You’ll remember a few weeks ago I ran out of soap, so used ‘melt and pour’ goats milk soap. The results were fine and I’ve been happily scrubbing with the coffee grounds, but I didn’t really know what was in the soap and was keen to learn to do it properly.
Luckily I know Sharon, owner and maker of ‘Soap Daze‘ based in Devon. She’s been making natural soaps for about six years and having bought (and recommended!) some of her soaps in the past, when she announced she was running courses to learn how to make soap, I knew I wanted to try.
My friend Jo (@handmadebyjo seriously, read the rest of this, then go and check out her beautiful crafts. I mean it!) and I booked. We arrived at Sharon’s ‘she-shed’, her converted garage in her garden and got to work (over multiple cups of tea and yummy home-made biscuits).
Sharon took us through the history and basics of cold process soap making, how the oils bond with the lye and transform during a process called saponification to make soap. It was really interesting to learn that different oils have a different saponification figure, relating to the quantity of lye you need to add. The only downside was that we needed to do some working out, which first thing on a Saturday wasn’t my strong point!
Sharon has a huge variety of ingredients, with base oils including cocoa butter, coconut oil and hemp oil to name a few. I chose avocado oil, olive oil, help oil and sweet almond which I’m hoping will produce a very rich, moisturising soap. Added to that, some rhassoul mud and bladderwrack seaweed, mostly because I like the names (seriously, don’t they sound like the villain in a DC comic?) and mandarin and sandalwood essential oils. It was lots of fun sniffing all the different essential oils and choosing our ‘top notes’, and ‘base notes’. Jo chose cocoa butter, olive oil and avocado oil, with grapefruit and black pepper essential oils.
The first part was to heat the base oils, then preparing the lye (something I’d been a little worried about but Sharon gave us clear instructions and wrapped up in gloves, an apron and protective glasses we mixed the lye with water before monitoring its temperature.
Once both the base oils and the lye were at the same temperature we mixed them together using a hand blender until we were able to achieve ‘trace’, when the mixture has formed a custard-like consistency. It was really interesting watching the changing colour of the mixture. In went the essential oils and it smelled soooooo good! (I think mandarin and sandalwood may be my new favourite combination!)
Finally it was time to pour the soaps into the block. A little tricky as I’m a bit cack-handed at the best of times but managed it. I poured half the mixture in, then blended the rhassoul mud and bladderwrack seaweed with the remainder before adding that, hopefully in a way that it will create an interesting pattern once the soap is cut. Sharon then wrapped up our soaps, explaining that they need to sit for at least three days before being cut and cured.
So now we have to wait for three weeks! I’ll let you know how our soaps turn out.
Have you made cold process soap? Do you have any recipe ideas? Or have you tried the melt and pour? Let me know in the comments below.
Disclaimer: Sharon is a friend. However, I paid for the soap making course (bought during a promotional phase run by Sharon) and all thoughts, photos and opinions are my own.