RECIPE: Homemade Kitchen Soap

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I love the Honest Company Dish Soap we use at home but it’s still a luxury. It’s concentrated and little goes a long way, but I like the squeaky clean finish so much that I end up using more liquid soap than I really should. This results in an empty bottle every week or so, which is way too much, especially at about $6 for 16 fl. oz.

I didn’t want to walk away from my Dish Soap – I love it way too much – so I needed to come up with a creative way to stretch the cost. I tried diluting the liquid soap by adding water but I ended up using double the amount. I thought about alternating it with a less expensive kind but I don’t like the heavy artificial scent and the filmy residue that many supermarket brands leave behind.

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I never entertained the idea of making homemade kitchen soaps but after doing some research online, I found that it’s a pretty common thing. I found lots of great ideas for which oils to use, particularly from this cute Japanese soap-making blog. Necessity is the mother of all invention, that’s for sure!

I created a recipe that used mostly Palm Oil (to create firm bars) and Coconut Oil (to provide a nice lather), and threw in some Olive and Castor Oils as a good measure, to provide a little bit of moisture for the hands.

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Homemade Kitchen Soap
1200 gram batch — makes about 14 bars, at 4 oz each.

kitchen soap ingredients

I’m only sharing the recipe / ingredients and not the instruction. Please refer to soap making books or online resources for a proper and safe soap-making process.

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I’ve been using these soaps for a week and I love it! Here are some thoughts:

  • The bar holds its shape well, thanks to Palm Oil.  I put the soap in a little bowl and the water doesn’t drain completely after each use but it’s still nice and firm. 
  • The lather is perfect!  I’m not into big bubbles so the finer suds this soap produce are just right. 
  • The scent is refreshing without being too artificial. I’m happy with the Cucumber Melon Fragrance Oil from Bramble Berry, especially because I got it as a free sample! 
  • I feel like the dishes don’t get as squeaky as Honest Company’s, but you still get the nice clean feel. You can definitely hear the squeak when you rub the dish after a nice wash.
  • The suds wash off the sponge faster than the liquid kind so you might need to reapply more frequently. 
  • I was pleasantly surprised to see that the soap doesn’t leave a streak on glass and stainless steel pots! 

I’m so satisfied with the homemade version, I may not need to go back to the Dish Soap for a while! 

Enjoy! smile

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New Soap Batches in the Pipeline

I made a couple batches of soap during the holiday break. I gave a new recipe from my favorite soap book a try to see if it can rival the foamy and heavenly luscious lather of the Marseilles Soap that I’ve gotten to love so much after making and using several batches.

The new recipe is for a soap that’s gentle enough for babies (called “Hanna’s Birthday Soap” in the book), with generous amount of sweet almond and avocado oils for moisture. I was feeling a bit adventurous and decided to make a dark, rich green marble design using green tea powder, but I guess I didn’t mix well enough because the swirl didn’t even come out on the soap (it only shows on the top)! I was so bummed when I cut the soap and didn’t see a trace of the beautiful intertwine of rich green and pearly white-colored soap I was so hoping for. 😦

I also made a shampoo bar using rosemary water and honey to provide protection and shine for the hair. My favorite shampoo ever is one of those little bars from a store called Basin (very similar to a very popular Lush) and my hope here is to replicate its wonderful Egg Noggin’ shampoo bar. Because of rosemary, the soap came out very rich in color and slightly softer in texture. I am not sure why but the soap didn’t dry quickly enough (even though I left it out for two days before slicing) and made it pretty difficult for me to cut clean slices!

The third batch is Zesty Lemon Soap with olive, avocado, jojoba, palm, coconut, and olive oils, with a touch of shea butter, and a generous amount of lovely Lemon Verbena and Lemon essential and fragrance oils. I am really excited to use this one because it smells incredible!

Last but not least, I made my favorite, Signature Marseilles Soap with White Tea and Ginger fragrance oil. All the soaps are drying on the shoe rack in my bedroom (courtesy of mom — thanks, mom for the great idea!) until they’re ready for use in about four weeks. I cannot wait to test them out to see how I like them!

My goal is to open my own Esty shop selling these handmade soaps sometime this year so I’m utilizing every opportunity I have to practice, to create the best possible soaps in the marketplace! 🙂 Stay tuned!  I will be giving away free soaps in the near future!

How to Make Handmade Soaps: Tutorial

I’ve wanted to make handmade soaps for many months before I actually attempted my first batch. The problem wasn’t that I was too lazy to start, but rather, because the process seemed so complicated and tiring. I just wished someone had told me how simple the process is before I procrastinated for so long!

I truly think that soap making is simple. Not easy, but simple.  It can be potentially dangerous, yes, because you use a chemical called Sodium Hydroxide, also known as “lye,” which can get extremely hot and can burn your skin when mishandled, but if you pay careful attention just as you would when deep frying food, the entire process can be very safe and hassle free.

Inspirations:

There are lots of wonderful tutorials on the Web, as well as videos on Youtube if you search, “soap making,” to show how enjoyable the entire soap making process can be! The catalysts for my soap-making adventure were this Japanese blog by Ayumi (who is also the creator of one of my favorite craft blogs, Pink Penguin) and a Pasadena-based soap shop, Soap Kitchen.  I got inspires by so many of their adorable creations and thought I HAD to do this!  I hope this tutorial will help inspire you to become a soaper too someday … or at least get you to start thinking about it … (or just start buying the soaps I make if I ever open my own shop). 😆

Soap Making Basics:

Basic ingredients of soap are fat (oil) and lye, and you can decide on what kind of fats you need to use and how much, depending on what kind of soap you’re trying to make. For example, for a soap that’s gentle and truly wonderful for you skin, you can use olive oil. If you want a soap that lathers well, coconut oil will do the job. If you like a soap that can hold its shape well, palm oil is your answer. Just like cooking, you can be as creative as you wish when deciding your special “recipe.” I am still learning how to make my own personalized formula (it takes a little planning and a dash of mathematical calculations) so for now, I simply follow several recipes that I find in my favorite soapmaking books.

