Making Soap
posted December 28, 2013 3:53 PM   RSS | iCal | +googleCal

Sun January 26 at 1:00 PM, Secretariat and Cortex' house
6005 North Lovely Street, Portland, OR, USA (Map & Directions)
Let’s make bar soap some time this winter!
There are a lot of options, so I thought I’d narrow it down for ease of group decision-making. If there’s a variety of soap that you’ve already set your soap-making hopes on, please mention it! Y'all were so good at logistics in the marmalade/fruit cake thread I figure I'll just list the basics and say "go nuts."




• Olive – Popular choice, recommended.
• Coconut - Good in small quantities for lather. Too much is drying on the skin.
• Canola - Can be used as a filler in combination with something else.
• That one oil you’ve had sitting around for ages


• Available at the hardware store in the drain cleaner section. It’s usually labeled drain cleaner, but the ingredients are 100% lye.

SCENTS (optional)

• Lavender (top note) (outsells all other varieties 8:1)
• Peppermint (top note)
• That one oil you’ve had sitting around for ages
• Unscented
• NOTE on notes: “Essential oils are split into three categories, or “notes,” being top, middle, and base notes. A “top note” fragrance is the first to reach your nose but can be fleeting, a “middle note” is the core of the fragrance blend, while a “base note” anchors the blend and gives it a sensuous undertone. When composing a blend for a cold process soap, it helps considerably if you use a combination of the three notes, or at least include a base note oil.”
• Avoid lavender and peppermint during pregnancy. I don’t know why.

COLORS (optional)

• NOTE: we can also do swirls.
• Yellow/orange: curry, turmeric, annatto-infused oil
• Brown: coffee, cocoa powder
• Green looks expensive: wheatgrass powder, spirulina powder, chlorophyll powder

EXFOLIATORS (optional)

• Coffee grounds (deodorizer)
• Cornmeal
• Dried herbs and teas
• Oatmeal
• Poppy seeds
• Salts
• Wheat germ


• Up to 2% beeswax for a harder soap (goes well with olive oil)
• Honey (emollient)
• Argile clay
• Marigold petals are the only petals that won’t turn eventually turn brown


Someone on MetaFilter Chat told me that it’s actually ok to use some metals, but I forget which. Ah, looks like stainless steel is acceptable. Plastics and wood are definitely fine, so let’s stick to those. These are all basic kitchen tools but there have been times when we were scrambling to find something, like, say, a plastic mixing bowl. And the list is already right there in the book, so here are the basics:

• Mixing bowls
• Mixing spoons and rubber spatula
• Other various kitchen implements for measuring and adding optional ingredients
• Metric scale
• Saponification calculator or chart (available online)
• Goggles, gloves, mask (all very optional, if you ask me)
• Vinegar
• Ingredients
• Molds


• You can use any wooden, plastic, rubber, silicone, or cardboard container that won’t leak. If it’s inflexible we’d have to line it. The bigger the mold, the more evenly the soap will cure. I use whatever plastics look good in the recycling bin. The soap will develop a harmless white powder called soda ash if left uncovered. It’s easy enough to wipe off. If this matters to you, keep an eye out for containers with lids. Examples of molds include:
• Yogurt containers
• PVC pipe
• Tupperware
• Disposable coffee cup or to-go container


In theory lye can cause severe burns and blindness. You’re supposed to wear goggles when you make soap. We wore them the first time and never again after that because it doesn’t seem worth the bother. If you want goggles, bring them. I wouldn’t say they’re necessary. Same thing goes for gloves. If you’re careful you shouldn’t get any lye on you and if you’re not careful it’s no big deal to wash it off. Lye mostly just feels slippery on my hands, maybe a slight burning. I’d much rather deal with lye than mosquitoes. I learned from the label that you can wash it off with vinegar, and that actually works quite well. Soap-making is supposed to be done in a well-ventilated area. I've done it outside and in the kitchen with seemingly equal results. In case I forget: always add lye to water (not the other way around). In theory you’re supposed to wear a dust mask while adding and stirring the lye/water solution.


