First Success (sort of)

Let’s recap.  First attempt at cold process soapmaking: forgot some of the castor oil.  Second attempt at cold process soapmaking: didn’t blend to trace.  Third attempt at cold process soapmaking: here we go!

The previous day, Chris made me a wooden loaf soap mold and we had our first disaster.  We had to throw out our entire batch.  A day later: our mold is dry, our ingredients are weighed, goggles are on, and it’s time to TRY AGAIN!  (At this point, I was really, really, getting tired of trying again.)

We watched several YouTube videos about how to successfully line a wooden mold with freezer paper, so that part was covered.  Now I just had to compose myself and not jump the gun when it came to pouring the batter before it reached trace.  Deep breaths, Holly, deep breaths.  All in all, the batch turned out to be my best so far (it’s still curing, so I haven’t gotten to use it in the shower yet).  I carefully monitored the mold to make sure oils were not seeping out and occasionally peeked under the lid to look at the batch (which is exactly what I told my husband not to do.  Do as I say, not as I do, right?).  Twenty-four hours later, I took the loaf out of the mold and crossed my fingers that a pool of oil wouldn’t come flowing out when I cut it (Google it!).  I was preparing for the worst.  Thankfully, no oil came spewing in my general direction!  The day-old loaf was the consistency of hard cheese (woohoo!) and I cut it into approximately one inch pieces.  It is now curing on a rack in the spare bedroom.  The final test will be using it in the shower.  Until then, I’ll say I made my first decent batch!



First FAIL

Wow.  Three posts in one day.  I must have a lot to tell the world.

After seeing that plastic soap  molds weren’t the best to use, my husband offered to make a wooden loaf mold and round PVC pipe mold for my soap bars.  After being that couple at The Home Depot (you know, the couple that stands in front of the 2x4s arguing about the dimensions of the molds), we set out to get this soap business started.  But first, I still had to successfully make a batch a soap without messing up.  Good grief…

Chris made me a beautiful loaf mold out of Poplar.  It was great– it had two sides that could be removed as well as several holes so that I could make different batch sizes.  Anxious to put the mold to use, we haphazardly lined it with freezer paper (problem 1) and got to the soap making.  I paid close attention to the amount of oils used (8 oz of castor oil!!) and anxiously waited for the oils and the lye water to reach the necessary temperatures.   Still a bit nervous from my first go-around with solo soapmaking, I quickly added the lye water into the melted oils and began using the stick blender to reach trace.  I was too anxious.  Remembering that my first batch seized, I moved too quickly with this batch (problem 2).  I poured the batter into the new wooden mold before checking to see that it had reached trace.  I actually thought the batter looked a bit strange in the mold (it looked like the oils and lye water were separating a bit), but I convinced myself that I was over-thinking things and that it would turn out fine.  I put the lid on the mold and went on to cleaning up the kitchen.

About half an hour later, I checked on the mold and saw that oils were completely leaking out!  Luckily, we had placed the mold on freezer paper, saving our dear kitchen table from a huge mess.  I removed the lid from the mold to find that the oils were definitely separated form the lye water.  BUMMER!  Since we were unable to retain all of the rogue oils (some had soaked into the mold), we had to throw the whole batch out.  I was so disappointed.  Luckily, we were able to save the newly-made mold.  It now looks worn in!

We let the wood dry overnight and decided to give it a go the next day.  Starting your own business is hard!


First Solo Attempt

First off, I did not get ample photos of my (mis)adventures for the first several batches.  Future posts will have more eye candy.

I knew my first attempt at making shampoo bars would be tricky, and I was right.  Mainly because I can be scatter-brained and my mind goes a thousand miles an hour sometimes.  While my mind was going at warp speed, I used 6 oz of castor oil instead of 8 oz.  D’oh!  Here’s the story….

I’ve used this 3lb shampoo bar recipe (ingredients at the end of this post) countless times with my friend in Idaho, so I was almost too confident when I was measuring out the ingredients.  Combine this with the nervousness of making cold process soap for the first time by yourself and you have a recipe for sub-par soap.  And, yes, it is possible to be too confident and extremely nervous at the same time.  I was too confident because I knew we’d made this awesome recipe tons of times.  I was extremely nervous because I realized that a lot goes into properly making soap and my friend was usually the brains of the operation.  I was missing the brains!

The overall first attempt went relatively well, even with the batter accelerating quickly due to the type of fragrance oil used.  Several hours after pouring the batter in to plastic molds that I got from Michael’s (more on these molds later), my mind kept telling me that I didn’t use enough castor oil.  I measured the remaining castor oil that I had on the shelf and, grrr, I had more than I should have.  Rebatch time! (and more lessons to be learned!)

After Googling how to rebatch, I put my half solid shampoo bars, 2 oz of castor oil, and about 2 oz of milk into a Crockpot and set it on high.  I don’t know if the milk was necessary, as the bars were still semi-soft.  I mixed the goo about every thirty minutes and decided everything was done after about 3 and a half hours of cooking.  My mixture looked just like the pictures I found on other peoples’ blogs, so I figured I was okay.  I plopped the gel-like goo back into my cheap, plastic molds again, tapped the molds on the counter to get rid of air bubbles, crossed my fingers, and finally went to bed.  It was about 11:30pm.

I woke up the next morning to solidified shampoo bars!  I was ecstatic beyond belief because, though the shampoo bars sort of looked like muscles (or vomit), I was pretty sure I had a usable product after my measuring mishap.  The only things I wish I would have done was 1.) use sodium lactate in my mixture, which helps to solidify the bars quicker, and 2.) use silicone molds.  Since I used milk in the rebatch, the bars are taking longer to harden.  Since I’m using plastic molds (never again!), I cannot get the bars out.  Basically, I have to let them fully cure and harden in the molds.  I check them each day and they seem to be slowly loosening from the plastic.  (and I’m slowly dying inside waiting for this to happen)

Since I technically turned the cold process shampoo into hot process shampoo during rebatch, I sped up the saponification process and the bars can be used as soon as they pop out of the molds.  Yesterday, I tested one of the free bars and it worked just fine (slow clap).  My absent-mindedness was overcome!  Overall, lessons were learned and I made a usable product.  It just sort of looks… weird.

IMG_2438   IMG_2439

Oh well.  I’m sure my friends and family will be happy to get a free bar or two.

And that’s my first attempt at solo soap making.  It can only go up from here (hint: it doesn’t.  Read my next post.).

3 lb cold process shampoo bar recipe:
10 oz coconut oil
10 oz palm oil
8 oz castor oil
8 oz olive oil
12 oz distilled water
5 oz sodium hydroxide (lye)
**disclaimer: please use the necessary safety precautions when making soap and working with lye.  There are many helpful tutorials on the web that discuss the precautions one should take while working with caustic chemicals.