Sunday, September 27, 2009

Soap Update

Saturday afternoon I created our first batch of soap. I wasn't sure I was going to go through with it. I was nervous all day and kept putting it off. I finally pulled everything out so that I either had to go through with it or clean up everything for no good reason.

It was the lye I was nervous about. Adding powdered lye to water creates a chemical reaction so violent it can heat the water to near boiling almost instantly. I had no idea what to expect. But I followed protocol and it ended up being somewhat anti-climactic. It was pretty cool though, overall. It did heat the water almost to its boiling point. But it wasn't violent. Just warm and misty.

Overall the batch was a success. I took it out of the mold today and tested its PH. Right where it should be. I sliced it into bars and stuck it on a rack to cure. That takes up to a month, but I plan on testing it every couple days to get a better understanding of what happens during the curing process. Cool stuff.

I screwed two things up, though. The first was a shortcut gone wrong, and the other was just stupidity at work. I added the colorant in its powder form directly into the combined soap mixture. You're supposed to dissolve it water or oil first and then add it, but I thought I could speed things up a bit. You can't, and I know why now. It doesn't dissolve in a saponifying mixture. So our soap bars have specks of undissolved colorant that will burst into temporarily skin-staining blasts of yellow whenever they reach the surface and come into contact with water. Needless to say we won't be distributing bars from this batch. But lesson learned.

The second mistake involved the mold. I built the soap mold myself from 1 x 6 and 1 x 4 pine beams. It came out nice, I thought, but the wood I used for the base was bowed a bit down the middle, causing the sides of the mold to slant in slightly. It didn't dawn on me what a problem that would be until I tried to get the soap out of the mold. It was stuck. The mold was wider at the bottom than at the mouth and so was the soap block. I had to destroy the mold to get the soap out. Given that any soap I made in the mold would get stuck, it was no major loss. I'll build another one this week, careful to keep it slightly wider at the mouth than at the base. Lesson learned.

I'm going to shower tomorrow morning with one of our new bars. Apart from the yellow dye explosions, I'm excited. This weekend we're making batch number two, sans mistakes. Hopefully.

MORNING UPDATE: The soap is soap. It works brilliantly. The scent didn't really come through (add more next time) and it does erupt in blasts of yellow (the next batch won't), but it lathers nicely, is mild on the skin, and rinses clean away with a slightly moisturizing afterglow. That's the best part for me. Kate likes moisturizing soap, but I usually can't stand it because it never really feels like it rinses off of you. This soap seems to be a good middle ground. I'm curious to see what Kate thinks.

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