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  • Writer's pictureMeg Grimm

Am I a Soaper Yet?

Soapmaking is all fun and games until the supplies run out.

Being married to Max is mostly about penny-pinching. Except it’s closer to tenths-of-penny-pinching. And for no good reason other than that he thinks anything less is irresponsible behavior.

I got in trouble tonight for having too many lights on, so this is what happens when it’s a night I planned to write a blog post. You get to hear about Max being silly, and he gets to feel bad, maybe. (He won’t.)

Max is a good guy, don’t get me wrong. Though I'm not sure how I haven’t killed him. God is good, too.

Back to soap.

The last batch of soap I made was an experiment to create a better lather. It worked! I tweaked the recipe, and the soap lathered like regular soap!

But after it cured, I knew what my next experiment would be. And I knew I only had enough supplies left for one more batch, so I would have to make it count.

This time, I would be testing three different methods for avoiding the dreaded “partial gel.” All of my soaps so far have succumbed to it. (A partial gel means the soap is fine to use, but the inside is darker than the outside edges. Not very pretty.)

In the fall, I was talking to a soaper at a festival. She sold me a particularly beautiful-looking bar of goat milk soap. It was a lovely, creamy white color, just like milk. I had previously thought that to get that look, I had to prevent the gel-phase altogether. This person told me she and her husband found that was not true.

For some homemade soap, check out these local artisans!

One way to prevent the gel phase is to put soap batter in the refrigerator or freezer for 24 hours after pouring. This is especially recommended for milk recipes like mine. Therefore, all my previous soap batches went into the refrigerator immediately after I poured them. I never tried anything else.

Tonight, I poured my soap batter into my three different molds. I wrapped the first in a towel and put it in the closet. It would be encouraged to have a full gel. The next mold went into the freezer and the last one into the refrigerator. The two molds that went into the freezer and refrigerator were single molds, which might help to cool the batter quicker and better prevent partial-gel.

Since I was running low on my soap supplies, I ended up improvising a little. What I lacked in one ingredient, I replaced with another oil or butter. I also forgot to add the sodium lactate, which hardens soap. But it’s not necessary. So although the recipe itself became a little wonky this time around, the experiment of this batch is focused on gel-phase. To gel or not to gel?

In all, I’ve come to realize that the problem with trying to create your own soap recipe is that you have to keep trying, which means you have to keep spending. Grant it, I haven’t purchased any new supplies since I first started. However, I have not perfected my goat milk soap yet, and I have no idea how many more experiments are needed before I do. Limiting my mistakes through careful research and planning is proving to be challenging. After all, people learn by doing.

So, the moral of the story: Max is going to have to get his grace on. I have my shopping list for the next round of supplies. (Don't tell him.)

Rare photo of Max getting ready to spend money.

I think for anyone wanting to just have fun and make a batch of soap, they should be wiser than I and use an existing recipe from a well-known soaper, such as Jan Berry.

But for those crazies like me who are determined to truly DIY, even peasant-style, I love that we get each other. It will be worth it in the end, right? (Tell Max that.)

Peasantly Yours,

Meg Grimm

Meg Grimm is a writer and history buff who loves Jesus, tea time, folklore and fairy tales. In the real world, she works in a castle - at least some people think so. She is married to Max, and they have a cat-dog named Bill. One day, you'll find her living in a cottage deep in the woods writing your next favorite book.

#soapmaking #goatsmilksoap #partialgel #chandlery #soap

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