Confessions of a Soap Foodie

We’ve talked about adding milk and herbs to soap, but what about vegetables and fruit?  Perhaps you add a few other foods, as well.

In my soapmaking adventures, I’ve added many.   Cucumber is a mainstay;  it’s cooling effect a real favorite for myself and others.  Others I’ve used include, in no particular order:  strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, zucchini (and who doesn’t need another way to use zucchini?), tomatoes, apples, egg yolks, and pumpkin.  As if that’s not enough, I’ve got pureed carrots in my freezer at this very moment,  just waiting their turn.

Why do I add them?  I add them for a few different reasons, such as the texture they add, the “good stuff” in the food, and even as a marketing tool.  If it adds a cleansing or cosmetic feature to my soap, it’s fair game.  Medical claims, of course, are off-limits.  The color they add is sometimes a plus, but not always.

Let’s take, for example, the cucumber soap I spoke of previously.  I prefer to scoop out the seeds, but leave the rest intact, and find that the specks of peel lend a lovely effect to the soap, as well as making it feel fresh and clean.  Soap is even more delightful with cukes.

Are you a fan of adding foods to your soap?  What do you add, and why?

Three Methods for Using Herbs in Soapmaking

Adding herbs to soap is nothing new, but always fun to experiment with!

They are added for the color they impart, as well as for the attributes they contribute to soap.  They can be added using several different methods, as well.

Among the herbs I’ve used in soapmaking, using one method or another, are the following.  In parentheses are the reasons I’ve used them.

  • Comfrey (skin)
  • Parsley (color)
  • Dill (color, exfoliant)
  • Marshmallow Root (mucilage, exfoliation)
  • Calendula (skin, color)
  • Chamomile (skin, exfoliant)
  • Sandalwood Powder (skin, color)
  • Cornsilk (skin, color)
  • Plantain (skin)
  • Chickweed (skin)
  • Turmeric (skin, color)
  • Paprika (just a touch for color!)
  • Lavender (skin)
  • Annatto Seed (color)
  • Green Tea (skin, color)
  • Rooibos Tea (skin, color)
  • Poppy Seeds (exfoliation)
  • Cornmeal (exfoliation)

The methods for using herbs in soap:

1.     Make a tea with the herb and use it as the water amount.

2.     Powder the herb and add it at trace

3.     Make an oil infusion with the herb.  Make it 4 – 6 weeks ahead by infusing the herb in the oil and then using it as one of your soaping oils, or add the herb as you heat the soapmaking oils and remove the herbs once infused.

You might be asking why soapmakers use different methods, rather than choosing one.  The answer is complicated, but in short, the method is chosen because it yields the best results–the best color, the strongest infusion, or is easier to use a certain way.

For instance, Marshmallow root is best extracted in water, so soaking the material in water overnight yields the best mucilage that will make the soap most gentle on the skin, rather “slippery,” if you will.  Of course, powdered root will add exfoliation, so if that’s your goal, simply add it at trace.

The possibilities for using herbs in soapmaking are virtually endless.  We’d love to hear what herbs you use and how you use them!

Got Milk. . . Soap?

Do you make milk soaps?  If so, what kind and what do they add to your soaps that you like?  Both animal and vegetable milks count, for the sake of this discussion.

I love my milk soaps, although my experience has been limited to goat’s milk or coconut milk.  I feel that they add to the creaminess of the lather and add a richer feel to the soap, making it more moisturizing.

Goat’s milk has some exfoliant value, as well as vitamins A and D.  Coconut milk is rich in minerals and Vitamin C, Niacin, Folate and phytosterols.  Both are chock full of skin-loving fatty acids.  Good stuff!

I haven’t researched cow’s milk or used it in soap, but I’m beginning to think I should.  Of course, it also contains minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids, so why not?  The only factors that have held me back are the fact that cow’s milk is so common and that organic cow’s milk is so expensive.

