Making your own soap – with Christine Keller

Recently I went to my third soap making activity with other Sustainable Action Community group members – this time with my recorder and camera so that I can share with you a little of what it is like to make your own soap. It’s definitely the sustainable alternative to buying mainstream commercial soap. In fact most of the soap we buy contains artificial fragrances and synthetic preservatives. Furthermore it is almost invariably made with palm oil – a very unsustainable product as it is indirectly leading to the destruction of our Malaysian and Indonesian rainforest to clear land for the growing of palm oil.

Soap making has been around for 1000s of years – with first records of a recipe in 2800BC in Babylon! In more recent times past, soap was something every family made, containing just three essential ingredients – Sodium hydroxide (otherwise called caustic soda), fat or oil, and water – combined in a process called saponification. It sounds simple, but as you’ll hear soapmaking is a potentially hazardous exercise! Still the outcome of lovely benign eco-friendly soap is definitely worth it!

In this programme, a small group of us get together to make some soap with fellow SAC member and friend Christine Keller. Christine enjoys making her own products including her own soap and is a natural teacher of practical skills.

TO LISTEN to this programme about Soapmaking please click on http://new.accessradio.org/Player.aspx?eid=981f7462-58ae-4d2f-8ed0-e40400d277f2

To find out more about

This programme was originally broadcast on  the  7th May 2015 with the help of Otago Access Radio 105.4FM. Eco Living in Action is hosted by Maureen Howard and is supported by the Dunedin City Council.

Fiona measures the oil

Fiona measures the oils – olive, coconut and castor oil – for our solid shampoo bar soap recipe

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Christine carefully measures out the sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) and adds it slowly to the water. This is done outside with good ventilation to prevent inhalation of fumes. Safety glasses and thick gloves should be worn.

The saponified mix of caustic soda, water and oil is stirred carefully until it thickens

After the caustic soda solution (lye) is added to the warmed oil, the mix of caustic soda, water and oil is stirred carefully until it thickens. The thickening is an indication that the chemical reaction of saponificaton, the formation of soap from lye and oils, as started. This process can be greatly speeded up by using a stick blender.

 

The soap is placed into reused tetrapak containers together to stay warm and to cure for 6 plus weeks. It will then be tested with litmus paper to check the caustic soda has all been converted.

The saponifying soap is then poured into reused tetrapak containers and stored together to stay warm and to cure for 6 plus weeks. It will then be tested with litmus paper to ensure that all the caustic soda has all been saponified. Once this is done it can be sliced into wonderful soap!

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