I’m down to my last bar of home made soap. This pretty impressive, given that I last made soap in February 2012.
I use the instructions from the Down to Earth blog to make a plain olive and coconut oil soap. I’ve made this several times now, and each time it’s turned out slightly differently (and usually involved me having to remelt it because it hasn’t set properly).
I bought all my ingredients, cleaned the kitchen, put radio 4 on and made sure Peter was out. Couldn’t find the thermometer but carried on regardless (we all know what I’m like for (not) following instructions).
Normally, as soon as the caustic soda hits the water it fizzes and heats up to almost boiling. This time it was barely warm, and hardly fizzing at all.
Hmm. I emptied it down the drain and tried again. No – still no fizz, and no heat (but at least the drain was clean).
Then I spotted the problem – I’d bought ‘drain cleaner WITH caustic soda’ (and presumably a load of other useless ingredients). My soap making would have to wait another day…
The next day, armed with plain, uncut caustic soda, I tried again. Still no thermometer, but it fizzed nicely, and I made an educated guess as to when the oil and caustic soda were the same temperature, then threw them in together and set about mixing them with my stick blender (trying not to make them into a frothy mess like last time).
Well, they mixed nicely – but they also melted and completely ruined my stick blender. It seems that thermometer would have come in handy after all…
By this point it was getting late, and I had a wedding to cycle to the next day and needed some sleep. I abandoned the mix on the stove, thinking I’d remelt it in the morning and try again, as I had so many times before. In the morning, the mix had set entirely solid in the bottom of the pan, trapping my balloon whisk. Two hours of gentle melting later, and I was left with this half-solid disgusting mess, which I’m afraid I abandoned again to cycle to the wedding.
Somehow, the abandoned mixture sat in disgrace on the back of the stove for several more days. I tried remelting, but Peter couldn’t stand the fumes and I had to stop. Eventually he went out, and I tried again. Despite having all the windows open, the fumes were so strong I feared I might poison our temporary dog, so I had to give up again.
At this point I despaired. I’d ruined my stick blender, and three pans and the balloon whisk were caked in toxic smelling soap mix. I ignored the whole sorry mess for another couple of days, then decided to throw the whole lot in the bin and start again.
(Around this time I spotted the thermometer – sitting innocently in the cutlery pot right next to the sink, where it had been all along).
I started gouging the now-solid mix out of the first of the three pans, thinking how much of a shame it was to throw it away when I’d spent nearly £7 on ingredients. As I gouged, I realised it felt, well, soapy. I put the first empty pan in the sink and it filled with bubbles. Had I actually made soap after all??
Some of it I managed to slice, and by the end, it looked quite passable. In fact, if you squint a little and turn your head to one side, it could even pass as art.