This post relies heavily on the book “Natural Soap” by Melinda Coss (ISBN 978-1-4621-1242-5), which would be available at your local library except that at the moment I have it checked out. We’re doing cold-process if anybody wants a search term. Since this is the Internet, I also figured someone might want links. Here are a few of the links & blurbs and books that I pulled directly from the back of “Natural Soap." – Great ingredients and lots of recipes and know how. Also has an online calculator - Another excellent US supplier with a calculator - Lots of brilliant links for useful suppliers Europe and US. [and more!]

The Handmade Soap Book by Melinda Coss, ISBN 1-85974-006-5
Scientific Soapmaking by Kevin M. Dunn, ISBN 978-1-93565-209-0
Making Natural Liquid Soaps – Catherie Failor, ISBN 978-1-58017-243-1
Soap Naturally by Patrizia Garzena and Marina Tadiello, ISBN 978-0-97567-640-0
The Aromatic Guide by Kolbjorn Borseth, ISBN 978-0-95543-231-6
Natural Spa Products by Kobjorn Borseth, ISBN 978-0-95543-243-7
The Fragrant Pharmacy by Ann Worwood, ISBN 978-0-55340-397-8
posted by aniola to Meetup (78 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I've been wanting to make soap for a long time, so as long as this isn't the second week of January, I am definitely in.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:15 PM on December 28, 2013

There is a 50-50 chance I'll be out of town housesitting in February. So maybe January or March?
posted by aniola at 8:39 PM on December 28, 2013

Sounds awesome! Any weekend should work for me.
posted by redsparkler at 2:23 AM on December 29, 2013

Wow, so much good information to read through! I am definitely up for this- in fact, I am most likely hosting this, location-wise (unless we come up with a compelling reason to do it someplace else).

At the moment, it looks like any weekend works for me except for March 15-16 (weekend before PSU finals, seems like I ought to reserve that one). Once classes start up for this quarter, I might find out that there's a field trip on a Saturday or something? I'm not expecting a lot of those, but I'll know more next week.
posted by Secretariat at 9:28 AM on December 29, 2013

As long as it isn't in the next few weeks, I'm in.
posted by janell at 5:55 PM on December 29, 2013

Wow. I think that's the most informative meetup proposal I've ever seen!

My schedule is wide open, just name the date and I'll be there.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:35 PM on December 29, 2013

I'm super excited about this and would love to be able to do it in January (maybe to make some Valentine's gifts? Who knows?!); is there any chance we'd be able to make it work on the 25th or 26th of January?
posted by redsparkler at 1:00 PM on December 30, 2013

25th or 26th works for me, and seems to work for others? It's not the 2nd week of January, it's not February, and it's not immediately after the 28th?
posted by Secretariat at 3:52 PM on December 31, 2013


If we use coconut oil as a base, will the soap smell like coconut? :)
posted by homodachi at 5:51 PM on January 1, 2014

It had better smell like coconut, goldangit! OR ELSE!
(I'm totally planning on using coconut oil.)

(Oh, and Sunday the 26th works slightly better for me; apparently I have a couple hours of calligraphy class to attend from noon-2pm on Saturday.)
posted by redsparkler at 9:09 PM on January 1, 2014

Sunday the 26th works well for me.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:36 PM on January 2, 2014

Sounds like Sunday, January 26 works for everyone. What time?

Unless you're making mariner's soap, a 100% coconut oil soap really isn't going to make sense. It would dry your skin out and probably wouldn't smell like coconut after saponification anyway. Some coconut oil is fine, though. It'll make the soap lather nicely! The internet says you can in fact use 100% coconut oil if you 20% superfat it so it isn't as drying. It still probably won't smell like coconut. Soap with a lot of coffee in it doesn't smell like coffee (but it is a delightful brown color). I've gone ahead with coconut oil -based soap anyway myself (but I didn't extra bonus superfat it) and ended up giving a lot of soap to a bike collective that didn't mind that it was incredibly drying because it (plus the coffee grounds) got the grease off.

