Saturday, February 23, 2013

Homemade Olive Oil Soap - Trial and Error

Vintage French olive oil advertisement card from Alex V

Before we started painting the hallways, I made a batch of olive oil soap from scratch. Knowing it would need at least a month to cure, I figured it would be ready to test once the hallways were done. Pure and simple, unscented and uncoloured so I can re-batch (mill it) into several different scents, colours and patterns. I truly believe in the benefits of olive oil, not just for cleansing and moisturizing the skin, but in food as well. I also love its positive symbolism. Olive oil is good in every way.

This is not a tutorial. There are many steps in making soap from scratch. As it involves lye, I wanted to to avoid distractions so did not take shots of the work in process. Many safety precautions should be taken before starting - the first is to be well informed.

Everything went very well. Once heated and mixed, I poured my soap mixture into a plastic container and let it harden for 48 hours, as recommended. This turned out to be much too long and my soap was so hard and flinty, it was hard to cut into even chunks. The next time I'll pour my soap into bar size molds and use as is after the curing time. Or I'll un-mold while it still soft and cut into manageable size bars.


I ended up breaking that big slab into small chunks and used my electric grinder - thank God for that.

I thought re-batching would be easier - similar to a melt and pour - but it took forever to grind and melt. 

I added a bit of coconut butter and the required amount of water to help it melt down.Waited...waited ...waited still.

Even after hours, I could not get my basic soap to completely melt down. The texture remained, heavy, lumpy and sticky - not fun. I think a Croc Pot would have done a better job at melting everything down more evenly without the risk of scorching the soap.

Three hours later, I was kind of fed up. I added my aromatic oil and Japanese green tea powder. The green tea powder turned brown - not very pretty. Seeing how thick the mixture was, I did not bother putting in my silicon molds at the bottom, I thought the design would be lost anyway. It was so messy, everything was sticking to everything. I let it cool outside. Once un-molded, this batch was easy to cut, like a hard Emmental cheese, no crumbs - big relief.

Here we are, my first attempt at re-batching. Too rustic looking for my taste, but what I lost in prettiness, I gained in moisturizing quality. This little ugly guy feels rich and creamy, lathers nicely and   is much milder on the face than the 'melt and pour' batch from the store - it's wonderful. At the end, it turned out okay, but it was so much work. When Brian walked into the kitchen, he thought I had made walnut vanilla fudge. I have to work on the appearance, I wouldn't want our guests taking a bite.

In order to use my silicone molds, I'll need a finer texture soap similar to hot liquid wax. I think the answer is in translucent/glycerin soap. It requires more ingredients, but the lye is neutralized in the cooking and there is no curing except for the normal drying and hardening time. The translucent soaps are said to be super-mild and would be ready to use - no re-batching involved. Also, I could pour my translucent soap directly on to my silicon molds without risking deterioration from the lye. Anyway, in the mean time I'll finish re-batching my olive oil soap and try to make them look pretty. Live and learn.


Laura said...

Hey there sweet thing! Long time no see! :)
Sorry I've been absent, I'll have to catch up around here.

I think your soap looks great. You know, I've been wanting to try to make my own soap as well for awhile. But as you say, you need to be focused and let's face it, I'm not. PLUS, I've almost always got someone bugging me and usually as soon as I start doing something I want to do.

So, you think that you will try this again?


GinaBVictorian said...

Hi Anyes,
I always love the smell and the looks of homemade soap, it always smells so healthy and clean!Thanks so much for your earlier visit and for the comment. Gina

The Dusty Victorian said...

Hello Laura,
So glad you dropped in. For some reason, I could no longer link to your blog, I would get an 'error' message when I would try to link. I thought that perhaps you had closed down shop. Anyway, yes, I'm sold on the superior quality soap one gets when making it from scratch, especially using olive oil, but I won't bother with re-batching.
Looking forward to catching-up.

The Dusty Victorian said...

Hello Gina,
Yes, you have described the subtile smell of a natural high quality product. When something smells very "perfumy" , I now am very suspicious.

Mark D. Ruffner said...

Hi, Anyes - I salute you for making your own soap, and I'm sure it is one of many experiences that your guests enjoy. I love that you use olive oil. I was reading for a project I'm working on that the Romans saw the olive branch not only as a symbol of peace, but of prosperity as well.

The Dusty Victorian said...

Hi Mark,
How wonderful, peace and prosperity, I'll take!

Susan Sommers said...

Just passing through. I've made olive oil soap for years, and have NEVER had any luck milling it. You can add the fragrance and other bits right after it traces. Good luck!


The Dusty Victorian said...

Thanks for dropping in Susan and for the advice.
That's what I'll do the next time.