I walked today but it was the sort of walking that took me from one shop to another, in search of inexpensive equipment to make soap with. A couple of strong plastic (BPA free) measuring jugs here, a spatula and bucket there….it was a pleasurably time-consuming quest.

I remembered in the supermarket why I didn’t try ‘proper’ soap making when the kids were little. It’s the lye. The caustic soda. You’re supposed to make sure there are no kids or pets around when you’re soap making, just in case some falls on them, or heaven forbid, they pull the solution down on themselves. Makes me shudder just to think of it.  I wore protective goggles and latex gloves to make my test batch tonight and inexplicably forgot about shoes. After all, I was at home, comfortable and I had glasses….

I realised my mistake when I felt a pinprick of searing heat on my left foot and looked down to see a tiny hole where a small drip had landed. Luckily, I’d prepared the small spray bottle of vinegar suggested on a lot of the youtube soap making channels and I was ready. I spritzed the area and the burning stopped. But the caustic soda solution really does do skin-melty things, so WEAR PROTECTIVE GEAR if you’re going to play with soaping. Let my foot serve as warning.

I’m getting ahead of myself. 🙂

I used a recipe on Rhonda Hetzel’s website, ‘Down to Earth’. It’s not the only one I could have used, there are thousands but it’s the one in the book my mother gave copies of, to me and my sister at Christmas and its simplicity appeals to me. It’s a four ingredient soap. Olive Oil, Coconut oil, Water and Lye/Caustic Soda. The exact recipe and method are explained well on her site and after watching and reading since last night, I figured I had it pretty well sorted out. The lye gets mixed with the water first. Always pour the lye into the water, never the other way around. Apparently explosions of one kind or another could result. It gets really hot too, and there are fumes, so mixing outside, with very cold water, is a good idea.

Instead of water, I made chamomile and spearmint tea, for the colour and maybe the hint of fragrance, although that was probably consumed by the Lye. I saved the leaves in a bowl, squeezed of most of their moisture.

When the lye/tea solution cooled enough, I mixed it into the oils and whizzed it up with a hand blender, bought ultra cheaply, for the purpose, then added Eucalyptus oil. I poured a bit into a separate jug, added the tea leaves to it and whizzed that too, both were now ‘at trace’, the point at which you can see a sort of line when you draw the spoon or blender through the mixture. I poured the plain one into an old wooden crate lined with a plastic bin bag and secured with clamps ($1.50 at Bunnings), waited a minute and then poured the darker, tea-leaf mixture on top.

Then I got a bit over-excited and started drawing lines and swirls with a skewer, so who knows what the finished product might look like.. I put the box into a cupboard in the laundry, washed up my making space and made dinner, feeling very achieved. It’s a good feeling, making useful, lovely, natural things.

When I checked on it after dinner, cracks had started to appear and I rushed to my laptop to find out why. “It’s too hot!” I proclaimed, bustling to the kitchen, whipping out the box and rushing it out onto the cool of the verandah, all in one movement and all as though it was deeply, deeply important. I even took photos… 🙂

Just after pouring

Just after pouring

Out on the verandah...Cracks, see?

Out on the verandah…Cracks, see?

Okay, see them now?

Okay, see them now?

I still haven’t found the charger for my camera battery, so I’ve been using my phone, which is…..better than nothing…but I’ll find the charger.

Tomorrow night I’ll be able to turn the soap out and cut it while it’s still softish, then lie it in newspaper in a warm, airy place to dry, for 4-6 weeks. It can be used before then but it could become smooshy in water and not last as long.

Altogether, I’m counting this as a success for my first attempt and I’m looking forward to making Oatmeal and Honey soap on Saturday.