Sunday, January 25, 2009
Soap Making - Part One
I was inspired by a Martha Stewart Living article on soap-making for Valentines Day. I have this habit of delving into a new project like I am unstoppable, and had grandiose ideas of making these perfect heart soaps first time out to give as gifts to friends and family members. Of course, I've never made soap in my life, but I thought - how hard could it be?! I even used the pre-formed soap bars rather than creating my own base mixture from glycerin, and while the process may no be rocket science exactly - it sure wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I'm going to need several attempts to get the hang of soap-making!
Step 1: Melting the base
This was the easy part! I bought the base in these little pre-formed bars and just melted them in the microwave in 30 second intervals. They melted very quickly which was great, but the problem came once they were melted and it was time to add in the color and scent - you have very limited time to add them before the soap sets up and the texture of your soap gets messed up. You can't put the soap back in the microwave once you've added the scent and color, because it will burn.
Step 2: Adding the color and scent
I used a red color, and for each of the three batches I made I used a different amount of dye. The package said to use color and scent sparingly, so on the first batch I ended up with a very light pink color and practically no scent. The second batch I added more color and scent, producing a deep pink and just a little smell. The third batch I just dumped the rest of the two bottles in and finally got a nice dark red color and a soap that actually had hints of rose and thyme.
Step 3: Cooling
This is where I believe I had most of my problems. It said let freeze for 10 minutes in the freezer to cool, but I was nervous that if it set up too much I wouldn't be able to cut it with a cookie cutter. I had a lot of problems with fingerprints on the soaps, and had trouble getting the soap out of the bowl, and I think it's because I should have let them cool all the way.
Step 4: Cutting
Per Martha, I used a cookie cutter to cut the heart shapes out. This was tough, the cookie cutter kept sticking, and each time I pulled it out there were little broken edges and slivers of soap all over the place. Certainly not as clean looking as Martha's. The solution I think would be to pour the soap solution into pre-formed molds. You know, those silicone baking molds you can get in a variety of fun shapes? That way you could just pry them out, and not worry about fingerprints, rough edges, etc.
My first batch were way too thin, and that made them even less forgiving of imperfect texture:
The second batch were a better thickness, but kind of bubbly and shiny. I cut them too early:
The third batch were by far the best:
Needless to say I'm not giving out soaps for Valentines Day this year, I need to hone the craft. Lots of fun possibilities though -- think of all the fun little plastic novelties you could put in soaps to make the fun for kids? My wheels are already whirring... Stay tuned for part two.