I Make Soap Now

I am trying to de-industrialize my life; stop relying so much on big corporations.  I’m also trying to stop using disposable plastics where I can, and to stop washing so many chemicals down the drain to pollute the water supply.

So I decided to make my own soap. I took a soap making class at the Soapmaking Studio in Lemon Grove, CA. The class was at capacity with a dozen people. I was the only dude, and the only one there for hippy moonbeam reasons; I think the rest of the class was there to learn a craft and maybe start a home business.

I’m glad I took the class. I showed up with a bunch of constraints in my head; no industrial detergents, colors, or scents; no palm oil. Keep it natural; I was probably the hardline extremist compared to some of my classmates, who want to make pretty, fragrant, and therapeutic products. I just want to wash my greasy hair.

We learned the chemistry of formulating recipes based on certified laboratory analysis, which gives us safe soap right away. People who don’t do the chemistry, and just use recipes and procedures that are passed down to them or found on the internet, they run the risk of dangerous soaps, that might burn skin and eyes and cause permanent damage, even blindness. To compensate for these wonky recipes, homegrown soap makers have to let their soaps cure for weeks or months in order for stray sodium hydroxide to neutralize itself. My class taught me that with the proper chemistry and certified laboratory analyses, we can make soaps that are safe to use the next day.  Isn’t that nicer?

The shampoo bar I had been using finally ran out this morning, so it seems that my first soap must necessarily be a shampoo bar.  Soapmakers are a little bit secretive about their secret recipes, so it’s hard for me to tell what to look for in a shampoo bar. It might the case that I make a crappy shampoo bar but a good bath bar. We’ll see how it goes.

I used coconut oil, cocoa butter, castor oil, olive oil pomace, argan oil, and grapefruit essential oils, and no colors.  The only preservative I used was rosemary oleoresin extract.  It’s a test batch, so I made it in the 10 oz mold that makes travel sized bars.

Small test batches are kind of a pain to measure out, probably due to my kitchen scale. I melted the cocoanut butter in the polypropylene pitcher using a water bath. The mix came to a thick pudding stage rather quickly; only two rounds of whizzing with the stick blender.  It’s now wrapped in towels and baking itself on the counter. I’ll publish updates as events occur.

In the days to come, I hope to formulate the following soaps:

  • A grapefruit shampoo bar (the one I made tonight)
  • A shave soap with kaolin clay
  • A bath soap made with coffee
  • A face soap made with activated charcoal


I unmolded my soap after 12 or so hours, and cut it up.  It looks like my favorite cheddar cheese.  It’s still a little high on the phenolphthalein test so I will wait a while before trying it on my head.

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