Becoming a Soapmaker

I was recently reading a book that discussed the Top Ten Events in the process of becoming a Soapmaker (The EverythingThe Everything Soapmaking Book Soapmaking Book, by Alicia Grosso).  It’s a good book by the way, for those starting out.  Well, the list made me think back to the days when I was just dabbling in the art of making soap.  Never did I think I’d become so addicted.  It was really JUST a hobby.  Something to do to relax and take me back to my creative roots.  Little did I know that some 12+ years later I would be building a business.

Let’s take a look at the list.  And if it applies to you, watch out.  You are on your way to becoming addicted!  And as far as I know there is no 12 step program for the recovering Soapmaker!

  1. You become intrigued by the idea of making soap.  For me this happened when I started making Melt and Pour Soap.  I picked some up at my local hobby shop along with some scents and additives.  I quickly out grew that process and was ready to start making soap from scratch.
  2. You observe your first signs of trace. I found a local art studio that offered a basic soap making class.  There I saw trace for the first time.  I was like a kid in a candy store.  It was killing me to wait weeks until the Cold Process soap was ready for me to use.
  3. You actually use your soap for the first time. Needless to say the creaminess of the lather and knowing I had created it drove me to make more.  I cleaned all the shower gels and loofahs out of my shower.  It was handmade soap for me all the way.
  4. You make your first soap making friend on an online message board. I found I spent lots of time online researching, chatting and watching any kind of video I could find about soap.  I was truly obsessed.
  5. You turn a disaster into something unexpectedly wonderful. The first time I experienced separation in my CP mold, I quickly threw it in a Slow Cooker and thought “well no better time than the present, to experiment with Hot Process”.  The batch was saved and I realized I was able to use the soap much sooner.  However, I have to say I’m still most partial to CP or CP-Oven Process soap.
  6. You fill up a soap making notebook for the first time. I stopped counting how many little note pads full of soap scribbles I have.  I’ve tried to neatly consolidate them but that takes away from the charm of it all.
  7. You have your first dream about soap. I can’t say I’ve ever dreamed about soapmaking.  But I can’t visit a mall or stay in a hotel without checking out all the soap and bath products.  Reading labels and driving my friends and family crazy as I critique everything I see.
  8. Your family complains about all the soap stuff taking over the house. My pantry has more soaping products in it than food products.  And one corner of my kitchen island is dedicated to my soap tools.  They have to be in easy reach when a moment of inspiration hits me.
  9. Some one asks if they can buy some of your soap. I was just flattered when this happened.  Although it took me years to actually start selling it.  I just kept giving it away because it was so fun to make.
  10. You make soap so perfect you can’t believe how far you’ve come. One day my brother called me on his way to work and told me he was out of my cocoa butter soap and he looked down and was all ashy!  He needed me to send him more pronto because he didn’t need to use lotion when he used my soap.  It was at that moment I knew I had arrived.  My brother is a “manly man” not finicky about soap, lotion, moisturizer and all that stuff.  But he actually noticed a difference, so much so he called in an “order”.  I launched my web-business shortly after.  I know if I can just get people to try handmade soap.  They will see the difference and get hooked.

Well that’s the story of my soaping addiction and I have no interest in working a 12 Step Program to free me from my need to craft soap in every free moment I have.

The Soap Book Interested in giving it a try?  A good starter book is “The Soap Book” by Sandy Maine

Do We Need Antibacterial Cleaners?

As the debate continues, millions of people use antibacterial soaps and household cleaners every day, believing that their germ killing ability will keep their families healthier.  Could these same chemicals that fight germs also be hazardous to your health?  Many of these products contain the chemicals triclosan and triclocarban, which recent research has shown have potential to affect hormones (estrogen and testosterone) and possibly interfere with the nervous system.  Currently, there are no studies on the effects of exposure in infants, but reports show that it has been detected in human breast milk and urine.  Some germs are actually beneficial to our health which leads to another issue in the use of antibacterial cleaners – they kill the good germs too!  Yet, they leave the .1% that could cause us the most harm. Some experts worry that completely wiping out all traces of germs will throw off the healthy balance of bacteria in humans.

According to many studies, regular soap and water is enough to wash away dirt, bacteria, and viruses. Proper hand-washing doesn’t need the added benefit of a antibacterial cleaner, to thoroughly clean your hands. The same is true for your home. Regular cleaning with soaps will remove much of the harmful bacteria and viruses.  While washing with soap and water removes a lot by itself, proper use of antibacterial cleansers does further reduce the amount of bacteria, for a short span of time.  This can help in households where someone is ill.  Otherwise, proper hand-washing and house cleaning techniques along with regular cleaning with soap and water should be enough to keep your family healthy.

Hand Washing – Here’s How:

This step-by-step guide will tell you how to wash your hands effectively so you know that you are minimizing your risk of catching and spreading illnesses.  Antibacterial soaps have not been proven to be more effective than regular soap, so you decide what’s best for you and use what you like.

  1. Turn on water to a warm comfortable temperature.
  2. Use bar of soap or a dime sized squirt of liquid hand soap.
  3. Lather and rub hands together for at least 20 seconds (Sing the “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” song 3 times).
  4. Be sure to wash front and back of hands, between fingers and under nails.  Using a nail brush is not necessary.
  5. Rinse all soap off hands.
  6. Using two paper towels, dry hands completely.  Don’t reuse bathroom hand towels!
  7. Turn off faucet with paper towels, then discard towels in garbage can.