If you have your heart set on a coconut theme, there are other options, too! You can bring a coconut essential oil or flavoring for the scent. And I haven't done this before, but apparently if you freeze coconut milk you can add the lye to coconut milk. You can also add chopped coconut flakes as an exfoliant. But I think the only thing that will really give it that coconut scent is probably the essential oil or maybe a flavoring.

Also: Last time I made soap I tried letting some cure in a plastic bottle. It didn't harden all the way until I sawed it out of its bottle and exposed it. That might also have been a superfat miscalculation, but I think it's probably not a recommended approach. So the options are: leave it and come back a couple weeks later (if that's ok? more fun but more involved. Secretariat? everyone else?) or bring bottles and pour it into molds as soon as you get home.

I can plan to bring some lye. I ran rough numbers using the MMS Lye Calculator and it looks like a pound of lye (one container) covers about 3 1/2 liters of an olive oil based soap. I can also bring some non-organic cooking oil leftover from the last time we did soapmaking. I can also soak some annatto seeds in oil so we can have that available as a color, if that's a color of interest. If I can find it I'll bring our beeswax. What ingredients are y'all planning to bring? What soap are you hoping to end up with?
posted by aniola at 3:15 PM on January 2, 2014

I can also bring the kitchen scale.
posted by aniola at 3:22 PM on January 2, 2014

I'll check out some of the recommended books today and see what piques my interest.
posted by redsparkler at 1:23 PM on January 3, 2014

Sunday Jan 26 at Secretariat's place? 1pm?
posted by janell at 7:10 PM on January 3, 2014

I'll be coming with aniola if scheduling permits. Before 1 or after 3 is easiest but I may be able to make it in the 1-3 range if I must.

As aniola says, we'll bring lye and cooking oil, and a scale.

I have no major preferences re:output, but it might be fun to try a pretty/colorful soap. We normally make more plain, utilitarian soaps. It would be nice to have a bar or two suitable for gifting.
posted by sibilatorix at 9:33 PM on January 4, 2014

Sorry to have not checked in. Maybe give me one or two more days so I can make absolutely sure my PSU classes don't have any conflicting weekend obligations (classes start tomorrow)? I know it seems like I ought to know what day my classes are on, but last quarter there were some unexpected fieldtrip dates that I didn't find out about until the first day of class- so I'm being cautious before committing so we don't have to reschedule.

I'm fine with storing people's soaps while they cure if that's the way people want to go- I have the space for that.

And assuming there's no field trip, I'm free all day 1/26. I guess I'd say my limit is no earlier than 9am? But if there's a compelling reason I don't mind getting dressed earlier than that. My guess is the average person is going to prefer something a little later in the day though.

For soaps, off the top of my head I'm interested in an oatmeal soap. This is one of my favorite soaps- although I think it's because of the oatmeal cookie scent.
posted by Secretariat at 10:13 AM on January 5, 2014

It looks like that oatmeal cookie scent might come from a fragrance oil. It doesn't look like Sappo Hill sells just their fragrance oil. I'm no connoisseur of oatmeal cookie fragrance oils, and I don't know how to make oatmeal cookie fragrance oil at home (yet), but if one is as good as the next, it looks like there are plenty of retail oatmeal cookie fragrance oils available.
posted by aniola at 12:26 PM on January 5, 2014

Ok! I have confirmed with my instructor that I won't have a conflict on 1/26 (or January in general, for that matter). So we are good to go with that date if that is still sounding good for everyone.

I'm willing to experiment with the oatmeal idea- it's probably just the smell of vanilla and cinnamon (if I remember right from my days working at a health food store, the correct essential oil to use for cinnamon is cassia?) that does it for me, plus the oatmeal chunks in the soap. I'm not really a fan of strong chemical fragrance, so I'd be a little afraid to buy something that was called "oatmeal cookie fragrance" sight unsmelled, so to speak.
posted by Secretariat at 8:10 PM on January 6, 2014

Hey I wonder how hard it would be to make shampoo bars? I thought about doing an Ask today to find a good shampoo bar but then remembered I'd be making soap soon and maybe I could make my own.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:05 PM on January 6, 2014

Oh hey look. 1 2 3 4 5 6

1 and 6 look simplest.

