Sunday, April 5, 2009


After reading my post on how clumsy I was at DIY-ing my own beauty products and how I was flabbergasted at how wonderful soapmakers like Sherry from BirchBark soap made such beautiful products (this pic is her Almond Biscotti), my kind friend Sarah offered to help me make soap. In my kitchen. With safety goggles.

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??).

I am really really excited to announce though that BirchBark Soap is now available at LoveMe Boutique! I heard that her carrot complexion soap is KICK BUM! I can't wait to try it! :)


  1. Very interesting! Your soap 'flavors' sound great. :)

  2. Soap making is something I would like to try but I think I will wait until I retire because it does sound like there is a lot to it. So for now it will be another thing to add to my "to do list". I have made my own tofu several times and enjoy the process but as it too takes time I generally only make it 2-3 times during the winter. There is a lot of satisfaction that comes from doing things for making bread. I have been making my own yogurt once a week for the past two years and making my own laundry detergent for about a year now and I wouldn't think of going back to store bought again.

  3. @ Emma: thanks! They don't smell as strongly as I would like, but then lots of people prefer lightly scented soap- so it will make a really great gift :)

    @ Marjean; wow- if you make your own tofu and laundry detergent i'm sure you'll be fine with soap! I think I may be a bit of a lazy bean and that's why it seemed so intimidating :)
    My fiancé and I really want to make our own bread someday- like my grand-mère's bread... mmm it was SOO good. Unfortunately we have a TINY kitchen, so baking can be a chore sometimes. But homemade bread is definitely creeping up there on our 'will do soon' list!

  4. Before I read your post, I was ready to complement you on the tasty fudge you made.

    The soaps sound terrific, but do you have to restrain yourself so you don't take a bite out of the bars?

  5. Hi,
    I never tried making soap but after reading your post I'm in the mood for it - thanks :o)

  6. @Me: lol, with Sherry's soaps from Birchbark- most definitely. mine... well the chocolate peppermint one looks really yummy haha!

    @Sandra- that's wonderful!! I think there's a few recipe's online- i think Sarah called ours the "Simple Simon" recipe with added flavours :)

  7. Hi, I responded to your comment on my blog, but in case you don't check back, here is a link to a few free classes for newbies at the Halifax Iyengar Studio:

    (Also, I don't live in Halifax so the new recreation schedule I said was coming out was for my town--don't know about Halifax--sorry for getting your hopes up!)

  8. This is soooo brilliant. I have to try this out. Wish me luck;-)

  9. I had so much fun too!
    Anytime you want to make some more just let me know.

  10. OH, and if you want, try the No Knead Bread recipes. You don't need a big kitchen to do it, just a lot of time on your hands to wait

  11. How awesome is that! I've always wanted to try but I don't know anyone who makes their own soap and to be honest I'm scared of the lye, too. It'd be fun if I could find a class or someone to show me how. Cool beans!

  12. Oh, I went crazy when I saw this! I have been a soapmaker for years - but the cheating kind. I do melt & pour glycerin bars. Until I found out that they were full of chemicals I didn't want on my skin! I've wanted to make REAL soap (the lye kind) for years, but have been too afraid to try. One of these days!


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