Thursday, June 7, 2012

Understanding Soap and the Soap Maker

Hi to everyone who subscribed, or is new to my blog. I had to take time out to reflect on how I wanted to keep everyone updated and share some upcoming things. I haven't posted on my blog for a few months and I have to say I am sorry. Life is not easy as we hoped it would be. With so many twists and turns and ups and downs, a person can get lost in just getting through life. I don't want to be that person who gets lost in life.

With this said, I wanted to take a few minutes to educate those who do not know the ways of soap making. By doing so you can understand this is not a fast nor easy process to achieve. If you better understand how the whole process goes then you will understand the time it takes and what is involved in getting from point A to point B.

Saponification happens when lye and water meets the oils. As the two become mixed and blended a new process takes place. Your oil and water now become soap. It takes 24 hours for the process to be complete. Your soap will have harden and is ready to be removed from the mold and cut into bars.

Cold process soap making is the most creative way to make soap. The batch is liquid and can be divided up to make various colors and you can achieve just about any creative idea you want. This is the method I prefer. Cold process soap once poured into a mold, it sets up for 24 hours, then it is taken out of the mold, and cut into bars. Generally soap must cure out for 4-6 weeks. The longer it cures the harder the bar. Soap can be sold early in as short as one week, but you must know the curing will then depend on the buyer to let their soap harden off. There is no fast way around this. Curing is important so that all the water that was used to make the soap has time to evaporate out.

As soap makers know anything can go wrong in the soap making process. Most generally it will be the fragrance oil. And we don’t know until we use a particular fragrance if there will be a problem. You can get two problems if the fragrance oil is not compatible with your oil blend. This is called Ricing or Seizing. Ricing happens when your soap all of a sudden becomes like runny mashed potatoes. It will separate and look mushy. Seizing is when your batch of soap will harden within seconds of pouring the fragrance oil. Now with this said not all is lost. At least we have a way to save our oils and continue to make soap. This is not my preferred method but one that would have to be done so save the soap.  

Hot Processed is a method that many soap makers like. The nice thing about hot process is that while the soap cooks in the pot it is also evaporating out much of the water and the cure time is cut down to 2 weeks. The soap itself can be used immediately since the cure time is eliminated, but the soap will be soft some what and may not last as long. A general 2 week cure is all that is need to harden up the bar of soap, longer cure if you want which will make it last longer too.

The only problem I see with hot processed is that you have hardly any creative methods this way. I have about 4 crock pots and have divided up the soap to make various colors in each. The soap comes out like mashed potatoes and you literally have to glop it into the mold. Spoonful after spoonful is a glop here and there. So you can make some colored choices in this method, but the soap comes out more rustic looking than smooth and creamy as with the cold process method. When I make my hot processed soap I add in coconut milk. I love this in soap, it makes it creamy and when it goes on your skin it is creamy. Anytime I offer a hot processed soap please know that my fragrance oil was hard to work with. Either method that is used still has it’s own great qualities to the soap bar. But each will definitely look different. And I should mention that either way it is a matter of esthetics. Either one is and has it’s own qualities to it, I don’t think one is better over the other.

When buying fragrance oil as a soap maker it is really hard to judge what someone would like. We can only go by the description and yes I have made choices that I was not pleased with. Also I should add that due to the nature of oils, a soap maker cannot send back any fragrances they do not like. If the scent does not suit me then I am stuck with it. Not to say that others may not like it, most generally if I don’t like a fragrance I don’t soap it. I have successfully made little candle tarts and sold the fragrance that way. And there is some fragrances that sit in my cabinet that I have not figured out a use for as of yet.

