Saturday, September 25, 2010

Organic and Sustainable Ingredients

Shiner Bock Soap
Originally uploaded by Surrender Dorothy
When you first start making soap, you're not really "in the know" on your ingredients. You start with vegetable oils from the grocery, and perhaps castor oil and shea butter from the health food store or pharmacy. Lye from the hardware store. And your soap is awesome. But it's an addictive hobby, and you find yourself cruising the internet, cruising to score a sweet bucket of babassu oil for less than $10.00 a pound. And like any other addiction, you eventually have to start dealing just to support your habit. This is the point at which most soapers start to examine the moral and ecological effect of their business. The quality of your ingredients also starts to be a much larger concern. A plain olive and coconut oil soap beats the heck out of anything on the shelf at a big box store, for personal use. But when you're competing against Stan's Super Sustainable Organic Soaps, does your soap measure up? And are you killing off the last orangutan with your palm oil?
I'm a vegetarian, recently having reintroduced eggs to my diet - my chickens you see, they keep making them. Delicious. Way better than factory eggs. The eggs hold the answer to part of the quality question. Of course fresh eggs from my free range chickens are better. I prefer not to use animal fats in my soap, but local, organic lard is inexpensive and plentiful in my community. A way better alternative than palm oil. Palm oil may be sourced from a member of the RSPO, but even members may not have a great score on the RSPO scale. Do I want an organic soybean oil that has to be shipped here from Canada, or a local tallow?
After really analyzing these questions, keeping in mind that my ingredients are for very temporary application to the skin, and not for consumption, these are my conclusions. Local first. Buy local, and sell local. Use fresh ingredients - no 50# pails of oils that I can't use in a couple of months. Organic and environmentally friendly next. The biggest impact that I can have on the environment is to encourage my customers to use my products as quickly and as infrequently as possible. Don't waste water. Don't use soap with every shower (really, it's not as necessary as we think). And when shipping, I use only recycled shipping materials. Offices and warehouses will save them for you, and hand them over for free, if you ask. And now my soaps, let me show you them.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

To You New Soapers:

Halloween Swirl
Originally uploaded by Surrender Dorothy
As I decided to move my little hobby into business mode, I thought it might be a good idea to find out more in the big world of soaping. I joined a couple of Yahoo Groups, and a group on Ravelry. Thinking I might learn something. What I did learn, is that I'd much rather hang out with knitters. They're very nice people, the crocheters as well. Anything you want to learn, they'll teach you. Nicely too, not like you're an ignorant peon who should have already known.
Not so much with the soapers. I've met a few IRL and online who are super nice, but that's the minority. I've actually been told that hot process soap is unpleasant, that the oils are ruined, that the texture is gross. That whatever method I wanted to try EXCEPT cold process was wrong. If I was a newby, I probably would just go along. If I didn't have a degree in Physics and a bit of experience as a chemist, I might believe their naysaying. Naysayers.
So here's my two cents for the newbies. Lye + oil = soap and glycerin. When you mix them, that's what happens. It happens at nearly any temperature. You can speed it up by adding heat. Just like baking a cake, you need to have good measurements or it won't be perfect. If it's not perfect, you can nearly always still save it. Just like cake. You need to be careful with lye, it can burn you. But also remember, that lye you buy at the hardware store is normally used by guys who can't seem to get their pants pulled up over their butt crack to clean drains. You should be careful, but you don't need to be fearful. Dry hands are as good a protection as gloves. Seriously. Wear goggles. If you get a speck in your eye, flush with tons of water. Tons. You'd have to pour some into your eye to cause serious damage, but even a speck will hurt like the devil.
And I don't know it all. Nobody knows it all, but everybody hates a knowitall.
If you've got a question, and I have the answer, I will happily share, without any attitude. Because I'm really a knitter, not a soaper.
And now, my soaps let me show you them:

14 oz. olive oil
10 oz coconut oil
6 oz soy oil
3 oz palm oil
1 oz each cocoa butter, shea butter, and castor oil
5.1 oz lye (actually 5.07, but if you carefully measure until your scale just hits 5.1, that's actually 5.05, and that's as close as you can get with an inexpensive scale.)
13.7 oz distilled water

3/4 tsp. activated charcoal in 2 tsp. canola oil
3/4 tsp orange oxide in 2 tsp canola oil
1.5 tsp spicy fragrance - pumpkin pie, or use 1/4 tsp clove oil and 1/4 tsp cinnamon oil

Preheat oven to 150 to 175 degrees farenheit. Carefully add your lye to water, and mix well. It heats. Set that aside (your sink is a good place). Melt your solid oils, low heat, stainless pot. When they are mostly melted, remove from heat and stir until they're totally melted. I do this in a crock pot. Add the liquid oils. Get your big plastic spoon and stick blender ready. Slowly pour in the lye water while stirring. Stir a bit. Blend on low a bit. Stir a bit. Blend. You'll do this until it looks creamy and is well mixed, but still liquid, not pudding. Have your colors ready, I use cheap plastic tumblers from the discount store. Add your fragrance, blend until it's incorporated. Add one cup of scented raw soap to each cup. Blend your white some more until it's runny pudding. Blend the orange until the color is all mixed in. Then mix the Black until it's smooth. Pour your uncolored soap into a wooden mold, parchment lined pyrex baking dish, or silicone baking pan. Pour the orange in lines over that. Repeat with black. Use a chop stick or knife to make swirls in the soap. Put your soap in the oven, one hour. Turn off the oven, but do not open or remove the soap. Leave it off for an hour. Then turn it back on to 175 for an hour. Then turn it off, and leave it overnight. In the morning, you have soap, cut into bars. It improves with a bit of age, but it is fine to use immediately.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Etsy Shop

090510 011
Originally uploaded by Surrender Dorothy
I have opened a shop on Etsy,, and I'm happy to say it's totally open. Buy something.
I originally wanted to sell my AWESOME handmade candies. Toffee, divinity, fudge, you name it, I have the mad chemistry skilz. But the State of New Mexico only wants to crush my dreams. No online sales of home prepared edibles. NONE. I can sell them out of the back of my truck on the side of the road, but not on the intertubes. State of New Mexico, you suck. But I was not to be thwarted. I have been honing my chemistry skilz on other things. Soap. Those who have tried it are hooked, and that makes me happy. I am determined to dominate the homemade hot process soap industry. Now, my soaps, let me show you them.