Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Soapmaking, pt 1

I remember when I was young -- maybe seven years old, give or take -- my parents' neighbors gave me a bar of homemade soap. He made some statement about how easy it is to be self-sufficient. I thought it was so cool that I kept that bar of soap in a Ziploc bag in a drawer for years, not wanting to use up what I considered a gift.

Lately, I've seen a lot of blogs and DIY sites discussing how to make your own bar, laundry or other kind of soap, ostensibly saving yourself a lot of money. With bars of hand soap going for as little as $0.50 each and more natural castile soap for $1.66 each, I don't imagine there's a huge cost savings in that. But we certainly use a lot of dish soap in no small part because our dishwasher doesn't actually clean our dishes.

A couple weeks ago, I picked up some of the ingredients for homemade dish soap -- mostly on Amazon but some at Target. I started by baking a $0.75 box of baking soda into washing soda.

Once our castile soap came in, I took out the cheese grater and a beer, shredding and drinking them, respectively.

I made two different recipes: the first from Nature's Nurture is, in short:

  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup (tightly packed) castile bar soap, grated
  • 1 tablespoon washing soda (use a little more for a thicker soap)
  • 1/4 cup liquid castile soap

Combining ingredients one at a time, in order, mixing as you add them. I found the tightly-packed grated soap seemed to be rather counter-productive: I was left with big chunks of soap that should have long been dissolved but that I spent an inordinate amount of time stirring away. This version is pretty viscous but seems to do okay.

Delicious on pancakes.

We already had some Dr. Bronner's liquid soap, but I estimate we used about $1.20 of it in this batch, around $0.30 bar soap and negligible washing soda.

The second version from The Prairie Homestead adds glycerin (I used this product)

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons grated bar soap
  • 1/4 teaspoon washing soda
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin

This version uses about $0.10 of glycerin, about the same in soap and a negligible amount of washing soda. The result on this first batch is extremely watery and thus not very effective.

My first go at this batch produced perhaps twice the amount shown in this picture. I since combined some of this with the first batch in order to produce a soap with better consistency. When these two batches are out, I will experiment again with two iterations more near each other -- probably with the first recipe using less liquid soap and the second, less water.