Hooray shampoo bars!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:17 AM on January 7, 2014

Awesome, sounds like we have a plan! Vanilla cinnamon oatmeal (COOKIE! Without unpleasant ingredients!) soap, maybe a coconut themed soap if there's still interest? and shampoo bars. Looks like shampoo bars are very similar to soap, so it should be straightforward. I like shampoo bars =D
posted by aniola at 9:10 PM on January 9, 2014

Got the whole day off! Looks like 1pm would be a better time for everyone?
posted by sibilatorix at 10:49 PM on January 11, 2014

So, procedurally, are we making several soaps in parallel? Or are we constrained by equipment such that we will be working serially and thus need to limit the number of variations?

I'm asking because I'd want to make something that's neither coconut- nor oatmeal-scented. I was thinking citrusy+herbal (rosemary?, orange or lemon), perhaps colored yellow if Anika is soaking annato seeds. Maybe with celery seeds as an exfoliant, since I happen to have an egregious excess of them.

If we are constrained, I'll still come - to chat and to learn the method - I'm just not sure I'd want to take anything home.
posted by janell at 11:01 PM on January 11, 2014

I don't know if we're making the soaps in series or parallel. The only thing I would expect us to have just one of is the scale, and that's no big deal. We'll spend a lot of time taking turns stirring.

I'm most excited about a refreshing citrusy/herbal soap and/or shampoo soap. (I have an extremely mild allergy? reaction? to eating celery, so probably a celery seeded soap won't be one i take home.) I actually think the two soap interests might combine well, since a shampoo bar looks like it might be just a kind of soap bar that uses particular oils? And I think the shampoo bars I've seen sold before were listed as "also use as soap-soap!"

Current soap candidates:
Coconut - homodachi, red sparkler
Oatmeal cookie - secretariat
Shampoo bar - rabbitrabbit
Citrusy/herbal - janell, aniola?

If we have the ingredients, we can make all of these. And then everyone could end up with more of the kind/s they were most interested in, and maybe a sampler of the others?
posted by aniola at 10:34 AM on January 12, 2014

Oh! Useful info: the additives usually get added near the end of stirring, if I recollect correctly. So we will probably be stirring plain batches (multiple for maximum stirring power) and then adding the optional ingredients right before we pour the soaps into molds.
posted by aniola at 10:42 AM on January 12, 2014

More molds, recommended by the book in front of me:

Plastic candle molds
Plastic drawer organizers
Silicone molds
Not too-thin plastics - apparently to-go containers might be too thin.
posted by aniola at 10:47 AM on January 12, 2014

I like lime scent so I'd be up for something citrus but not lemon.
posted by fiercekitten at 11:18 AM on January 12, 2014

Yes, 1pm is good for me.

I'm down with either oatmeal or citrus scents. I'm more meh about herbal scents but really anything is fine except floral for me. But it sounds like if you add stuff near the end we can just make a big batch of soap and do our own scent stuff with it at the end?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:29 AM on January 13, 2014

I do like coconut, and am also intrigued by the oatmeal cookie. I read in the books about adding coffee grounds? That sounds awesome, and I can provide the grounds, too.

Besides gloves/goggles if desired, and molds of my preference, how do I know what else to bring? I already have coconut oil, and can bring a couple plastic bowls, too.

I will gladly go shopping for the other needed supplies, or bring cash to reimburse anybody who brings things we need.
posted by redsparkler at 1:00 PM on January 16, 2014

No idea how many we can make at one time. Individual batches sounds like extra bonus work to me but I guess if people really wanted to they could.

