I decided to make soap. From scratch. And it sounded like a really good idea. A fun, simple activity that shouldn’t be too hard to screw up. I watched a video on making soap that seemed easy enough. After watching it a few more times, I was confident. If they could do it, I could do it. Simple as that, right?
The first thing I had to do was order the lye from a soap making company. It came in really intimidating containers with hazard warnings all over it. I knew it was caustic which meant it would burn if I got it on my skin. Not intimidating in the slightest *cough*. Insert cheesy Christmas apron and bright blue rubber gloves. I was certain I could handle this without a trip to the ER.
So once I got all the rest of my various oils, fragrances, and other necessities like molds, spoons, pot, etc., I was ready to go. I timed my soap making adventure to take place during the kids’ naps so no harm would befall them, and once they were snoozing away, I set up all the supplies outside so I wouldn’t breathe the fumes.
I was ready to go.
All my ingredients were carefully weighed (not measured) and all that was left to do was snap on my rubber gloves and face the dreaded container of lye. After a mini pep talk and a few heart palpitations, I opened the lid and poured it into the bowl. Add the lye to the water only, not the other way around. I kept repeating this to myself as I went through the motions. Immediately, as expected, the pot steamed as the lye heated up the water in a cloud of funky smelling solution. And of course I think I got some on my rubber gloves.
Why is it that once you get in a position where you can’t touch anything, every surface on your body starts itching? I sort of wiggled and tried to psych myself out of the crazies as I stirred the mixture, thankful for my rubber gloves. I don’t know if it actually happened or if it was just a result of being over neurotic, but I was certain that a drop of lye got on my skin. In a moment of sheer panic, I poured white vinegar on it (as the video instructed) and hurried inside to rinse it all off. My husband, who was sort of poking around, seemed slightly worried for my health and sanity. Once I assured him that I was a highly trained professional and the incident required no medical attention, he seemed only more worried. He may have hovered after this point.
Back outside, I added the rest of the ingredients, coconut and olive oil, to name a few. This is a good point to mention that the video highly recommended using an immersion blender. Well I didn’t have an immersion blender and thinking that I would just do it the “old fashioned way”, figured it wouldn’t really matter. If our ancestors could do it without an immersion blender, so could I. Stirring with a wooden spoon would just take longer. That’s OK, I thought, I’ve got plenty of time.
Fast forward an hour and a half. I’m still standing there with my stupid snowman apron, stupid blue gloves and stupid wooden spoon…waiting for the famous “tracing” to occur–the point when the mixture has thickened properly. It was here that I learned that talking to a pot of soap and begging it to trace will not actually make it happen. Eventually my soap sort of traced (shhh, don’t tell) and I decided to call it good enough. I dumped in pumpkin pie spice, yummy fall fragrances and some oats for exfoliation, stirred it together, and poured the mixture into my well-greased mold to set. After that, I cut it and left it to cure for several weeks.
Of course since tracing didn’t actually occur, my mixture was still quite warm and down the road, when we used the first bar, I realized the oats had sort of cooked. Lovely. Just the effect I was going for. So now, I have a lifetimes supply of apple and oatmeal scented soap that is rather homely. But honestly, it works quite well. So if you know me, don’t be surprised when you get a bar at Christmas. And when you discover my mushy oat mistake, please just smile and pretend like you didn’t read this.