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The Process of Making Soap  

 For those of you interested in the soap making process, here is an abbreviated lesson. 

Picture # 1 - calendula flowers drying  

My favorite task is growing and harvesting the herbs and flowers that I use in our soaps. Here are some calendula flowers drying in the dehydrator. These flower petals will later show up in our soaps as well as in the calendula infused oil we make for both our soaps and lotions.    

Picture #2 � the melting of the plant oils and butters

 My least favorite part of the soap making process is the measuring of the plant oils and butters. 7. We must painstakingly measure out all the plant oils and butters on a gram scales and combine them in a large double-boiler. If our measurements are not accurate, our soap batch will be ruined. You will see that some of the oils are in solid form to begin with. I use a wide variety of fruit, nut and plant oils and butters depending on the desired qualities I want the soap to have. These oils and butters are melted over low heat in a double boiler.

Picture #3 �  plant material infusing in a crock pot

 Calendula flowers steeping in warm olive oil. This infused oil will be used on Earth Maiden products.   







  When I want the soap to have certain qualities, I often infuse my oils and butters with herbs and flowers. Some of my favorite additives are stinging nettles, comfrey root and leaf, plantain and calendula flowers and petals as seen above. All of these additives soothe the skin and may promote healing. I use only organically grown flowers and herbs from my garden or from  Ssea Island Savory Herbs. I never want to worry about pesticide residual in my soaps or lotions.

This plant material will steep in the warm olive oil for several days.  I will cycle the crock pot on and off of low heat. Then this plant material is removed, and to make an even stronger concentrate, fresh plant material is added to the oil and it is simmered for several more days. Then I strain the plant material and add the oil to my soap batch. It is time consuming and a messy job but the lovely qualities it adds to the soap make it worth the trouble.  

 Picture # 4 � herbal tea prepared and ready to add to the pot  


I frequently make a strong herbal tea infusion and use that as my liquid in the soap. Here a strong infusion of rooibos (African Red Bush) tea awaits the soap pot.  If the soap remains unscented, a mild herbal scent is imparted in the soap. It also helps to color the soap naturally.  

I then take pre-measured lye and mix it with water, milk, carrot juice or herbal tea.  In this picture, the lye has been added to the strong herbal tea infusion.  This mixture is then allowed to cool. It will then be slowly added to the warm oils.

   Picture #5 Pouring pre-measured lye into distilled water

This is a picture of the pre-measured lye being poured into the distilled water used in the soap making process.  

Once the lye mixture and the oils are approximately the same temperature, the liquid is added to the oils. In the picture below, the strong rooibos tea/lye mixture is added to the melted oils and butters.

 Picture # 6 - the lye mixture being poured into the warm oils  

This is an old picture ( I am wearing latex gloves in this picture). We no longer use latex in our preparation. Once I pour the lye mixture into the pre-melted oils, I must stir vigorously with a stick blender (a hand mixer) until a thick creamy substance that looks like custard is formed. This is the critical part. This is called �trace� and means the mixture is now emulsified and can be   simmered on the stovetop  without separating until soap is formed.

 Picture # 7 - the mixture at �trace�.          

See how the mixture now looks thick and emulsified. It looks very similar to custard. It is now ready to be placed in the hot water bath and simmered over a low heat until it totally converts to soap.  



           Picture # 8 � the �cook�

 Once the mixture has simmered for several hours on the stove, the soap is totally converted and no lye remains in the finished product. 





       Picture #9 � the new soap                                                               


 Once the soap is lye free, we let it cool to 130 degrees and  then add the remaining ingredients like cucumber pulp, goat milk powder, pure local honey, clays, aloe vera gel, pulverized oats and herbs. The soap is warm and very thick at this point.


Picture #10 � the cooled soap with additives 


Once the soap is room temperature and the consistency of bread dough, we  add additional emollient oils for the vitamins and moisturizing qualities they contribute. Then I add my essential oils. Essential oils impart many beneficial properties to the soap.  I choose my scents carefully.  Each blend of essential oils is chosen for the qualities they will impart to the soap. In some cases fragrance oils are used if a certain scent is desired that cannot be achieved with essential oils like berry scents, vanilla and cucumber.  If a fragrance oil is used, it is clearly marked on the soap ingredients label.

  Picture #11 � the cooled soap in the molds

I have used many different containers as soap molds but my favorite thus far are my six and twelve pound wooden molds from Chestnut Farms. I line the mold with butcher paper before I begin.    

 When the soap comes out of the mold and is cut into bars, there are always some soap scraps left over. I can�t stand to waste the soap so I form 2-ounce soap balls and offer those soap balls at a reduced rate to my customers. Some of  the soap pieces are sold to local bed and breakfast establishments and the remainder is given to charity.

Picture #12 � hand formed soap balls

  basket of soap balls









Picture #13 � Mary with some new hemp seed soap

When the soap has hardened enough to be taken from the molds, usually 24 hours, we cut it into slabs and then into bars. The soap is ready to use at this point but I like to let it age a few weeks before sale. Soap is much like a good wine. It improves with age. It lathers more and lasts longer in the shower stall.  

Picture #14 � Ron cutting soap into bars

     Here you can see Ron cutting soap for the Charleston FarmersMarket. We have been vendors at this market since 2003. You can catch us there every Saturday from April through December. Click on the strawberry to read all about it. Charleston Farmers market



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