Redsparkler has coconut oil. Who can bring canola, olive, or other oil? Who wants to bring an oil for a shampoo bar? (See rabbitrabbit's links above.) For approximately every gallon of oil, we'll need a container (1 pound) of lye. I'm bringing that first container of lye. Oil and lye are the non-optional ingredients.
posted by aniola at 2:22 PM on January 16, 2014

Redsparkler, to answer your question, if you want it to smell like coconut, you or someone else will need to bring a coconut essential oil or fragrance or flavoring. I assume you know this, but I wouldn't want you to make soap using coconut oil and have it come out smelling like plain ole' soap so I figured better safe than sorry and thought I'd double-check that you knew.
posted by aniola at 2:29 PM on January 16, 2014

I also have like probably 20+ really quality essential oils (from Young Living), everything from cedar to frankincense (my mom's kind of a hippie, it's a long story). I am happy to bring these as well.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:29 PM on January 16, 2014

I can bring a big bottle of olive oil, and the other ingredients listed in the shampoo bar recipes (jojoba oil, cocoa butter, etc.)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:33 PM on January 16, 2014

Got it! I'll do some shopping for a coconut essential oil.
As far as mixing the coconut oil with something else, I will also bring olive oil.
I'll keep an eye on the thread for an updated shopping list.
posted by redsparkler at 2:27 PM on January 17, 2014

Ok, I'll provide oatmeal and some essential oils for that soap, and buy another container of lye. I can also provide mixing spoons, measuring tools, and vinegar. Do you know if I can use the same bowls/pots/utensils/etc. I normally use for cooking, or should I make a trip to goodwill and see if I can find some spares?

Same question for molds. Once I use something as a mold, is it a craft project item forever? I have things like pie and cake pans, bread loaf pans, etc- but I'd like to use them for cooking again in the future (and for that matter, some of them are probably reactive metals that would be bad for the soap?) I really haven't come up with much from my recycles that could work as a mold (mostly thin melty plastic).

I'll also provide snacks, beverages, etc.
posted by Secretariat at 3:58 PM on January 20, 2014

I don't think we have ever ruined or injured any cookware, but I'll double-check. We have bowls, spoons, etc., so let us know instead of making a trip to Goodwill!

I'll pack everything we have that could potentially be used as a mold. Probably large yogurt containers for the most part, and also a couple cheap bright orange plastic mixing bowls we can live without having while the soap cures. I have a silicone meatloaf pan that would make a great soap loaf but I need it for making chocolate bars. (I might bring some chocolate, though!) What thin plastics have you found in the recycle bin? Some of them should be fine. I imagine the challenge with soap in more solid cookware is getting it out again, I'll look into it more next time I get on a computer.

The only thing I've seen happen to cookware is that last time, when we used silicone molds, a white crust formed on the outside of the mold. This was weird, but washed off without seeming to do any permanent damage. So basically, I would say that it's not a project for your favorite and best cookware, but the cookware should still be usable after.
posted by aniola at 11:44 AM on January 21, 2014

Ok, I think I found some stuff around the house that will work for molds, as long as we can cut up soap after it cures or otherwise divide the area. What do you think: Tubs and bins (I'm unsure if the clear brittle plastic container is ok) and a thick cardboard mailing tube. Maybe the tube could be hacksawed into smaller pieces and make some nice round soap?

If I'm not going to die if I eat out of something I made soap in (after washing it, of course) then I think I have what we'll need for mixing and probably cooking, although a extra cooking pot would be nice. My main big cooking pot is stainless steel, but I think my backup one might be aluminum- which will react.
posted by Secretariat at 10:43 PM on January 21, 2014

Scrap has lots of plastic bins and tubs. I'd be happy to pick some up for you soap makers.
posted by vespabelle at 8:27 AM on January 22, 2014

I expect to haul over various soap supplies - including perhaps my kitchen balance if I remember how to put it into metric mode, but also: we are 10-16 people. We will need snacks. And beverages.

Any requests? Fruitcake?

(I'm totally kidding about the fruitcake. Mine is GONE.)
posted by janell at 1:34 PM on January 22, 2014

I still have some Christmas stollen if someone really does want fruitcake.

