A squeaky, clean birthday

Our project.

March 20 = the first day of spring and my 27th birthday!

To celebrate, my sister treated me to a soap-making workshop. Would you consider that a hint that I stink? If so, I’ll overlook that scary thought since my sister, mom and I absolutely had a blast at the event.

My sister Libby, mom and I.

So, how did we do it?

The state park-sponsored class had it’s 10 participants divided into pairs of two to make five different types of soap. My sister and I got to make charcoal soap (which is good for your skin and clearing up acne). The class also made clove and oatmeal,  Base 1, Base 2, and spearmint soaps (which mom made with her partner).

We used the cold-process method, which essentially means it’s easy to make but has a longer waiting period before the soap can be used. Anyways, our recipe called for us to:

1. First, prepare the mold. We took wax paper and covered the insides of our wooden mold box so we would be able to get the soap out after it harden.


Mom had to help us.
Mom had to help us.

2. Add 10.7 ounces of lye to 30.4 ounces of water and stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool to 120 F.

The "teacher" freaked us out by repeatedly warning us to not burn ourselves with the lye. She was the only one burned.

3. Melt 12 ounces of coconut oil and 32 ounces of lard, then add to 32 ounces of olive oil and 4 ounces of castor oil. Heat or cool as needed to reach 120 F. This section took forever and we blew the kitchen’s breaker in the process. We also cooled our lye solution as we waited for everything to melt.

Mom helped us out a lot. Here, she helped get our oils and lard to 120 F.
Chilling the lye solution.
My project? Chilling the lye solution.

4. Once temperatures match, blend the lye solution into the oils.

Yes, I did help. I just also took a lot of pictures.

5. Stir the mixture until the soap traces. The teacher told us to alternate between a blender and hand stirring until trace, which is basically when the mixture is like pancake batter (light trace) and gravy/pudding (heavy trace).

It's also ready when you can spell your name on top and the letters hold for a few seconds.

6. At trace, add 5 tablespoons charcoal (or more as needed).

It's charcoal time. Woohoo!

7. When blended, pour soap in the prepared mold.

Pouring it into the mold. We were the last to finish.
Putting the final touches on our soap.

And voilà! We now have 5 pounds of charcoal soap that will be ready in four weeks. Our instructor said the wait period allows the soaps ingredients to settle in so they don’t irritate your skin.

The soap-making task was easier to do and I could probably do it again by myself. Will I? Probably not — I don’t like working with lye.

Still, it was a great birthday present — THANK YOU LIBBY!!


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