It is a gamble on the part of the soap maker and we cross our fingers that we like the fragrance and also hoped to not have any trouble from the fragrance as well. I recently bought a fragrance called Honey Bee, it seized my soap quickly and within an hour I could take it out of the mold. It had this oriental smell to it and reminded me of the incense I smelled in Iraq. I had to throw the whole loaf away or lose my sanity if I had to keep smelling it. It was not for me I couldn’t take it.  I won’t soap it again. I cannot tell you how much money is spent on supplies for soap making. It might be easier to just go buy a bar of soap and be done. Let me explain:

I make soap because it is so much better for the skin. Soap makers use such wonderful oils, we have so many choices. And No the oils do not come cheap, I think for me the shipping is never fair either. We pay such high prices on shipping. I would love to be able to buy all my supplies locally, but that is not ever going to happen.

Each oil I use does have a quality all it’s own. So I use various oils for a face soap, or a organic soap, a baby soap and so forth. Each batch is thought about before making. What colors to use, will it just be an unscented bar or a fragranced bar? Also I should add that Essential Oils or Synergy Oils can be used too. Essential oils are natural oils made of plant matter such as Rose, Lavender, Rosemary, Sandalwood, Patchouli, and such to make a bar of soap with healing qualities. Essential Oils do not last as long as Fragrance Oils will, scent wise, but most people who prefer the Essential Oils will use up their soap quicker to retain the healing qualities. Not to say this is the standard for all Essential Oils.
Imbeds are a term we use when we make an extra molded item of soap to give our soaps a different look. Most popular is the glycerin soap called Melt & Pour. We melt down the soap in the microwave and color, scent and mold the soap for various looks. I make a Victoria Secrets dupe called Strawberries & Champagne, so I make little strawberry melt and pour imbeds to place on top of my soap loaf when molding. It just gives the soap another boost esthetically. The other method is using cold process soap to make the imbeds too. Which not all the time but sometimes it is tricky. Depending on your molds you use. This is one of the fun things to do for my soap, but again it takes time to get everything lined out and ready to do soaping. To me it is worth the effort.  

Also I need to bring up one thing when it comes to decorating soap.  I usually put cosmetic glitter on the tops of my soap just to add that extra sparkle.  Cosmetic glitter is made especially for the skin but in the case of using it for soap, I must tell you this will wash right off the soap when wet.  Now think about the bath tub and how this would be different, the glitter would be in the water on your first initial use and yes you may get it on the skin, but you can always do a quick rinse in the shower to make sure you get the glitter off.  Once it is washed off the bar it is gone.

Lets talk about the various ways to design soap. Most people can relate to a bar of soap. But there are other things we soap makers do to make soap fun. I can make a soap cake, and decorate it like a cake. I have been a cake decorator in the past so this is something I can bring into my table. They can come in various sizes from small, medium and large. So the normal way to sell a soap cake is in slices. How do you use this soap? Some people would display their soap slice. And this is fine but the soap makers heart breaks when a buyer doesn’t use the soap. Here is my insight on how to use a soap slice. You need to lay the soap cake slice down on it’s side. Then take a knife and carefully cut a slice off big enough for you to use in the shower. You should cut this horizontally not vertically. Put the other piece up for later use and enjoy your soap cake slice.

Cupcake soaps are my favorite to use. I had an elderly lady ask how to use them in the shower. She thought you had to use it as it was made. I had to let her in on the secret. With a cupcake soap you need to cut the cupcake straight in half vertically and not horizontally. If this is confuses you then as with a real cupcake if you were going to share it with someone you would cut it in half so both would be equal. The flat side of the cupcake soap or cut side is face up when you go to shower. It makes the perfect size for your hand and is extremely easy to use.
There are other ways to make soap too, with various molds. I like making a bundt cake and selling it whole. All you need to do is cut off the size you want and it is ready for use. When buying soap in larger quantities you really do save more money than one bar at a time. The general rule for soap making is to charge one dollar per ounce of soap so a 5 ounce bar is not uncommon to cost $5.00. If you find that the soap is less than that price just know the soap maker is giving you a real good deal. I also make mini soap loaves, and sell them at reasonable prices. They normally weigh over 1 to 1 1/2 pounds, and are priced very reasonable. So special orders are not uncommon and if you like a particular fragrance and want more than one bar of soap then I suggest inquiring about a soap loaf. These are not tiny in size due to calling them a mini loaf, they are a good reasonable size of soap. Again you must factor in the cure time too. So these can be made and sent out in as little as a week. Just harden off a bit to withstand the shipping.   Then you cut the soap in bars if you prefer, or I can do that, and you would let you soap bars cure out the 4-6 weeks.  As a buyer you get to be included in the soap making process so to speak
Never judge soap by it’s looks. There is certain ways to use soap as described above. So the main thing is to do something that is good for your skin, you won’t find hard detergents in handmade soap as you would in store bought soap. Your skin will be much healthier. I always tell the story about store bought soap and if you agree then this should tell you something. 

