Soap Story

While up at the cottage with Terry, Katherine and Rob, I fell into another "craft/hobby": making homemade soap.

Katherine had commented that Castile Soap would have less of an environmental impact than the soap I use at the cottage. Of course, this intrigued me. I had heard of Castile soap, but did not know much about it. So I did some research.

You make Castile soap from olive oil, lye, and water. You dissolve the lye in the water, and then blend this into the olive oil until it emulsifies. After an appropriate aging, you get an alkali soap that works well and has a low environmental impact. Even a mildly capable craftsperson (like myself) can follow the simple instructions and make mounds of nice hand and laundry soap. Or even concentrated liquid soap, if you use potassium hydroxide lye instead of sodium hydroxide lye.

So, now, I've got another nice craft to play with.

And, that's my soap story.


I tried making an exfoliating soap with Tea Tree fragrance. I call it "Coffee and Tea (Tree)" soap. Made with fresh brewed coffee, the grounds help exfoliate, and the Tea Tree oil treats minor cuts, making this a soap that I would use after working in the garden or at the cottage.

63% Olive Oil
24% Beeswax
10% Castor Oil
3% Tea Tree Oil for fragrance

The Castor Oil and Beeswax will improve the soap's ability to form and hold a lather, and make the soap "harder" than the Castile soap I made previously.

This was my first attempt at this soap, and I made a few (recoverable) mistakes. I didn't keep the oils warm enough, so they thickened quicker than I expected. This made mixing difficult, and by the time everything was blended properly, the soap batter had the consistancy of cookie dough. This, in turn, made it difficult to neatly and evenly distribute the dough into the moulds, and the resulting "bars" look misshapened and incomplete.

Next time, I'll keep all the oils warm, so that the Beeswax doesn't congeal when I add it. This should give me more time to blend and pour before it thickens into soap.