Skinflint Sunday: Making soap.


Bertie could hear me cutting something at the sink this morning, so he appeared around the corner. It’s been a hard morning for him. It’s been raining for days so he’s all dishevelled and a bit smelly. It’s 8AM and I still haven’t had breakfast so his little taste of what I’m eating hasn’t happened yet. His leg hurts so he’s limping a bit…. but maybe, just maybe, there’s food in the offing….?


Dogs hate disappointment. It goes against their optimistic nature.

I was cutting the soap I made yesterday into bars.


When I looked again, he’d left in disgust.

But did you catch what I said? I Made Soap Yesterday.

I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I saved a soap recipe from Rhonda’s blog, thinking that maybe in the holidays I’d give it a go. One day… maybe. But soap is so cheap, so why bother…?

Then I saw a couple of video tutorials from this blog, so I saved them. No harm in that, I thought. Maybe one day… maybe…

A while later this came up on my feed reader, so I saved it. For the first time I started thinking, “Hmmmm. Maybe I should start thinking about how I’m going to do this…”

Then this friend blogged about making it. But still I did nothing. Then I re-read Rhonda’s post on the soap making and something she said leaped out at me and slapped me in the face.

I’m sure many of you are wondering: “Why make soap when I can buy it cheaply at the supermarket?” My cold processed soap is made with vegetable oils and when it is made and cured, it contains no harsh chemicals or dyes. Often commercial soap is made with tallow (animal fat) and contains synthetic fragrance and dye and retains almost no glycerin. Glycerin is a natural emollient that helps with the lather and moisturises the skin. The makers of commercial soaps extract the glycerin and sell it as a separate product as it’s more valuable than the soap. Then they add chemicals to make the soap lather. Crazy.”

Whenever I wash my hands often in a day, like when I’ve been gardening or repotting, my skin gets all flaky and I look like a leper. It’s not a good look at all, and is probably why I’m still single. Maybe all my problems would be solved if I started making my own soap? But still I did nothing.

Until I finished my reports. Once those reports are done, something weird happens. Every year I suddenly leap into a new activity and master it. Or at the very least, I give it a good shake.

The Maths teachers in our staff room still talk about the year Frogdancer had the sudoku craze, doing hundreds of the little suckers a day. Another year was when I inexplicably took up quilt making. The year before that was when I picked up the knitting needles again, after a gap of ten years when I didn’t knit a thing. It’s not a deliberate thing, it’s just something that seems to happen to me. Every year it’s something new.

This year it’s soap making.

I had to decide which recipe I was going to try. On the down to earth forum, everyone was raving about Rhonda’s recipe. She had a link to a site that had lots of different recipes, with some using chocolate, beer, wine and other things. I printed them all off, giving a running commentary to the people in the staff room. They loved it. Of course they did. Then it was decision time. I was going to the supermarket at lunchtime on Thursday and I was going to buy the caustic soda.

I decided in the end to go with Suse’s recipe, because I didn’t have to buy any rice bran oil, (or waste perfectly good wine and chocolate!), as I had some olive oil and vegetable oil at home already. That’s why this post is in the Skinflint Sunday category. I’m being frugal.


I bought a couple of silicon cake moulds that were on special at Spotlight for 30% off and I used one for the first batch. I decided to add no colour or fragrance to this first batch, just to see what the pure unadulterated soap would be like. Then I decided to commit adultery by adding some turmeric to a little portion at the end, to add an orange colour.

As I was cooking it all up, (it was a little scary with the lye business but it was all too easy in reality), I was happy. My brain was buzzing, the world was quiet and all was well. I carefully added the lye mixture to the oils, then carried it across to the sink where I plugged in my old stick blender and got ready to whip that baby to trace in 10 minutes flat.

Nothing. NOTHING. The damned thing had died and I hadn’t realised. I was nonplussed. The problem was… I was committed. The mixture was there, ready to go. It had to be whipped into a whole. What was I to do? I didn’t want to use my regular stick blender. Caustic soda soup sounds like more of a winter warmer than I think my family is ready for.

Then I remembered Tom1’s whisk. He bought this whisk and everyone else is forbidden to use it. But he was at his Dad’s so he’ll never know….