I will bring beef jerky, root vegetable chips, and bacon-wrapped dates.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:27 PM on January 22, 2014

I bet it would also be fine if we used ounces. I'm not sure why we usually use metric.

I will bring home-assembled chocolate.
posted by aniola at 2:54 PM on January 22, 2014

Secretariat: Your tubs and bins look great!

I'm not sure, but some cardboard fibers might stick to the cured soap unless it's a waxed cardboard. But it would make nice rounds!

In the past, we've just used a wire screwed onto a couple of chunks of wood (for handles) as a sort of cheese cutter for cutting up loaves of soap. Looks like you can use pretty much anything to cut soap. People who want nice-looking cuts use miter boxes.
posted by aniola at 3:10 PM on January 22, 2014

I have some waxed paper, so maybe we can experiment with the tube, if we find that we have more soap than containers (Scrap is a good idea, though- I always forget about that place). As far as cutting soap, we've got guitar strings that would probably work great- I hadn't thought about that!

I also found some lemongrass essential oil (14 years old, but still smells ok), some tea tree oil, and I was thinking of buying some bulk paprika- that should make a pinkish color, maybe for valentine's day. Or is there a way to swirl colors? Annatto and paprika swirl might be neat.

If this works out anything like the fruitcake meetup, we'll probably have more than enough "stuff"- at that meetup, I was worried we wouldn't have all the supplies, but it turned out we had duplicates of all sorts of things. If we find that we're short of anything (I can imagine ending up with a lye/oil quantity mismatch) cortex has said he wouldn't mind making last minute store runs.

Does anyone need any bus or driving directions to the house? I think many of you have been here before. It's the green house with the chimney facing the street and a very orange front door. Also, if anyone has bad allergies, I should mention that we have cats. They'll be scared of you and hiding upstairs, but their legacy of fur and dander will probably still be in the air.
posted by Secretariat at 4:09 PM on January 22, 2014

Is this meet up safe for children? I'm not familiar with the hazards of soap making.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:44 PM on January 22, 2014

I asked the internet and the answers, predictably, varied. It is my opinion that this is a safe activity for children, and I've heard from at least several people who say they made soap as children. In fact, someone today just told me that the last time they made soap, they were 9 or 10. Here is a random link on soap-making for children. I think it's probably one of those 'supervised activities' sorts of things, but I think that base is covered.

I'd definitely say that if the child is old enough to understand "be very careful with this chemical," bring 'em!

Disclaimer: It's lye. YMMV.
posted by aniola at 11:47 PM on January 22, 2014

I'm excited about swirls!

Vespabelle, I don't think we need anyone to make a trip for containers, but your presence would be welcome!
posted by aniola at 11:50 PM on January 22, 2014

Yeah, I think this depends on the age and the kid, but my thought is that this could be ok for kids. There will be a hot stove, a very strong base (which we will keep vinegar on hand to neutralize), and an exothermic reaction. However, there will also be science! You would probably want to explain that gloves and eye protection are the correct thing to use for certain parts of the process, even if we risk it without.

I should add that I don't have the best judgement about these things. I remember going to a canning class where someone said they were going to bring a kid- I thought, oh no, boiling water, stoves, sharp knives everywhere, plus boring adults... But I was totally overestimating the danger, and the kid was completely up to the task, had fun, and was not placed in danger.
posted by Secretariat at 4:45 PM on January 23, 2014

Hot stove?
posted by aniola at 6:41 PM on January 23, 2014

I usually do cold process. I don't actually know how to involve a stove.
posted by aniola at 6:42 PM on January 23, 2014

In which it's basically: mix lye and water. Add to oil. Have carefully measured. Stir forever. Hit trace, add other ingredients, pour into molds. Come back some other time and say "gee, soap!"
posted by aniola at 6:44 PM on January 23, 2014

Oh neat. Looks like hot process is an extra step involving heat and a stick blender that speeds up saponification.
posted by aniola at 6:49 PM on January 23, 2014

For what it's worth, I think we've actually been looking at cold process as well; the heating aspect in the instructions we looked at was basically "heat up solid oils to make them liquid, then add in liquid oils which will lower the average temperature a bit already, then get it down to 90-110 degrees and proceed". So, hot stove top, I suppose. Kids should avoid sticking hands over gas burners or touching heated melting post, is all.
posted by cortex at 8:08 PM on January 23, 2014

Well... I don't know how to make soap. Clearly, I should go to a meetup soon where someone will show me!