Where to Buy:

You can purchase anything and everything soap-related (fats and oils, essential and fragrance oils, molds, lye, etc) at Bramble Berry.  I also highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs (for high quality essential oils and additives), Cibaria Soap Supply (for oils and fat at reasonable prices), and Soap Making Resources (for acrylic and other molds).  Basic tools you need to get started are:  fats/oils of your choice (based on your recipe), lye, two glass bowls, two candy thermometers,  spoon for mixing, electric scale, pot for double boiling, mold, parchment paper for mold lining, knife to slice the soap, and a whisk (I hope I didn’t miss anything!).  By the way, the process shown here is called, “Cold Process.”

Instruction:

So, let’s get started! 🙂

① First, measure the oil(s) based on your recipe. This particular soap I made called for olive, palm, and coconut oils, so I weighed them separately.

② Melt the oils together in a double boiler. As you can see, some oils are liquid (olive oil) and some are solid (coconut oil). Once the oils melt, bring the temperature down, per your instruction.

③ While the oil mixture is adjusting its temperature, measure the lye according to your instruction. Make sure to wear a pair of gloves when handling these little flakes, as it can irritate, at best, and burn, at worst, your skin upon contact.  Make sure to keep anything that contains lye out of reach of children and/or pets!

④ Add distilled water to the measured lye. A strange-smelling gas will fume the second you add the water. Make sure that nearby windows are open for proper ventilation (I do the mixing outside). Stir until all the flakes dissolve, and bring the temperature down to the recipe’s instruction. Drizzle the lye mixture into the oil mixture slowly, and mix with a whisk. The idea here is to combine the oil and lye mixtures when they are at the same temperature.  Mix for 30 minutes, or per your instruction.

⑤ After mixing for about 30 minutes, let the mixture rest for 12-24 hours, depending on your instruction. The mixture is pretty runny at this point but it will become creamy like custard with time as it starts to develop a “trace.”

⑥ When the mixture becomes firm enough that the whisk can “pick up” the custard-like mixture, pour it into a parchment paper-lined mold. Mix essential oils and other additives well, if any, right before pouring.  I use wooden molds but you can use anything (some people put two milk cartons together to make a mold and others use Pringle’s tubes). Put the mold in a warm place, like in a box, and put a blanket over it. Keep it stored in the box for about 1-2 days, or per your instruction. After 1-2 days, remove the block from the mold (the block is still relatively soft). Make sure to wear a pair of gloves when handing the soap block, as it can still irritate your skin on contact. Let the block rest for about a day in a dry place, until it’s ready to cut.

⑦ When ready, cut the block into smaller pieces and let them dry and cure for 4-6 weeks, depending on your recipe. I know it takes all the discipline not to use these cute little soaps but be patient. Until the lye completely cures, they can be very harmful. When the soaps completely cure, you’re ready to indulge in your handmade soap! Note that the longer you dry, the harder the soaps become (and they will last longer).

Here are the pictures of my latest two batches — Marseilles soaps with Sugar Plum fragrance oil (left), and with Yuzu fragrance oil (right) for the holidays!

Resources:

Here are some online resources with lots of great information and inspiration!
Bramble Berry
Mountain Rose Herbs
Cibaria Soap Supply
Soap Making Resources
Smelly Chick’s Online Soapmaking Resources
Teach Soap
Birch Bark Handmade Soap

These are the soap shops that I adore!
Soap Kitchen
Dress Green
Countryrose Soap Company

Great Japanese sites:
Ayumi’s Soap (the reason why I’m making handmade soaps today!)
Kyoko Maeda (everything I know so far about soap making came from her books)

Happy soaping!  🙂

Perfect Imperfection: Rosemary-Lavender and Zesty Lemon Soaps

soapsWhen I first started making soaps, I strove for perfection.  I wanted soap blocks to be in a perfect rectangle shape, and sliced with perfectly angled corners and edges.  I wanted the color to be consistent, with no weird discoloration whatsoever.  Anything less than that went down as a big fat failure in my little obsessive mind.

After making several disappointing batches, however, I realized that it was virtually impossible to achieve the kind of results I was looking for (especially since I’m still very new at this).  And my attitude was taking away the fun and the true reward of making anything handmade.  I learned that it is those little imperfections that add lovely character and charm to those soaps that are irresistible to make and use.

Two batches of soap I made a few months ago finally cured and I started using them recently.  Instead of slicing them right away, I kept them uncut in a log so it took a little longer for the inside to dry.  When I touch the middle, it still feels a bit soft and bouncy, but I used them both in the shower the other day and they lathered just fine!

soap book 2The soaps you see on left are Lavender and Rosemary Shampoo Soaps from the Japanese book, Soaps for the Four Seasons, by Kyoko Maeda.  (I use them to wash my hair and body.) I boiled several twigs of rosemary that I picked  from my herbal garden and used that in place of water.  I added several drops of lavender essential oils to give it a calming feel.  I used the same recipe as the Signature Marseilles Soap I made the other day (my absolute favorite recipe using olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil), with extra rosemary essence.

The soaps on the right are called Zesty Lemon Soaps (also from the book), using olive oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, palm oil, coconut oil, and lemon, bergamot and other citrus essential oils.  Talk about making your shower smell heavenly!

I think I’m going to be spending a couple of hours this weekend to prepare some holiday soaps for friends and family. I can’t wait!