Welcome to my blog about Soapmaking and a little bit of other stuff! Please visit my etsy shop, Soap by Em!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bastille Soap

This morning I experimented with a Bastille (mostly olive oil) Soap.  I based it on this recipe from the magnanimous Soap Queen, but used goat milk in oil and infused my oils with calendula and chamomile.  I left it unscented to be really gentle and superfatted it at 7%.

Since red mica turns peachy orange, I did a swirl on top with it.
Here is a before pic:

I had a lot of leftover red mica and it was difficult not to use it all up.  But I stopped swirling when it was pretty.

Monday, June 24, 2013


I came home from a wonderful family weekend to find... beetles in my basement.  Ewww! Doesn't sound so bad until I mention that I'm living in the basement-- the air conditioner upstairs is turned off so I can save on utility bills.  So far, I've only seen them on the carpet and they generally move with a purpose from left to right.

I also found a lot of dead beetles... a few google searches later I mixed some borax, flour, sugar, with a little chilli powder and sprinkled it around the baseboards.  The recipes for the bait were pretty generic, and I was very unscientific about mine.  Probably about 1-2 cups borax with 1/3 cups each flour and sugar.  I threw in chili powder because it was a part of the pet friendly remedy we used last summer.  No pets to eat the borax now.  Cocoa powder was also suggested but I wanted the overall mix to be more the color of the carpet to prevent further discoloration of the carpet.  There is a red stain from cinnamon/ chili powder that I can't vacuum up or get to with the carpet cleaner.

I have leftover mix stored and labeled.

This got me wondering-- what is borax, anyway?  Most bloggers who I have come across are pro, neutral (but do not use it) or seriously anti borax.  But I haven't found any good reasons as to why.  Let's find out.

According to Borax's youtube channel, Borax provides a laundry boost by softening water, changing the pH to better lift stains, and keep them lifted so they do not redeposit on clothes.   I first bought borax for laundry so yay.  It is harvested from evaporated lakes or made synthetically.

The Environmental Working Group does not recommend Borax for use in cleaning.  The website offers alternatives for scrubbing stuff without borax.  They also add that borax can be found in nutritional supplements and sticky play material.  So you might consider making playdoh or goop instead of using commercial product with children who are too young not to eat it.

Chemistry wise, here is a discussion of borax.

It looks like I will be saving borax for the laundry in the future.  I will keep you posted about the critters.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Soap Oops-es

Yesterday was not a great day for me soaping.  I had two fails learning experiences.  A sugar scrub didn't emulsify and playing with new toys didn't work well either.

First, I'd become enamored with the solid sugar scrubs over at Rebecca's Delicatessen.  She's one of my favorite soapy bloggers and has a great, well informed site.  I didn't have the ingredients that her recipe called for, so I used the recipe at Soap Queen, substituting crafter's choice Mango Butter base and rice bran oil and adding a bit of shea butter.  It didn't emulsify.  I ended up with a layer of scrub and oil floating on top.

  • I used a cheaper base.
  • I assumed that rice bran was a good substitute for sweet almond oil but maybe not.
  • The air conditioner is not on upstairs here, so they were sitting out at 85+ F.
I tried to salvage this by popping it in the freezer.  The top layer did freeze, but melted by the time I cut the bars into smaller rectangles.  I haven't used them.  I think they will still be scrubby, but not quite as luxurious as I wanted.

I got a new box of goodies from Brambleberry! Including my first wooden soap mold.  I was super excited to try it out and picked this recipe to try.  I loved the colors.  I received a free sample of coconut lemongrass fragrance in the box and figured that would be a great summery, beachy fragrance.
What went wrong:

  • I substituted Lots of Lather quick mix for Basic Quick Mix.  This was not a good substitution for this recipe.  
    • Brambleberry suggests using an olive oil free recipe for this soap to avoid the yellow green color of olive oil.  Lots of Lather has lots of olive oil.
    • The recipe calls for 23 pounds of the quick mix.  I had 33 pounds of lots of lather mix, and decided to use the whole bag.  I did run in through the lots of lather lye calculator, but did not anticipate how much extra I would have.  This probably influenced my colors as well; the olive oil and greater amount of oils.  I had extra molds but not enough and had to grab more.
  • I mixed with a stick blender until I got an emulsion, not a light trace.  
  • I hated the fragrance.  I'm a big fan of Bath and Bodyworks' Coconut Lime Verbena and expected the type to be more similar.  I hope that the soaping process will improve the fragrance.
  • The sea clay did not play well with the fragrance.  It kind of appeared ricy.  It might have been ricy.
  • The sea clay colored soap was not contrasted well with the plain soap, due to the olive oil in the base.  Instead of three, separate and intentional colors, it appears [to me] that the colors were mistakes.
  • Finally, I had my first lye burn.  This was either from removing my gloves (which were a size too small) or reusing my lye water container to mix colors.  It was a small burn, luckily, smaller than a dime.  I noticed that there was a shiny patch of something on my arm, and it started to burn.  I rinsed it with water and it still burned.  So I rinsed it with vinegar, which I should have done first.
First three color soap

The soap looks prettier on screen than in real life.

I also unmolded a soap sample too quickly and it smushed.  I put another sample from the batch in a silicone cupcake liner and some of the red from the liner leached into the soap.  Grr.

In happier news, a trial batch of these dishwasher tablets worked great.  I used a little peppermint essential oil, but not enough to leave a peppermint residue.

My color fails led me to research color mixing in soaps and I found this series very helpful.

I have so much that I want to try and being patient is hard.  /end grump