Along those lines, I know of others who have used sour cream, yogurt, and butter, among animal choices.  I have even seen milk made from human breast milk!  Vegetable sources include almond milk, soy milk, and rice, most commonly.  I have heard high praise for the animal products mentioned, but not much regarding the vegetable milks.  If you have tried them, please share your experience!  We’d love to know.

One very good book on this topic is, “Milk Soapmaking,” by Anne L. Watson.  A review of it is in a past issue of the magazine in case you’d like to know more.

I hope this short discussion has motivated you to get out your soap pot and create!

Are you like Ben Franklin’s Father?

Back in the early days of colonial USA, living in cities and towns would be a tradesperson who made soap and candles.

As a matter of fact, Ben Franklin’s father, Josiah, was a soap and candle maker and seller, supporting his family with this business.  The family was not particularly well-to-do, but if Josiah Franklin could support 17 children, it couldn’t have been too poor a vocation!

It’s easy to see why Josiah and others like him manufactured both soap and candles, because they were both made from tallow.  The tallow they used was beef tallow, but many other animal fats are called tallows, also, such as deer and bison.  The most notable exception to that is lard, which is pig fat.  Why it’s not called pig tallow, I have no idea, but, I digress.  I have never seen or heard any of my candle-making friends speak of tallow candles, so that natural association no longer exists, but it makes me wonder how many of our readers do make both soap and candles.

Do you make both?  If so, why?  What is the common bond between the two products that makes one a natural lead-in to the other?

We’re looking forward to reading your answers!

CP, HP, LS, M&P. . . What’s Your Pleasure?

I was thinking about all of the various soapmaking techniques that we employ, and began wondering which ones our readers like to use.

You’ve all been so helpful in adding your opinions thus far, that I thought you might enjoy this new topic.
My favorite bar soap technique is CPOP because I get the smooth look of CP, but a quicker cure.  Then again, I took up LS a few years ago, and have been quite fascinated with that, as well.  But, enough about me; what about you?  Which have you tried, and what do you prefer, and why?
Below, I’ve listed every technique I can think of and defined it briefly for the uninitiated.  Tell us what you like best, or what you would like to try.  If I missed your favorite, go ahead and mention it, just be sure to define it for us.

  • Melt & pour:  Purchased base that is melted, then colored and scented and re-molded

  • Cold Process:  Combine sodium hydroxide and water and add it to melted oils.  Both are cool to at least lukewarm at time of mixing.

  • CPOP:  Cold process, oven process or ITMHP–make like cold process, but put soap, mold and all, into an oven to speed cure.

  • HP (Hot Process):  Usually done in crockpot. Mix lye water into oils as for CP, but heat the soap through the gel stage and then mold.

  • LS (Liquid Soap):  Made with KOH.  Make paste, sequester, then dilute.  I’ve included the variations in this category.

  • Cream Soap:  Mix of KOH and NaOH, resulting in a cream consistency.

  • Transparent Soap:  Clear soap made with NaOH, but using alcohol, glycerin, and sugar to make it transparent

  • Whipped Soap:  Cold oils are whipped with lye and formed using cake decorating equipment, etc.

    Now, it’s your turn!

    Rain & Snow, & Soap To Go

    I was looking outside at the snow the other day–yes, we still have snow, and I wondered if anyone had ever made soap using it.

    I thought snow soap sounded like an intriguing idea, and even a great marketing concept, but then wondered about how one would filter the snow and “clean” it.  Would it have to be distilled?

    My next thought was rain.  Catch rain in a clean receptacle and make soap.  The challenges would remain the same as for snow, but what a marketing angle!  Imagine snow soap from Alaska or a rain soap from Washington.  I think the public would take a second look at a product of that nature.

    That brings me to my question.  Have you ever made soap from snow or rain?  How did you clean it? Did  you distill it?  What other unusual or downright zany soapmaking ideas have you used?  You can even tell us about the ones you’ve thought of, but didn’t try!

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