It’s been a while since our last update, but we have not been idle. We have linked our Facebook, Google+ and Twitter accounts to this blog so that we can reach as many people as possible via their preferred space-age messaging technologies. We’ve also included our Instagram account on this blog so that you can see our creations as we build up a fine portfolio of successes and failures!
A new tool obtained along the way to aid with recipe preparation and scaling is the iPad/iPhone application from Bramble Berry. This application has helped me greatly with ensuring the correct amounts of liquid and lye are calculated for each soap batch and also in scaling recipes from test batch size to full production. I have found this to be a very useful time-saver and a good way of keeping track of your recipes and the related batches. A word of warning for users of this application though – make sure you have correctly selected the ‘Bar’ or ‘Liquid’ option for the recipe you are creating. I accidentally selected the ‘Liquid’ option and my resulting soap bars came out very differently to what was intended and were not fit for use.
Working with Goat’s Milk and Beeswax
Our first original recipe created since the last blog post is one for people with very sensitive skin. To that end we have made a fantastic (if I do say so myself) Goat’s Milk, Beeswax, Honey, Oatmeal and Shea Butter soap with no additional scents added.
This has gone out to our faithful testers and so far has been very warmly received as a kind, moisturising bar that also works as a gentle exfoliant. Working with goat’s milk and beeswax did prove a little tricky for a beginner though, so here are a few tips for anyone out there working with these ingredients for the first time –
- Freeze some of the goat’s milk in an ice cube tray and ensure that the rest is chilled in the fridge. This prevents the milk from burning when mixed with the sodium hydroxide. I found that if you freeze all of the milk, then the temperature of the lye solution is too low compared to the oils.
- Beeswax melts at a high temperature compared to other common oils such as coconut and palm. With this in mind, try to keep your oils in the 62 to 64 °C (144 to 147 °F) temperature range as otherwise the beeswax will harden again if added to them.
- Beeswax and honey accelerate trace. Ensure that you have all ingredients weighed and measured and all necessary equipment to hand before you start making the lye solution and heating the oils. I used a coconut, palm, olive and beeswax base and added the honey, oats and shea butter at trace. Once I did this, I did not have much time to work with the liquid soap before it starting thickening.
- As you are working at a high temperature, the soap can go brown as it cures with a recipe like this. To keep the creamy colour of the soap, I put it straight into the freezer for a few hours after pouring into the mould.
With the goat’s milk soap we also took our first stab at making simple packaging –
We thought that simple, recyclable brown paper wrapping with the band style label would be a good approach. The band is good for quick printing and cutting on a guillotine and also provides enough space for all the information you have to include to comply with EU law (I am jealous of the US approach to handmade soaps). However, wrapping each bar in brown paper by hand takes an age! I’m looking into quicker and cheaper options at the moment while still ensuring that only recyclable materials are used.
One further lesson we’ve learned so far …. once you start this hobby, you need lots of space for it. We started out with a few things in a tiny Ikea box and slowly started taking over cupboard shelving (for curing space), book shelves and drawers all around the house. Ever keen to avoid big costs, we had a scout around our local second-hand shops and found this little beauty which now houses our soaping materials, equipment and also has space for curing.
Soap making can cost a lot for just the raw materials so, if you are getting started in soap making and need a good unit for housing your equipment and creations, we’d recommend having a good look in clearance houses, second-hand shops (thrift stores for you ‘mericans!), reclamation centres and eBay (just watch out for the dodgy repair and paint jobs from some shabby-chic style sellers).
Next time we’ll cover mistakes with colouring and essential oil measurements. You stay classy, internet peoples.