Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Science (and love) of Handmade Soap

Soap. We need it to clean our bodies, homes, cars, pets and sometimes naughty little children's mouths. But what IS soap?

From Wikipedia (because I'm too tired to crack an actual encyclopedia):

"Soap is an anionic surfactant used in conjunction with water for washing and cleaning, which historically comes either in solid bars or in the form of a viscous liquid. Soap consists of sodium or potassium salts of fatty acids and is obtained by reacting common oils or fats with a strong alkaline solution (the base, popularly referred to as lye) in a process known as saponification. The fats are hydrolyzed by the base, yielding alkali salts of fatty acids (crude soap) and glycerol. Today, soap is often replaced by other cleaning agents, such as synthetic detergents."

This is the part that intrigues me. So, by nature, soap is a fairly simple (chemical) process and something that has been done for years and years. So why are their synthetic DETERGENTS in something we rub all over our naked bodies? All over our delicate little babies skin?

I am new to the handmade soap world, a soap making virgin if you will. Thankfully I have access to many lovely friends who have shared their wisdom, trial and errors and success. Plus, I'm addicted to soap. Even if I never use it. It's just downright beautiful to look at! At this point in my handmade life, I only make melt and pour soap. Now, I suppose some would say that is not TRULY making soap. In defense of M&P soapmakers every where..I say it is!! Although we are not actually mixing the lye and fats ourselves, we do take care to purchase high quality bases and carefully select our colorings, molds and scents. Cold Process soap is very much on my list of to-do's as soon as I have the physical area to concoct it in!

I personally, take great care to only purchase SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) free soap bases from reputable companies. SLS free soap is far more gentle to the skin and doesn't cant SLS, a nasty little detergent that is commonly used in garage floor cleaners. Really? Thanks, that sounds GREAT for my skin.

So, you may ask, WHY in the world am I lecturing you about soap? Well, it seems I may have the opportunity to teach a local home school group how to make their own melt and pour soaps! So of course, any soapmaker (even us M&P'rs) will tell you that all soap making requires some skill and basic knowledge of simple chemistry and science! No, we can't build a bomb, (Ok maybe some can) but we do need to know enough not to melt our fingers off our burn our eyes with fragrance oils! So what wisdom can I impart on these young minds?

  • Handmade Soap SHOULD be natural and very much can be.
  • Handmade soap is FUN! Immensely fun! The molds, colors, fragrances, embeddable items, oh the possibilities are endless!
  • Handmade Soap is eco-friendly, particularly when you use SLS free versions so nasty little chemicals are not going down our drains.
  • Handmade Soap supports local businesses if you take care to order from local suppliers and if you cannot order from local suppliers, at the very least you are likely supporting a small business!

So I am not sure how the classes I teach will go, but I am confident we will have fun, get messy, and make some kick arse soap!

Soaps I love:


Mike's Hemp Bracelets said...

I agree with you about M&P soap makers! Good luck with your class!!!

I'm Julia said...

A teacher washed my mouth out with soap in the 4th grade. Worst part of it? I wasn't the guilty party. Hadn't thought of that in quite awhile.

I'm enjoying the delightful Strawberry Goats Milk Soap from your shop.

Have fun teaching the class :-)

Gabrielle said...

Hope your class went great! I just read your post. Thank you for add the photo of my Citrus Bergamot Soap!!


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