For today’s Adventures in Homesteading post, I thought I’d tackle something very easy and very basic to try. Making your own soap.
Now I had Sarah research pioneer soapmaking for this series and she discovered they used stuff like grease and lye. There were many warnings about recreating this kind of soap and we were just plain nervous about the chemicals involved, too. Remember that my approach with this series is to draw inspiration from pioneer living and homesteading and then apply it in realistic ways. I’ve never made soap before at all, and I did not wish to start by using harsh chemicals or following scary instructions that might give me burns.
(PS here’s a fun fact: Lutefisk is a fish soaked in lye and traditionally eaten at Christmas and other holidays by Norwegians. If you were to soak it for too long, you could end up with SOAP. Feel free to make your own fish soap if you want, but for the purposes of today’s post, not going there. Image credit.)
For my first ever soap attempt, I thought I’d start at the most basic beginner level I could find. There may be many different ways one could make soap, but I decided to start with a kit. If I can just get my ‘feet wet’ so to speak, then maybe I can build some confidence and understanding of how soap is made and branch out!
I made a trip to JoAnn’s, but my store no longer carries soapmaking materials. Heads up. Michaels did!
Not exactly like Ma Ingalls would’ve used, but hey, it’s a start, right?
The cool part is that if you end up heading to Michaels, they almost always have a 40-50% off coupon in their Sunday paper flyer every week! I ended up buying a big block of glycerin (I believe this was about $8) and a soap mold (about $3-4). **If you can’t make it to the store, I found a similar 2-lb. glycerin block on Amazon for around $9 as well as a wide variety of soap molds).
The instructions were printed right on the glycerin and made it extremely easy to make. Trust me, even if you don’t have a crafty bone in your body, you can do this!
All you do is break up some of the blocks and melt them. You can do this in a double boiler or in the microwave. I thought I’d better stick to the double boiler so I could best monitor the process.
Once melted, you can add scents, herbs, or colors!
This might sound odd to you, but I ground up some cardamom pods (bought in bulk of course!). For the past couple months, I’ve been on a cardamom kick. I can’t get enough of it! I love to add it to my oatmeal and coconut inspired dishes. It’s just incredible smelling. I also added a few drops of essential orange oil. Remember that this stuff is going to come in contact with your body, so I’d encourage you to think about using real ingredients and essential oils.
I also had the idea to color my soap using beet juice! I just put a tiny piece of beet in the Vitamix with some water and voila! A beautiful deep magenta color!
Edited to add: unfortunately, the soap did not hold this color for more than a few days. It turned into a sickly yellow. Heads up – if you want a colored soap, just use food dyes!
I rubbed some vegetable oil in the bottom the mold forms to help pop the soap out when it was done. Then, I simply poured the glycerin in and waited for about 30-40 minutes until it had firmed up. I gave it a gentle pop to remove the soap. Not difficult at all!
Here is my completed soap. Isn’t it pretty?
All told, this project required few items, little time, and was a very easy process from start to finish. I would love to try some other fragrance/color combinations in the future. I wrapped my soap individually in cellophane and added a big sticker on the bottom to hold it in place.
The only disappointment I had was the next day, the color had turned to more of a yellow. I’m not sure why this happened, or what I could’ve done to have preserved the lovely beet color – perhaps used a lot more beet juice? If anyone has any suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them!
Have you ever made soap before? Either from an easy kit as I did, or by some other process?
For more fun, please check out my Adventures in Homesteading page!
If you liked this post, you might also like…
How to Make Gardener’s Soap: This is a very similar method as described above, but uses Epsom and Sea Salts for a natural exfoliating effect!