When you use store bought soap it becomes a vicious cycle on your skin. Manufacturers when they make soap they take out the natural glycerin and sell it as a by product. So you do not get the natural glycerin in store bought soap as you would in handmade soap all that goodness is retained. Store bought soap dries out your skin due to the detergents they add. So once you are done showering you then find your reaching for the lotion. Due to the dryness in your skin and the flaking of the dry skin. If this is happening then you need to take a long look at what your doing to your skin. There are so many ingredients in store bought soap you can never pronounce all those ingredients. In handmade soap you can read the ingredients and know exactly what the soap has in it. Chemistry plays a big part in making up our recipes, we can make a more creamy bar of soap or a more bubbly bar of soap without detergents. We do this by formulating our recipe to do exactly what we need it to do. So much research we do in order to bring the right soap to the buyer. I spend countless hours searching and researching and I never stop learning.  And if you need to know yes I do have to do test batches of soap, to make sure I am delievering exactly what I intend to give to the buyers. 

I would like to add that I started making soap back in the early 1990’s. I don’t give a certain year due to how long it’s been, and when I re-entered the work force. But I can tell you those were hard years or buying and building my soap library, and also learning the trade also lead me down the path of Aromatherapy. I studied for 13 years on the aromatherapy and natural healing. I used to work in the herbs at a greenhouse to learn the ways of growing herbs successfully and building a medicinal garden at home. 

Since I left the workforce I am starting back at my beginning roots to do the things I love to do and to try to make my families life a lot less toxic. I truly believe what you put on your skin is absorbed into your body and as a result you can see what your skin in telling you. Homemade soap may not be as cheap as buying a store bought soap, but you reap the rewards ten fold when you do something that is more natural for your skin.  Handmade soap does last quiet a long time.  If you keep it away from a water source when not in use, as with any soap.

We soap makers do make other items too.  Such as Salt Scrubs, Sugar Scrubs, Sugar Scrub Cubes to rub on problem areas, Whipped Butters, Whipped Soap Frostings, Massage Bars, Whipped Lotions, Scented Linen Sprays, Solid Perfumes, Roll on Perfumes, Body Oils, the list goes on and on.  Which for me I plan to break this down in another blog. 

If you have gotten this far then I thank you for your time in reading this.  I just felt most people don't understand the process soap makers go through to deliver that one single bar of soap.  If you understand then you will realize that it does take time especially for a custom order.  Not all things only the soap part/curing part/ etc...

My next blog will be upcoming very soon within a few days I plan to take inventory of all my scents and then list them on another blog so you too can see what I have and the descriptions of the scents.  Since I own so many bottles of fragrance oils right now,  I would like to at least use up what I have now, and get my inventory down somewhat, so that I may get to a more standardized scent list.  I have so many best sellers right now and I want to get down to just those particular scents then offer speciality scents along the way.  Which would be more cost effective and would benefit everyone. 

So please keep my blog in mind and come back often as soon as I get my list made and up for viewing I hope to offer you scents you might have never thought of.  Please leave comments if you would like.  Open communication is the best way for many of us to share our thoughts and wishes.  Thank so much and I look forward to hearing from you and to serve you in any way possible. 


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