Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Box Full of Possibilities!

Bob gave me some soap molds for Christmas which reminded me how much I enjoy making soap. I love the chemistry of it all, chemistry I can do right in my kitchen! As it turns out soap is made up of two main ingredients - oil, the very thing soap is so good at cleaning up, and a lye solution which is way too caustic by itself to be good for much. Put them together, add a nice fragrance and something for color and "Viola!" you have the best soap in the world.

Bob and I made a couple of batches of soap together over the Christmas break and we had so much fun together that we decided to use the Christmas money that Grandpa Bill gave us to buy some stuff that we wouldn't normally be able to get. We went online to Majestic Mountain Sage at and had a lot of fun picking out a lot of different things. We picked up our order in Logan (where MMS is located) last weekend and it was so fun to bring the box home and go through it. What should we make first? Some Sandalwood shaving soap for Bob, some spearmint lip balm, a headache balm or I even want to try my hand at making my own lotion. So many choices!
In the end I wanted to try some soap made with ground up vanilla beans (for color, smell and texture) and scented with Tahitian Vanilla fragrance oil. So yesterday, while the older kids were at school I laid Grace down for a nap, put in Scooby Doo for Nathan and away we go!
First thing to do is gather everything I needed and prepare the soap molds. The last batch of soap we made did NOT want to come out of the mold! It took two days, two trips to the freezer and finally blunt force, Bob-style to get the soap out! I did not want a repeat of that so I brushed my molds with a little bit of mineral oil this time.
Then I measured out the different oils into a microwave safe bucket. An accurate scale is very important as is a good recipe! You can find some fun recipes on as well as this cool feature they have called a lye calculator. You put in how much of each kind of oil you want and it tells you exactly how much lye and water you need to get the job done. You don't want too much lye (burning soap - bad!) or to little - soft, oily soap isn't much good either!
After the oils were ready I measured out the lye, the water and then proceeded to my front porch where I stood upwind to mix the two together. This is where the chemistry starts to get interesting. When you combine the lye and water not only does it temporarily produce fumes you don't want to breath but the whole thing heats up to somewhere around 160 degrees! After it has cooled down a bit I took it back inside. Now, I'm sure some of you are saying "Are you crazy? Lye is so caustic!" Well I was nervous at first too but I realized that I deal with plenty of caustic chemicals around the house anyway. If you treat a lye solution with the same respect you do your bottle of bleach you will be just fine!
After the oils are melted, the lye is ready and the two are about the same temperature it's time to get the party started!
I poured the lye solution into the oils and whipped out my favorite kitchen tool, my immersion blender! It doesn't take long to bring the oil and lye together with the blender, less than a minute with this batch. Before I added the fragrance and vanilla beans I tried pouring just a little bit of the white soap into the bottom of my molds. I wanted the roses and the dragonflies to be white.
This is what the soap looked like after adding the fragrance and ground vanilla beans. Yummy!
I poured the rest of the soap into the molds, covered them with cardboard and then wrapped them up with towels for a long winter night nap.
Wrapping the soap up like this helps the saponification (the oil and lye becoming soap) process. It's so hard not to peek during this stage...
This morning I unwrapped the soap molds and to my relief the mineral oil seemed to do the trick because the soap popped right out. My idea of putting a little bit of the plain white soap in first didn't work out quite like I wanted it too though. When I poured the rest of the soap in it forced the white part out. Oh well, it still looks interesting and I'm sure the soap will clean just as well as if the white part had stayed put! Now I just have to wait a few weeks for the soap to finish curing and then I can try it out. I can't wait! In the meantime, what should I make next???


West Family said...

I like how they look with the white pulling through. It is quite the process! Hope all is well with you guys!

Katie said...

Wow Carolyn! That's pretty cool!!

Young Women said...

It is pretty fun. I made about 100 bars of soap a couple of years ago and just used the last one before Christmas. I was not nearly as artistic as you, however. By the way - this is Sandra. It will post as the Young Women since that is the only blog I have at the moment. Just like to keep you on your toes. Maybe we can have a soap making activity! said...

I thought the white gives a lovely appearance. You did win a small box of goodies for your participation in the Perfumer's Kit Contest! I think you will enjoy it!


Maegan said...

Yeah for you doing something so interesting and fun for you! I think this takes your domestic skills to a whole new level. I have always admired your skills with canning/preserving/juicing and now you are onto non food items. Way to go! Let us know how they work out.