Liquid gold

Liquid soap, glycerin method

Liquid soap. It’s lush, convenient, versatile, can be coloured or not, can be fragranced or not, can be made several different ways, can be made for hands & body, for the hair, for everything.  It’s just that flexible.  But – and isn’t there always one of those when things are clicking along so nicely – it can be a beast to make.  Well, I guess that depends largely on the recipe used.  If the wrong oils are used, it can be drying, stripping, too thick, too thin, too greasy.  Too everything. The glycerin method is a hugely popular method of creating a rich, bubbly, high-emollient liquid soap and if you’ve yet to try your first batch, you’re certainly in for an eye-opening, horizon-broadening treat.

There’s nothing difficult about crafting a liquid soap with glycerin rather than water.  It’s a simple substitution step.  You’re replacing all of the water you’d normally use to dissolve the KOH (potassium hydroxide) with glycerin.  Clear, vegetable glycerin.  There’s no secret mumbo-jumbo to it.  Just that.  The tricky part might be in the heat used to dissolve the KOH in the glycerin.  Yes, you have to have the glycerin hot otherwise the KOH will just sit there.

Heat it carefully, nowhere near boiling though or you’ll scorch the glycerin, among other hazards.  Once the glycerin is warm enough, s-l-o-w-l-y add the KOH in teaspoonfuls to the heated glycerin.  As each spoonful hits the hot glycerin, it will fizz up,  If it gets too close to the top of the pot, simply pick up the pot from the heat source and the bubbling will go down instantly.  The other important thing is to stir.  Stir, stir, stir!  It will help dissolve the KOH in small portions, preventing it from clumping into one huge, hard lump in the bottom of the pot.  A 3 qt or so sized pot is fine for the lye portion of this recipe as it’s going to be added to the oils, NOT the other way around.

Never add oils to lye, always add lye to oils!

Once all of the KOH has been added, stir until it’s all dissolved completely.  This is now ready to add to your oils pot.  I’ve found that it’s a good idea to have two large stainless steel pots, 2 canning-sized pots, for this type of soap crafting.  The reasons will become clear (no pun intended) as we go through the process.  The oils, if any are solid and need to be melted, so use one of your large canning sized pots for the oils. Keep the other nearby as it will be needed soon. Melt the oils then allow them to cool a bit.  So now you’re ready to add the KOH/glycerin to your oils which are now liquid and melted but NOT HOT! Remove the pots from the heat source.  Okay, let’s move forward.

The KOH/glycerin can be added, stirring as you go with a long handled spoon for now all at once, but don’t just dump it because it’s very caustic right now.  It will burn your skin! Once all of the glycerin/KOH is incorporated into the oils, grab that stick blender and start blending.  Watch the phases the soap paste passes through as you blend as they occur very quickly! If your soap is too hot, it will not thicken, so let it set for a bit, then go back and try again.   This is not the time to burn out your stick blender (unless you have a backup blender) trying to get the paste to thicken when it’s too hot to get there.

The paste will quickly get to a salt-water-taffy-like stage and that’s your goal.  Now that it’s there, it’s time to put it back on the heat for just a bit.  Not too much because the more heat you put on it, the darker it will become and as you can see in the picture, it’s IS possible to have a nearly colourless liquid soap. It will turn a deep amber if it gets too much heat, and then there’s the issue of it not thickening up when you try to stick blend it as well.  So cook the soap until it tests out as fully saponified.  This batch pictured took about 40-45 minutes.  I used phenolphthalein to test a small bit of the paste on a paper towel. If it turns vivid pinkish purple, it’s not ready.  If it remains clear, it’s ready.

So now you have a fully saponified paste.  Congratulations! You’re almost there.  Didn’t hurt a bit, did it! So now it’s off the heat source again, and leave it off.  It won’t be going back.  Here’s where that second canning pot comes in handy.  The other large pot needs distilled water, heated and held, covered to prevent evaporation, until this paste is ready for it. You might want to start at a ratio of 1 part soap paste to 1 1/2 parts water.  More can be added later if you want it, but if you add too much at this phase, it’s impossible to take it out. Err on the side of caution and no regrets will follow.

 Now it’s reached that point so let’s use that water.  Spoon or cut the paste into small portions into that hot water.  You’ll find that if the paste is in small bits, it will dissolve in the hot water much quicker and evenly. Once all of it is in there, gently stir to distribute.  Bubbles might occur, and make it difficult to see what’s dissolved and what hasn’t.  If the bubbles interfere with your ability to observe progress, have a small sprayer bottle nearby with alcohol nearby (70% is fine) and spritz the top lightly with a fine mist of the alcohol. The bubbles burst instantly. Very cool.  Let this solution rest for at least 8 hours to dissolve. Check it after 8 hours and look for any remaining lumps.  The first pot can be washed as set aside in case you find lumps.  After this pictured batch set overnight, I still had a few lumps, so I used that first large pot with a strainer on the top,  poured the mostly dissolved soap through the strainer to remove the lumps and dissolved the lumps separately with a bit more distilled water that was heated and held (it kills any possible contaminants to heat and hold) in a quart sized Mason jar.  After they’ve dissolved completely it can be added to your large pot.