Natural Home Cleaning

Here are a few basic household ingredients and items you can use to clean your home. Vinegar, baking soda, and lemons all have natural cleaning powers that rival manufactured cleaning solutions. They are easy and safe to use, and won’t put a pinch on your budget.  They will keep your house clean and smelling fresh.  Vinegar naturally cleans like an all-purpose cleaner. I prefer the white and use it on my hardwood floors weekly.  Mix a solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar and clean away!
Lemon juice can be used to dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits. It’s juice can be mixed with vinegar and or baking soda to make cleaning pastes. Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle baking soda on the cut section. Use the lemon to scrub dishes, surfaces, and stains. Mix 1 cup olive oil with ½ cup lemon juice and you have a furniture polish for your hardwood furniture.  You can also use it for a natural skin brightener!

Baking soda can be used to scrub surfaces in much the same way as commercial abrasive cleansers. Baking soda is great as a deodorizer – doesn’t everyone place a box in their refrigerator and the freezer!  Put it anywhere you need deodorizing action.  Other great natural cleaning ingredients include:  Cornstarch, Salt, castile soap and essential oils to add your favorite fragrance to the mix.

Is it Soap? Is it a Cosmetic or a Drug?

The FDA regulates cosmetics and drugs.  What determines how a product is classified is the intended used for the product.  The way in which firms market a cosmetic can make it a drug, or how a firm markets a drug can make it a cosmetic.

Cosmetics are intended “to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body . . . for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness or altering the appearance” [FD&C Act, Sec, 201(1)].  The definition of a Drug is “articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease” and “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals” [FD&C Act, sec. 201(g)(1)].  Once a product falls within these categories they become subject to strict regulations regarding approval, registration, labeling and good manufacturing practices.

So what is soap?  Soap is a product that is exempt from provisions of the FD&C Act.  It is a product that consists of an alkali salt of a fatty acid and is labeled, sold and represented solely as soap [21 CFR 701.20].  What does all this mean?  Soap does not contain detergents or other synthetic cleansing ingredients.  It consist of common oils or fats (i.e. olive, coconut, avocado, etc.) that have been mixed with an alkaline solution (referred to as lye) which saponify yielding soap with glycerine.  Nothing more nothing less.  Soap can not be made without these ingredients.  Once the fats react with the lye solution, NO lye is left in the product.  It’s simply soap, no regulation needed.

Today, most body cleansing products on the consumer market are actually synthetic detergents.  Did you ever wonder why the package doesn’t just say soap?  Because it’s not.

To learn more visit:  http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/ucm074201.htm

Natural or NOT!

In March if this year the results of a study commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a watchdog group, was released.  This study assessed levels of a carcinogen in leading “natural”, “organic” and conventional brands of personal care and household cleaning products.  The full press release and a copy of the follow-up testing results can be found and downloaded at:  http://www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/index.cfm along with a fact sheet on petrochemical carcinogen 1,4-dioxane.

I was happy to see that improvements have been made over the last 2 years and that some of the large companies are working with groups like OCA to make those improvements.  The test results include products produced by companies like Clorox, Whole Foods (whom I loveeeee by the way), Body Essence, Dial, Garnier Fructis, Head and Shoulders, Palmolive Pure + Clean, and Long’s to name a few!  Some of the leading brands with products testing at the highest levels for the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane were Dial, Palmolive, Head & Shoulders, and Body Essence. Legal notices have been served to Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap (who had the highest levels of the carcinogen at an alarming 204 parts per million, ten times higher than any other product’s current results in the study), Dial and others.

1,4-dioxane is “known to the State of California to cause cancer” and thanks to the efforts of watchdog groups like OCA, manufacturers are being held accountable for introducing this hazardous chemical into products that come into contact our skin.  Skin is your body’s largest organ.  Products placed on the skin can penetrate the skin’s outer layer to reach the cell-creating layers beneath.  As consumers, we need to pay attention to what’s in the products we put on our skin.  So read your labels, chose natural and/or organic when you can and understand what’s Natural or NOT!

Why I Love “real” Soap

Handcrafted soaps are made by mixing water, oils (or fat) and lye. The resulting saponification process creates a solid composed of soap and glycerin.  Soap cleanses the skin and glycerin moisturizes it. Once saponification is complete, there is NO LYE left in the soap. Regardless of what people may have told you, you cannot make soap without lye. If someone tells you otherwise they are probably trying to sell you detergent made from synthetic products!

Did you know most of the commercial soap bars that line most grocery stores’ shelves are actually synthetic detergents?  Glycerin is the natural by-product of soap making that makes Handcrafted soap special. Because of its value, many soap companies remove it from their products and sell it to other manufacturers.  So by using handcrafted soap you get clean and moisture in one!

Learn more:  http://www.realhandmadesoap.com/folders/faq.htm

All The Technology

I’ve spent this afternoon trying to get better educated on the features of worldpress.com, Facebook, and Twitter and how to get them all to work together.  I officially have a headache now.  So, that means it’s time to unwind in the kitchen with some oils, butter, herbs, a little music and a lot of soap making.  Have a beautiful weekend.

Welcome To Our Blog!

Well world, I’ve finally given in to positive peer pressure and started a blog.  I intend to use this blog as a forum for sharing information about the soap and body care industry from the perspective of a small business owner and consumer of handmade, skin healthy and natural products.  I hope you find the information I post here to be both informative and entertaining.  And I encourage you join me in the discussion.

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