Promise

I promised myself that I would add one of these stories here every time I told one. I tell them at one point or another throughout the summer. There will be no chronology - not yet anyway - nor will there be much of a schedule. You never know; I might add a story every day and I might not. This is my life. Every day is an adventure.

Anna

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Soap

For forever, I've wanted to learn how to make my own soap. I mean, it goes along with the whole 'off the grid' thing. Ever since working at the lodges (I think) I found it nearly impossible to throw away those uses bars of soap. The lodge buys brand new soaps and I put them in the cabins. The guests might take like one shower before they go home, and there's that used bar of soap. I certainly can't leave it there for the next guy to use, so I would take them home. Over the years I managed to accumulate a lot of soap of all kinds.

Here recently, like the last four years, the owners of the lodges have bought Dove soaps, the full sized bars. Sigh, yeah, I brought them home. Throwing them away is such a waste of good soap.

This summer, I decided to buy a soap mold. Not one of your little pretty one, just something functional. I wasn't interested in anything fancy. I just wanted to consolidate all those bars of soap I'd accumulated, not that I knew what I'd do with them when I was done, but still...

I was looking at the stack of soaps I'd accumulated at the lodge one day, and I decided I'd ask and see if I could do the same for them. My boss's wife was thrilled with the idea, so I took a bunch of those soaps home. There's still more there on the shelf, but there was only so much room in the box I was using.

I used all the odd soaps I'd accumulated as my learning curve, and worked my way through six different batches as I experimented with how much water to add to how much soap, and then what size bars to cut. It was an interesting experiment.

My recipe for this was: 2lb grated soap to 1C water

I decided to wrap them in typing paper sliced in half - It's what I have here. Since I made no effort to match up colors, my end product ended up shaded from a pale green to a pale beige, and since the soap never totally dissolves, there are flecks of actual color in there. I'm certain, over time, as I continue to recycle them, the flecks will fade. Keep that last statement in mind as you read on.

So, now that I think I know what I'm doing, I move on to the box of Dove soap. Now these I wanted to look nice, and by coincidence, the mold kit I'd ordered came with a straight edged cutter and a waffle edged cutter. I figured I would use the waffle edged cutter for the lodge soap. Just a little fancier than your plane block of soap, you know.

My very first batch of Dove soap, and I knew everything was different. Then I remembered that Dove soap was different; it contained lotion, so I was forced to start my experimenting all over again. Two pounds of soap and one cup of water produced something like whipped cream only thicker. Everything before had been much thinner and I could pour it. This would never pour. Cautiously I added more water, but nothing much changed. Finally, at two cups of water, I didn't dare go any farther. I scooped it out and pressed it into my mold, hoping to get it into all corners. Hoping it would work.

It did, I thought. My mold looks like a five pound block of cheese, though maybe a little thinner. So once that set up, I started cutting. My idea of using the waffle edged cutter meant that I generated quite a bit of scrap, and yeah, I couldn't throw that away either.

I didn't have any trouble with the original soaps, and I didn't count how many batches I did, but eventually I came around to using the scrap pieces. Now here I ran into more and more trouble. The soap refused to hold together. It crumbled and cracked easily, and many times it would come apart as it was drying. This concerned me, so I went back to those first soaps, and discovered several of them (probably my first batch with too much water) had shrunk, warped and cracked. They were no longer pretty.

The first thing I tried to do to solve my problem was to go back to the straight edged cutter, but I got no better results. Out of every mold, I was doing good to get one or two usable bars of soap. The rest broke and crumbled as they were being cut. I even stopped adding water since I thought that might be the issue, but I got no better results.

Finally I decided to get back with my boss's wife and ask her if she minded my mixing some of those very first soaps in, explaining that the color would no longer be white. She wasn't the slightest bit concerned about color. This thrilled me. That meant that I could use all that soap I'd made at first. All I had to do was go through them and make them pretty enough to use at the lodge.

I used up all the Dove soap, mixing two pounds of Dove with one pound of other stuff. I increased the amount of soap, reasoning that they weren't as dry as originals - it seemed to work well that way. Ever since I switched back from the waffle edged cutter, I decided I'd bevel the edges of the bars in an effort to make them look more finished - prettier, so as soon as all the Dove was used up, I decided I'd re-recycle the rest of them, so they'd be uniform. Yeah, I'm weird like that. Almost immediately, I changed that. There wasn't anything wrong with them; they just needed to be prettied up.

Some of those original soaps, I knew I'd have to redo. One batch was cut all wrong and another was too soft. Unfortunately, since I'd marked my batches with a marker, the ink had bled through onto the soap. I couldn't have that, so I sorted them out for recycle.  I ended up with two full batches of those. The rest just needed to be cleaned up and beveled - there was probably about two full batches of those. My last batch was all the trimmings and shavings I'd accumulated. When all was said and done - the project for this season finished - I had an entire square bucket full of neatly wrapped soaps. Now I need to find something better to wrap them in as well as a suitable label.

It was a very interesting project, and I'm pleased with the results.

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1 comment:

William Kendall said...

I'd be out of my depth trying that.