Monday, January 4, 2016

Salt Bars and More

I have had a weekend of experimentation; it's been fun. I've missed just playing with soap. Ready?

First, the salt bars. They are hardening up nicely and looking good.

In all, there are eight of the round "pucks" and two of the flowers. I scented the entire batch with a combination of peppermint, lavender, and rosemary. The resulting scent is a nice, fresh blend but I do find that the peppermint comes through the most.

The bars aren't quite as white as the picture shows; they're a little more creamy. Hopefully they stay that way. I'll admit, I really want to try these and I'm looking forward to doing just that in a few months. Salt bars are, apparently, better the longer they sit, with a cure of at least 4-6 months. I will have to be patient.

Over on the Soap Making Forum, there has been talk of New Year's Castile soap (100% olive oil soap). Reading through that thread lead me to another thread about a castile soap that should not work, by our current understanding of soap making.

If you're interested in going through the current 66 pages of posts about it, you can find the thread here:

It's interesting reading and it made me want to try it. That happened yesterday afternoon. Because castile soap is supposed to be just olive oil, lye, and water, that's what I used. The recipe in the thread can be found in this blog post:

I can tell you that mine looks nothing like the pictures on the above-mentioned blog. It's in the mold but it ain't pretty.

I think I poured it into the molds too soon; it has separated. I won't even show  you a picture yet. I may have to put it all back into my mixing bowl and start over with stirring it, possibly warming it up first. We shall see. This is an experiment still in process.

That leads me to my third experiment. This one has a story behind it, too. It's about a soap that goes back as far as the 1400's in Amsterdam. My history with this soap is much more recent than that but, as you will see, it's a soap with a history.

For those of you who don't know much about me, I'm from a Dutch background. As a child, I can remember my mother buying and using something called Groene Zeep (green soap) and/or Zachte Zeep (soft soap). Now that I'm making my own soaps, I've started wondering about Groene Zeep but have been unable to find much information about it. 

Until yesterday. John is reading a book called "Amsterdam" and in it was a reference to Green Soap, made by the Dutch along the canals of Amsterdam as far back as the 15th century. According to the book, it was made with a combination of hemp oil, rapeseed oil, and potash. John asked me if that would make a viable soap? I almost jumped with excitement!

Over the last few weeks, I've been reading about liquid soaps made with glycerin instead of water and made with potassium hydroxide (caustic potash) and oils. Potassium hydroxide, as opposed to sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) is used to make soft and/or liquid soaps.

Putting the information from the book together with my recently learned information about glycerin based soaps, I started hunting online. I came across a post on RootsWeb about the Dutch Colonies and obsolete jobs. This one was about soapmakers. It isn't a long article so I will post it here, in it's entirety.

The soap making business (in the Netherlands) goes back till the 15th century and the
ingredients were always strictly regulated in order to protect the
quality. The top years in the early 1600 could be characterized by
small-scaled production; most soap makers had only two or three man on
their pay list. Such a small company could produce between 30 to 60
barrels of the famous green soap per week. During the following 150 years the companies grew, but the production and quality declined.

The Dutch zeepzieders (soap makers) produced two kinds of soap: summer- and winter
soap. The two main ingredients were hemp-oil and coleseed-oil (rapeseed oil). From
Martinmas (11 November) until Shrove Tuesday (six weeks before Easter)
the mixture contained two parts hemp-oil and one part coleseed-oil and
from Shrove Tuesday until Martinmas two parts coleseed-oil and one part
hemp-oil. These two kinds of soap were called winter- and summer soap.
In later years linseed oil became the third ingredient, but it had to be
crystal clear, not turbid.

But increasing oil-prices forced the soap makers to bend their rules
sometimes; in 1704 and 1716 they were allowed to use butter in the
summer soap and in 1709 and 1740 they added talc, which had a negative
effect on the quality. Those deviations from the rules were exceptions,
the quality had to be protected. Soap makers who broke the rules by
using fish-oil could count on a 300 guilders fine and closure of their
mill for at least three months.

Note especially the second paragraph. After reading that, I decided to give it a try. I still had a bit of hemp oil left but I don't use canola, made from gmo rapeseed. I went to SoapCalc and looked for an oil that had a somewhat similar make up and decided to go with corn oil. I made a small batch, 8 ounces of oil.

More or less following the directions for a glycerin based liquid soap, which results in a soap paste, I mixed my glycerin and KOH (potassium hydroxide), heated until the KOH was melted. My first mistake was made here; I didn't realize I needed way more glycerin than I had in my pot. I ended up with something I had to scrape out of the pot. Oh well! I dumped it into the warmed oils and started stirring, and stirring, and stirring, and stirring.

After a while, I stopped, re-read some of the recipes and realized I needed more glycerin. I went back to SoapCalc, punched in a few more numbers to figure out how much more glycerin I needed (at least two times what I'd used), and started pouring in the much needed glycerin. Eventually, it all came together. I put it in a container and went to bed.

This morning, the resulting gel was so thick, I could barely get a spoon into it. I think had I tried, I could have bounced it. It was thick. I didn't have time to do anything with it, though, so I left it until tonight.

After work, I took that container of rubbery, soapy goodness and softened it in the microwave. In the meantime, I warmed up some distilled water and, once everything was hot, started adding some of the distilled water to the gel. Eventually, it softened but it was difficult to get everything the same consistency.

It looked like this at one point...

Appetizing, huh? John agreed that it looked like a jar of snot! He suggested that Ethan might get a kick out of it. I'm sure any boy between the ages of 6 and 10 would, indeed, love it!

However, I wasn't finished with it. I put that jar into a pan of hot water and brought it to a simmer. I let it sit in the simmering water for about half an hour. Here's how it looks now...

Is that not a thing of beauty?

Look at that lather... just from adding hot water to clean the bucket! That was just made last night!
Tomorrow, after it's cooled, we'll see how thick it is. If it's too thin, I'll turn it into a liquid soap; I don't mind that at all. If it's still jelly-like, perfect!

Groene zeep is an all-purpose cleaner. We used to use it for almost everything around the house, from mirrors to floors.

Excited? Me? Nah.... well, maybe just a little bit.

Ok, yeah, I'm excited!

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