Okay so, COVID’s a thing, and we’ve all embraced this thorough handwashing habit. I myself am perfectly comfortable with bar soap (handmade by me, of course) but my partner is more a fan of the liquid soap. This, my friends, is all the excuse I needed to learn to make low-impact liquid soap.
I made a batch a year or so ago, so full disclosure this was my second batch. However, if you’ve ever made soap before, you know that the lye evolves slowly over time, even in ideal storage, so every batch is a bit of an adventure. 😉 That, and I may have forgotten to mark the page of the first recipe that I followed….
First off, let me say that Liquid Soapmaking by Jackie Thompson is one of the few books that I’ve seen recognized again and again by the online soapmaking community. I’m not saying there aren’t loads of other fabulous authors out there, just that Jackie seems to have figured this out. I’m not a fan of paper books and have very few on my shelves (most are e-books) but if the end of the world happens, I’m thinking that soap is one of the things I’ll want to be able to make 😉 so you better believe I have a paper copy of this book.
Have you ever made soap? No? Dude. It’s easy. Well, in this modern world it’s easy, because we don’t have to burn a barrel full of ashes and steep them in water for the lye, and we don’t have to grow a bunch of oleaginous plants and smash them for the oil. Plus, because of global capitalist colonialism, it’s quite easy to get our hands on ingredients like coconut oil. Aaaanyhow…
All that aside, because I live in this current world, I’m looking at three choices:
Until I can produce my own oils in large enough quantities (I’m looking at about a handful of flax seeds from this year’s garden), it feels like my organic-fair-trade-oil homemade-soap plan is the lesser of two realistic evils.
So, you’re all excited about making your own soap, right? Quick tip: Jackie writes this tiny little tip all tucked away for the engaged reader to find, and ermagerd does it ever work:
Usually, soap making takes quite a long time. It’s totally worth it, but there’s this stage at which you’re waiting for the oil + lye + water mix to come to “trace” (to thicken, as it undergoes a chemical change and magically becomes soap) and that can take anywhere from a while to a looooooong while. 😉 This tip? Seriously? Brought my last batch to trace within four minutes of initiating the blending stage. That’s QUICK.
How awesome is that? High five, Jackie, wherever you are. 👍
PS: those shop towels became my painting rags after I made soap. Didn’t harmed my brushes, and gave them a thorough second life before garbage. Next batch will use washable towels. I learned the error of my ways.
Okay so, how difficult is soapmaking? Not. Not difficult at all. I had a kick at making bar soap first, and that was loads of fun. I suggest spending some time learning about oils and their properties, because some oils make foamy soap and some make slimey soap, and the internet is heckin’ full of ideas, resource, and guilds. It’s easy to get caught up in the fancy swirly sparkly soap, and I suggest buying gear that will either last your whole life or will make a friend very happy to inherit. I lucked out and exchanged most of my fancy-soap-making gear with a colleague for some of her fancy-but-less-useful-to-her yarn and that was a win for both of us.
As it happens, liquid soapmaking is just a easy as solid soapmaking. At the end of the day, you’re mixing lye with oil and water to make soap. You cook the heck out of it, and then you add more water. Then you ignore it for a week so it can finish its process. At that point, you can bottle it (I like to save alcohol bottles with corks, because a) they’re lovely and b) they’re free if you drink alcohol, or know someone who does) and store it for however long it takes to use up. We use a little bit of pickling salt to thicken the soap, and then we use reusable foaming soap dispensers to create a fabulous, simple, COVID-destroying, none-hand-drying, handwashing experience.
Side note: every time I go to the community garden, I’m expected to wash my hands on entry and exit with an industrial brand of soap. It’s …well… gross. I strongly dislike the aroma and the slimy leftover feeling. Homemade soap has none of that. It’s clean, it scrubs well, it foams up nicely, and then it rinses away. Done. Awesome. Success 👍😍