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Adventures In Soaping




Formulating and creating a new soap is always an adventure. As with all new endeavors, sometimes you win, and sometimes, well, you end up with a big oily mess on the floor. We finally took the time to work on some of our long-anticipated additions to our soap line-up. I have wanted to add a gentle, shea butter-based facial soap to our skincare repertoire for almost a year. I have also been yearning to play with a new shave soap bar inspired by my ruggedly handsome Russian virtual friend, Pavel. At long last, we finally took the time to put my new recipes to the test.


First, we experimented with the facial bar. Overall, it went well. We have solid, beautifully creamy white soap pucks curing on the rack. Although the bars are still "hot," I am hopeful they will be as gentle, soothing, and dense lathering as I predict. There have been several requests for a gentle, moisturizing, shea butter-based soap, and we are hoping it is pleasing to all. I will never use anything harsh, synthetic, or chemical-based for my products, so; I'm sorry to report your face will not smell like a cookie. I will always offer natural, healthy products made with nourishing ingredients that offer skin-loving qualities. I believe this soap falls into that category. It is a pure, simple, unscented bar packed full of face-loving ingredients. Once it has had time to cure, I will try it out on family and friends before making it widely available. It is a process, but I anticipate positive results.


My Pavel-inspired shave soap is another story. I have researched the ingredients, process, and desired outcome of a wet shave bar for several months. I have found that most recommend using a dual lye soap recipe to achieve the long-lasting, rich, dense lather required for a good wet shave. I am familiar with sodium hydroxide for my cold process soaps but have never used potassium hydroxide, which is used to make soft or liquid soaps. I researched, I formulated, I reformulated, and I researched some more. I finally created a recipe I felt would provide me with all the desired high-quality wet shave soap characteristics. Let me just say my confidence in my chemist abilities is a bit shaken.


All began well; we followed the recommended procedure for combining the milk and the two lyes. We made sure our temperatures were well within the recommended range. We mixed, and we looked panic-stricken at each other, and then we simultaneously used profanity. The concocted mixture looked like curdled milk. As The Bibbed Wonder continued to mix, it progressed to cottage cheese. I recommended he turn up the speed to our super blender to hasten the emulsification. He looked skeptically at me and complied. The mixture then looked like lumpy mashed potatoes with a thick layer of melted butter on top. I just kept repeating, "Oh! not good, not good, not good at all!" The oils would not emulsify, and the glop in the pot continued to take on a more and more grotesque appearance. After a lot of mixing, we decided we had best get the mess into a mold before it seized into hardness in the pot. I suggested we put the mess in our loaf molds to observe the process and easily move the mess to the garbage if necessary. The Bibbed Wonder felt it best to pour it into our pipe molds, "just in case it turned out well," Hmmm, it is never a good idea when we switch roles as the optimist.


Once the gelatinous mess was in the mold, it curdled again, separated into an oily mess, and then leaked out the bottom of the tubes onto the floor in five pounds of nasty goo that looked like something from the show Stranger Things. I waited for it to begin to shapeshift into some monstrous face-eating creature, but it did not. Instead, it just made a smeary, oily, slippery mess on the floor of the studio. We watched it for several days and were not impressed with what we saw. First, there was a thick layer of oil on top. Strangely, the oil seemed to absorb back into the soap after a few hours. Next, it looked like cottage cheese with butter mixed in for a few days. All the while, it remained jello-like. I was concerned with how we would get it out of the mold without spilling the sludge all over the floor once again. With two shows over the weekend, we walked away from it and forgot about it. I looked at it yesterday, four days after its initial creation, and it is finally a soft solid. Surprisingly, it looks well blended and creamy, although still very soft. I believe we will ignore it for a few more days in hopes that it solidifies enough that we can remove it from the tubes. However, I remain skeptical.


This little endeavor we have begun always offers us challenges and creates interesting situations. I must admit, I like it much better when things turn out the way I envision. However, we all know that is just not the way of life. I will keep you posted on our new soaping adventure and try to leave out the colorful profanity. As always, dear reader, stay safe, be smart, don't be afraid to go on an adventure, and keep washing your hands.


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