Wednesday, December 26, 2012

If Dad can do it, I can do it: Artisan Soap with Printable Labels

When I was a little girl, my dad started collecting the leftover fat from cooking bacon in tin cans and keeping it in the refrigerator. When he had stored up at least a couple of years worth he took the whole lot, some olive oil, and some lye, and he made soap on the kitchen stove. I, who had only ever seen soap that came from the store, thought this was pretty fantastic. Of course, it smelled like bacon, and washing your hands with it made you smell like bacon. But, he made something from nothing.

As I cruised the internet in search of appropriate hand-made crafts for men this Christmas I found this article about how to make "manly soap." Now there's a mess I'd never made! Soap. Naturally, by week's end I had stocked up on three different oils, lye, and distilled water, and set my mind to making soap.

I read a number of different blogs with a number of different methods and recipes, but decided to start with something small and low risk. The basic recipe I found on Orthogonal Thought's blog called for:

6 oz distilled water
2.25 oz lye (sodium hydroxide)
10 oz olive oil
6 oz coconut oil
1 tbl/0.45oz castor oil
(Note: these are weight, not volume measurements)

Original Source: Everything Soapmaking Book by Alicia Grosso

So, I pulled out my food scale from a time when I used to weigh food (ugh), my thermometer from that time I tried to make beer (eek) and my protective eye wear for when I etch glass (yep), and cleared off the counters. The lye wasn't nearly as scary or dangerous as I expected. Yes, it got the water hot, but no, it didn't really seem all that hazardous. Not like melt your face off dangerous or anything. For the first batch I pulled out a big stainless steel pot to heat the oils in, but quickly realized that was complete overkill. So, for my second batch I just mixed it all up in a batter bowl and stuck it in the microwave for 2 minutes.

My poor hand blender really got a good work out getting the mixture to "trace" (the fancy soap-making word for thicken), but that may be at least in part due to the fact that I tried to mix in the (exfoliate and aromatic) coffee grounds too soon. As it turns out tracing takes about 10 minutes and they don't need to be in there at the very beginning, clogging up your blender.

Since I was aiming for low risk, I poured the soap-like concoction into empty milk cartons and wrapped them in the cat's favorite quilt for insulation while they had a "gel phase" (perhaps the whole process was worth it for the look on my cat's face when I stole her blanket to swaddle a milk carton). Two days later, voila, man soap. The whole process took about an hour (maybe less), but made for a rather impressive story.

In my second attempt I wanted something more gender neutral. So, I omitted the coffee grounds and instead included about 4 ml of cinnamon essential oil and a tablespoon of ground cinnamon. Mixed with the sweet scent of coconut oil it smelled just like eggnog.

This is what my second batch looked like when I unpeeled the milk carton from around the soap after 2 days to solidify.

This is what the man soap looked like sliced up and left on wire racks to cure for about 2 weeks. This is a double batch, by the way. The recipe makes about 5 bars of soap.  

And this is what it looked like after I printed labels on kraft paper and wrapped them around each bar. Someone even told me they looked Artisan.

Like the labels? Want the labels? Here is the pdf for printable "man soap" labels. And here is the pdf for printable "eggnog soap" labels. Merry Christmas

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