Now the last and very important step.  Allow the soap to cool to below 130°F if it isn’t already.  Once there, add your preferred preservative according to manufacturer’s directions.  Rosemary EO or Vitamin E WIll NOT act as preservatives for your liquid soap.  They will extend the shelf life of certain oils, but REO and Vitamin E are not preservatives! Do not depend on them to prevent nasties from growing on your lovely soap. And after spending two days on your soap, you don’t want it ruined by lack of appropriate preservative!  Some of you may be aiming towards a totally natural liquid soap, but without a sturdy preservative in place, it will become cloudy, contaminated, and moldy, which you don’t want to happen when your customer takes it home.

Now if you make this soap and leave the entire batch unscented, you can add your preferred fragrance to individual bottles with a bit of soap in the bottom, swirl it in, then add the remaining soap, rolling the bottle to blend.  It will thicken and cloud up initially, but leave it for several hours or overnight to wait for it to clear up.  If it remains too thick, add a bit more  of your distilled hot water to the top of the soap, leave it alone for a while and see if that gets it to the consistency you prefer.

Since starting my journey into soapcrafting, over 7 years ago, I’ve come to realize that while making a loaf of cold processed soap with all kinds of glorious additives to make your skin sigh with relief and pure joy, the creation of a light golden liquid soap that slides along your skin, lathers to a towering richness on a pouf in the shower is  a hugely rewarding experience to top everything else I’ve done thus far.  I absolutely love making liquid soap even if it is a long journey toward the grand reward.  I use it everywhere.  I carry it with me in my purse when we go out, take a bottle to work to use to wash my hands, removing the grime of the shipping boxes I have to contend with on a daily basis, the germy magazines that are displayed in public serials shelves, the sticky books that require repairs before returning to circulation.  Working in a library has its rewards, but it’s a dirty job, despite what many may think.  Making my own soap is definitely helping to nullify the effects of that job, and the best part is, I learned soap crafting in the very same library I work in now.


Learning, traveling, and time off

So I’ve been home for about a week and a half and finally getting a minute to finally write about the Tucson conference, flying on a plane for the first (second, third, then fourth) times, and what it was all like.  It’s been hectic since we got back home to say the least.

The Saloon (1280x722)
William enjoying Old Tucson and the buildings now used in films, tv & commercials.

A few days after returning my mom passed away.  It was quick, from all reports it was painless, and she’s no longer lost in the darkness that was Lewy Body Dementia, but smiling, healthy pain-free and spending time with her parents above.  Her memories are all back where she wanted them and she’s watching over us as we muddle on, but her words, favorites phrases resonate in our heads and even occasionally fall out of our mouths as we sound more and more like her every day we spend in our own lives.  If any of you reading this knows anything about Lewy Body Dementia, you know what it’s like to watch your parent or loved one slowly disappearing and there’s nothing you can do to stop it or bring them back. It’s irreversible, hereditary, and scary as hell.  My sisters & I watch each other closely know, wondering when, if, and how quickly.  We’re terrified, to say the least.  But we have families and they need us, so we live our lives and march on.  So that’s what I’m doing after spending some time reflecting, getting my house back in order, and then helping hubby when he fell ill.

Apparently the hubby has something like walking pneumonia.  It looked like it to me, but his antibiotics ran out right before we had to leave, so they didn’t get refilled and a redo of his chest x-ray wasn’t done in the time frame the doctor’s office wanted, so we came back with a sicker hubby, I’m frantic, and we rush over to doctor’s offices, drug stores and diagnostic imaging offices.  As we await the results, he began a new course of a stronger, different antibiotic prescribed by his regular physician, so our fingers are all firmly crossed this works and he finally gets better.  Just in time for him to fly off to Central and South America for two weeks.

I’ll be planning a baby shower for my daughter in the time just prior to his departure because the party is set for the day before he leaves, so I won’t be able to help him as he prepares for his trip, but he’s been doing this for a long time before I ever showed back up in his life, so he can pull this together one time without me.  My daughter’s due in September and they’re expecting a little girl, so it’s Alice in Wonderland theme decorations for her party and lots of interesting unique games her younger brother is dreaming up for the big event.  I can’t wait to see how this all turns out.  I’ll try to get pictures at the time, but it all depends on how busy I am.