On second thought, that's too much work. People should come to me!
posted by Secretariat at 9:14 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm quite intrigued, but this all seems rather daunting. Nu and I will most likely be in attendance to observe the alchemy, not to take part.
posted by mimo at 9:52 AM on January 25, 2014

Yes, please come just to hang out, if you prefer!
posted by Secretariat at 5:15 PM on January 25, 2014

I'd like to see everybody but I had to change to a maybe. Yard work waits for no-one.
posted by fiercekitten at 8:29 AM on January 26, 2014

We're running maybe 15-20 minutes behind. But we'll be there!
posted by aniola at 12:52 PM on January 26, 2014

We're running a little late as well but we are on our way.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:55 PM on January 26, 2014

Ohh, wish we could have made this! We're doing Global Game Jam today but it looks amazing.
posted by lhall at 2:48 PM on January 26, 2014

Thanks! It was loads of fun.
posted by aniola at 6:32 PM on January 26, 2014

We did it! We made the soaps! I'm REALLY happy with how mine turned out. Not only that, but I feel empowered to make soap on my own, now, if needed. Awesome!

And as far as curing things looks like we're supposed to leave them open to the air for a day or two, and then remove from the containers and let the air circulate around them for several weeks? These are instructions I saw on random internet sites.
posted by redsparkler at 8:49 PM on January 26, 2014

It was fun, indeed. Here's what we made:

Batch 1:
1816g olive oil (extra virgin, against the advice of every book we looked in)
238g lye
606g delicious NoPo tap water

It's debatable whether this had actually reached trace when we got fed up and decided to scent/mold this into several flavors. It will be exciting to see if/how/when this sets up.
- Poppyseed Zinger with lemon, lemongrass, ginger, peppermint, and tangerine essential oils and black poppyseeds as an exfoliant.
- "Peace and Calming" ylang ylang, lemon, orange, tangerine, grapefruit, and amber scents, with paprika for a rich orange-red color.
- Cedar, sandalwood, and chamomile (this is the solid yellow one)

Batch 2: Shampoo Bars!
255g (9oz) coconut oil
255g (9oz) olive oil
141.7g (5oz) castor oil
85g (3oz) jojoba oil
56.7g (2oz) shea butter
56.7g (2oz) cocoa butter
28.3g (1 oz) beeswax
113.4g (4 oz) water
170g (6oz) soymilk
113.4g (4oz) lye

This was flavored with tangerine, grapefruit, lemon, and lemongrass.

Batch 3
486g coconut oil
1566g olive oil
288g lye
water not recorded
+ some beeswax lumps near the end

I don't think the flavoring combinations all got recorded for this batch, but for sure there were two:
- frankincense, orange, clove, lavendar, grapefruit oils + coffee grounds and cocoa power for a deep brown color
- "waxy lumps (beeswax), so much basil oil, allegedly patchouli
- ????, swirled into the C,S, and C from batch 1.
posted by janell at 8:55 PM on January 26, 2014

Thanks for coming, everyone. That was a lot of fun and I appreciate the knowledge shared. I second the "I feel empowered to handle this project in the future" feeling. I'll post a count (probably tomorrow) of how many soaps are with me, and I'll provide periodic updates on how the soap is progressing (and pictures, if anything interesting happens). Let me know if there's any specific curing processes you want me to follow aside from winging it until it sets up. Once it seems solid/cured we'll figure out a way to distribute it to people who are interested.