It takes 2 hours to whisk this recipe to trace when you do it by hand. How did I do it? With Dave Ramsey on podcast and a song in my heart.


Apparently the colour intensifies as it dries, so we’ll see what happens.


While I was waiting for the soap to dry, I listened to the election results while putting together these patches for a Christmas tree skirt. I think I’m ready to be creative again…

(It’s also exciting to be living in a seat where the result of the whole election hinges on how the votes are cast in YOUR electorate. It made the telecast so much more interesting.)


Here’s the pure soap out of the mould this morning. The silicon was terrific. It just came out as smoothly as… I don’t know… like a smooth thing would. I was overcome with my own cleverness. Then came the epic struggle with the cut off milk container.


There’s a few scars from scissors, but I’ll smooth them off with a veggie peeler when the soap is drier. But the scars on my soul will take a lot longer to heal…

I think we’ll say that the turmeric soap has a rustic, tuscan appeal. It’s intentional that it looks this way.


I decided to cut these bars of soap in large, boy-friendly chunks. I got 9 pale chunks and 4 orange ones.

I can’t tell you how happy I am when I look at them. I made these!! Hark at my cleverness!!

Would I do anything differently next time?

* I’d use electricity to get the mixture to trace. I’m a busy woman and 2 hours is a long time to be standing mixing something. The first time was ok, because the whole thing was still a novelty. But I’m sure that it would get old very quickly.

* I’d choose something other than a milk container. So far, the silicon wins hands down.

* I’d have some essential oils on hand to try a fragrance. Why not?

* Goat’s milk sounds interesting. I’d have some of that around too.

* I’d remember to bang the container to get air bubbles out.

Today I’m going to make some oatmeal soap. 🙂


This entry was posted in quilting, Skinflint, soap making and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Skinflint Sunday: Making soap.

  1. Jayne says:

    They look fantastic!
    I might give it a go, the caustic soda and lye bit always gave me the willies but it can’t be that bad 🙂
    Geek kid can learn to do it as part of his last homeschooling before he starts at Distance Ed 😀

  2. Watershedd says:

    I did a one day course earlier this year with a friend. A suggestion for moulds was used (cleaned) milk cartons. The waxed surface prevents sticking and you can simply peel off the cardboard when the soap is set. I haven’t tried it myself (I haven’t had a chance to make soap again, yet!), but the science sounds logical. you have me wanting to make a batch over the Christmas period, if I can find a spare moment.

  3. Ellen says:

    Big Respect Frogdancer! Your soap looks fantastic. I have read Rhonda’s post on soap-making several times, but to be perfectly frank, was rather scared of using the caustic soda and lye. This could also be the final nail in the coffin of my son’s suspicion that his mother is a hippie to the core of her soul. I have some latex fairy cake moulds which I no longer use …. you have got me thinking!

  4. Mistress B says:

    Do you use UHT milk or juice at all? You know the ones in the tetra packs? Or know anyone that does? The 1L ones of those are a good size for using as a mould and you can just rip them off. I think I get about 7 or 8 good sized bars out of one of those.

    We use a bit of oatbran or wheat germ in some of our soaps to give it a bit of a grainy texture. Great for when you need to give hands or feet a bit of a scrub if you’ve been out in the garden or whatnot.

  5. maybaby says:

    Oh, dear. I used to make soap, years ago. This post has gotten the soap making fire going in me again. I’m going to look at those recipes.

  6. Congratulations! Maybe you’ll love using it and gifting it so much that this one will stick! I made soap one year with that kind of “give something new a whirl” attitude, but everyone I gave a bar to raved about it so much, that I kept doing it. It’s my favourite Christmas present to give because I’m not adding to the glut of “stuff” in the world, yet it’s so looked forward to. I stir (with a stick) for 10 minutes, then just give it another whirl at intervals for about an hour and it always sets fine for me. Stirring for 2 hours isn’t my kind of easy either. I did use my stick blender with a “rebatch” batch I made from trimmings, and then just washed it well in hot water and there’s no trace of caustic (I licked it just to be sure!) The silicon moulds sound good, but as a couple of people have commented, recycled waxed cartons or tetra packs seem to work fine for me, and I save post-pack tubes specially because they make such nice round soap.

Don't be shy... say something!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s