I set up an Etsy Store
Then I decided to stretch my wings and try cream soap.
The recipes are hard to come by and the forums for this type of soap are secretive, closed and almost inpossible to join. Seriously, I could become a member of the Knight’s Templar or the Illuminati with much less hassle. I didn’t give up and found a few recipes and found that most of the ingredients were the same as regular soap.
However, instead of lye (sodium hydroxide) soft, liquid and cream soaps require potash (potassium hydroxide). Which is, for some reason, just as hard to come by as lye. But that wasn’t the best part. Cream soap also requires stearic acid.
Granted, it wasn’t as hard to find or get, my best vendor being an Ebay store with firework supples. Yippee!!! Quickly, I’d mastered cream soap making, adding french clay for a really fabulous shaving cream.
But then came the next step. The last frontier of soap making weirdness (at least that month). Homemade detergent. Ah HA! I thought. Nothing odd here. Just premade soap grated and sodium carbonate.
Carbonate. Not BI carbonate.
Off again, discovering that no, you couldn’t find good old sodium carbonate (aka Washing Soda) in the store that easily. In my state, it appears not at all.
Why? It appears it’s a component in making nitroglycerin. So off again I went on the net, finally finding sodium carbonate from the same fireworks vendor that I got the stearic acid from. YIPPEE! (again).
I made my from scratch laundry detergent and first load of laundry, I was hooked. NOW I know why Grandma Zip swore by it. No more dingeys. No more ring around the collar. No more clothes smelling funky even though they’ve been washed.
Anyhow, inside my kitchen cabinets look like I’m either having the mother of all fish fries or I’m planning to blow a hole in the earth. Or maybe want to start my own spa. Friends have teased me that I might get a visit from the Sherrif. Fine, he’s welcome to come….. I’ll just give him a bag full of soap and send him home with a bottle of stuff that’ll get the stains out of his shirts.
Yes, we’ve become a whimpy nation, right down to how we get clean!
Ya see, I’m just making soap.