Queen of Hearts, Alice In Wonderland
Queen of Hearts, Alice In Wonderland



So, back to Tucson, and the HSCG Conference. For those of you that aren’t members, or in the industry, or just never heard of them, HSCG is Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild.  I’m a member of this on the professional level because I sell to the public.  At this level they offer liability insurance, mentoring, vendor discounts, and of course the conferences with lots of opportunities to learn more about your current skills, expand your horizons into new areas, gain insight into how to grow your business and so much more I can’t even begin to list it all!  I love being a member of the Guild, but the one thing I really enjoyed about this year’s is that while it was my first conference, my first flight, my first trip out of state to a state that doesn’t touch my home state of NC, and I had the opportunity to take the test to become certified.

I'm a Certified Lyer!
I’m a Certified Lyer!

So what does it mean to become a Certified Soapmaker?  It gives you 1) bragging rights.  You can proudly show all who visit your site, Facebook page, blog, etc, that you know your craft and have the confidence to make a quality product you are proud to place your name & brand on.  Once the documentation is filed with HCSG, I’ll be able to upload a badge for all the sites associated with Neecy’s brand and customers can be assured when seeing this badge that I’m serious about what I do, know what to do to make a quality Bath & Body product, and they can trust what I create to sell to them as safe.  2) It gives your customers peace of mind.  You’re not a lightweight who’s just starting soaping,.  You’ve done this for a while, studied the science behind it, know what to do and even more importantly, what NOT to do.  This was important to me and lays the groundwork for moving upward onto the next step, which is Advance Certification.  I’ve already begun building a plan for that level and will be posting on it as time allows.

The conference had numerous knowledgeable guest speakers giving their time to teach us a new skill, opening new doors into our field so we can become, multifaceted Bath & Body crafters on a professional level with the best of the best.  I’ve learned so much from that conference, and though exhausting as it all is, attending those classes is definitely worth every penny and every minute spent!  I’ve learned about how to make bath fizzies, or bath bombs as some call them, but I’ll stick with fizzies to avoid being marked for a watch list somewhere after using the word ‘bomb’.

I bought a couple of  extraordinary books there at a great price (vendors offer discounted prices on their products at these events!), Lela’s Barker’s 155 Words You Need To Know; Practical Wisdom for Creative Entrepreneurs, which is a gold mine of valuable information  in so many respects I don’t have time to list them all here.  You simply must get her book if you’re seriously wanting to grow your business in a way that will get you to your business goal! Lela spoke on pricing your products, and I realized that I’m undervaluing my own time and product, so a reevaluation of my product lines is in order.  First of ’15 will see those results implemented.  Also check out Lela’s site,  or her blog, Lucky Break Consulting/Blog .  It will provide hours/days/weeks of reading centered around your business’s success.

Another speaker I truly admired and thoroughly enjoyed learning tons from is Kerri Mixon, a 16th generation soapmaker, who talked about how to create clear soap.  It’s begun like a cold process, then reverts to hot, then is treated in a particular way to make it clear.  Her lecture opened my eyes up to a whole new avenue of soaping that I’m very excited to try out soon!  I’ll post the results when I’ve had a chance to try it out.  Good or bad.

The other speaker to throw light onto a new topic for me was Holly Port.  Holly taught the class on how to make bath bombs & fizzies, which aren’t exactly the same thing.  The ‘bombs’ aren’t necessarily going to fizz, but will dissolve to create a spa bath that moisturizes & scents your skin.  The fizzies will do much the same thing, but with a fizzy foaming action that happens when they come in contact with water.  Her new book, released at the conference fresh from the publishers, was sold at a discount to attendees, which of course was snapped up as quickly as humanly possible.  I’ve already read through it once, and definitely will add these items into my line soon!

If you make soap, but have never joined HSCG or gone to a conference, you seriously need to consider both in the future.  It’s completely worth every minute and every dollar spent.  I’d love to go to every single one every single year, but I know it’s not feasible for me to manage that at this particular point in my life, so I’ll plan on going to the 2016 conference next, which will be in Tampa, Florida at the gorgeous Saddlebrook Resort (look it up, it’s mind-blowing!).  I’ll have to pass on 2015’s, however if you’re interested and perhaps if you live nearby, it’s in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 18-20, 2015, at the Westin Downtown Hotel. There’s a limit to the number of attendees to 450 and 15 have already signed up for next year’s, that’s how major it is!

As I close this post out, here are a few more pics from the trip  out to Tucson – enjoy!

IMG_1797 (960x1280)Agave in Bloom (1280x960)IMG_1786 (1280x960)The shady spots (1280x960)Loews in its natural habitat (1280x960)