A note on the tap water- I do have a water filter on the kitchen faucet (the source of water for all batches). Just in case someone someday tries to replicate this and can't figure out what they're doing differently.
posted by Secretariat at 10:03 PM on January 26, 2014

I think batch 3 had 606g water.
posted by aniola at 10:04 PM on January 26, 2014

A++ would meetup again. Wish I could have stayed longer!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:14 PM on January 26, 2014

I had fun watching you all make soap!
posted by vespabelle at 12:08 PM on January 27, 2014

Yeah yeah, a typical meet-up, mostly just MeFites sitting in a room trying to stir the pot.


Seriously way fun. It will be really interesting to see how the soap turns out. I'm just happy because now I won't smell so bad the next time I see you guys.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:01 PM on January 27, 2014

Ok, here's a count of what's in my basement (this isn't the total output, as some people took soap home already):

Batch 1:
10 small rounds of peace & calming
4 small rectangles, 1 small circle, and one yogurt round of chamwood
6 small rectangles of poppyseed zinger

Batch 2, shampoo:
2 stonyfield yogurt rounds
1 smart balance margarine square

Batch 3:
6 muffins, 1 yogurt, and 1 4" x 6" cranberry container of coffee cocoa spice
7 yogurts and 24 tiny trees of basil wax lump

Everything is a solid at this point! Some of them are pretty squishy (if I were to stick my finger in, it would leave an indentation) but it seems likely that these will all turn into solid bars with time.

The basil soap continues to be kind of strong smelling- not bad, just a lot of smell. This one might not be to everyone's taste! But, it's also possible the scent will fade as the soap solidifies.
posted by Secretariat at 4:10 PM on January 27, 2014

Added a couple photos, including a pair of goggles that were left behind. Are they yours? I also have JaiMahodara's cookie cutter buds.
posted by Secretariat at 4:43 PM on January 27, 2014

Sounds like Darin was pretty excited about the shampoo bars that can Officially Shampoo The Hairs, so if there's any way we could end up with one or a fraction of one of those, that would be swell. But if he wasn't the only person excited about those, we can just make some at home some time.

Also apparently we are responsible for forgetting the ugliest pair of goggles. We'll pick it up along with the soap. It's headed for Goodwill.

And oh em gee am I EVER going to pick up some tangerine essential oil! Tangerine hot chocolate! Tangerine chocolate chocolate! Tangerine curry? Tangerine rice! Tangerine tea! Tangerine candy! Tangerine salt! Everything tangerine!
posted by aniola at 5:13 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Perhaps this needn't be recorded for posterity, but one other outcome from this meetup was this notion:

For every fetish, there is a mold.
posted by janell at 5:43 PM on January 27, 2014

Added a bunch of photos!
posted by cortex at 6:49 PM on January 27, 2014

I was telling my BF about the jar of vinegar we used in case we got lye on our hands and he was like, "didn't you wear gloves?" Um, we talked about it, and probably had them, but we forgot? :P
posted by homodachi at 12:02 PM on February 2, 2014

Heh, yeah, we had in fact purchased a couple pairs of rubber gloves just for the occasion but I think they just ended up sitting in the corner.
posted by cortex at 12:17 PM on February 2, 2014

Oh yeah, we had all kinds of gloves available! Assure him that goggles, face masks, and gloves were all present. We just mostly didn't use them.

I took a few pictures of what the soap looks like today- I'll post them a little later.
posted by Secretariat at 3:22 PM on February 2, 2014

For anyone who took home soap in those small circular or square containers with lids: I had good luck with leaving the lids off for the last week, and then relidding and putting them in the freezer overnight. After taking the short stint in the freezer, I banged them upside down against a cutting board until they dropped out, and then put them back on a little rack to air cure some more.
posted by redsparkler at 10:00 PM on February 2, 2014

Added those few pictures I was talking about to the set linked above. There's a layer of ash forming on everything- I think both with and without lids, so that answers that question. I had no trouble popping the soap out of the little containers, even without freezing- so maybe I'll do that to everything that seems firm enough. The Poppyseed Zinger still seemed a little soft, so I might leave those in their containers but take the lids off.
posted by Secretariat at 10:32 PM on February 3, 2014

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