I have to say, I was more than a little nervous. I really am a disaster when it comes to making things. Sarah and my friend Jen came over and together we made three different batches of soap: organic raspberry chai (the tea was organic fair trade and we added real raspberries), peppermint cocoa (with real cocoa grinds- can't remember if they were fair trade) and blueberry lemon (with real blueberries).
Sarah sent me her most simple recipe for making soap... and I almost peed my pants! Thank goodness she was there to help me through it, making soap involves lye (I had no idea!) which is very corrosive to the skin... go figure. In character I did manage to drop the shea butter container at least twice (it's good! five second rule!) AND I had a tiny drop of lye on my arm (above my protective gear) and an
emergency vinegar application was needed.
Soap is made with something ridiculously corrosive?? What?? I know, I said the same thing- made me a little nervous about using the soap afterwards... Here's a quick review of how this is ok:
In order to make soap a base needs to react with a fat or oil in a process known as saponification (so clever, I know!). In cold process saponification the lye and oils (castor oil or vegetable oil which is what we used) are reacted together through hydrolysis (water molecules chemically reacting with the lye and oils) to create a substance that is non-corrosive: SOAP. This chemical reaction needs to continue after the soap is poured into the molds for 18 to 48 hours. Afterwards, it is removed, cut into bars and usually set to cure (or harden) for 2 to 4 weeks. For more info check out wiki :)
I really had to read all that (on wiki and from Sarah) to feel ok about the fact that there was a corrosive subtsance to make my soap. Oh chemistry, sometimes you amaze me!
So we (I most clumsily) created our soaps, armed with protective gloves, glasses and aprons a thermometer, measuring cups and weighing scales. Sarah was fantastic, continuously checking the temperatures of both the lye and the oils until they were EXACTLY the same. After pouring the soaps into three different molds- a small bread pan, a silicone muffin pan and a metal muffin pan the ladies left me to remove them and start the curing process the next day.
This resulted in a lot of awkward banging on the muffin pan, a butter knife and shaking it up and down. The result were these funky looking blueberry lemon soaps lol. The silicone pan produced those perfect peppermint cocoa soaps. In the end, after three weeks of curing in my closet (no smell whatsoever!) we had two soaps of each batch! They work really well! YAY!
Although this was a super cool process, I'm not sure if I'd try it again on my own. This experience taught me that although I am capable, I am much too lazy. Hah! Now that I've gone through the simple version of making soap (I can't even imagine how Sherry's soaps must be complex!) I have a better understanding of how soap is made and now I know what ingredients are absolutely necessary and what is not (i.e. SLS and Palm oil in LUSH soap...why??).