Saturday, August 29, 2009

The joy of making liquid soap

I just have to say this: I LOVE making liquid soap. I love it!

Bar soaps can be so touchy. The temperatures of the lye solution and the oils need to be within a certain range before you can combine them. Depending on the oils used, trace can happen quickly or it can take forever. ("Trace" is the soapmaking term for the point at which the soap batter is sufficiently thick to pour into molds.) Adding certain essential or fragrance oils can dangerously accelerate the saponification process and result in soap batter that thickens so quickly it can't even be poured.

In short, there are a number of problems one can run into when making bar soaps, you can't always predict them, and you've always got to be on your toes.

Liquid soap, on the other hand, is wonderfully low-maintenance and very forgiving. The oils just need to be very warm to moderately hot.  No thermometers necessary.  Just touch the side of the stockpot. And the potassium hydroxide solution doesn't need to be cooled down before it's mixed with the oils. As soon as it's dissolved, pour it in. None of the potential or unanticipated problems that can happen with bar soapmaking are applicable to liquid soapmaking.

Having recently made a number of small batches of bar soaps to test new fragrance blends for the fall and holidays, all of which were touchy and nerve-wracking, it was a particular joy yesterday to make a no-fuss, predictable, and wonderful batch of liquid soap. 

Just wanted to share with this one.  Thanks for indulging me . . . !

Friday, August 28, 2009

How to find out whether chemical ingredients pose health risks

Ever wondered or tried to find out what sodium lauryl sulfate really is? Or dipropylene glycol? Or any of the other mysterious chemical compounds on the labels of personal care products?
If not, I can hardly blame you. Researching things like this is normally pretty low on my to-do list.

But there are times when I do want to know, and one of the best resources I've found is the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. You can search it for information on any and every ingredient used in cosmetic and personal care products. I have a link to it on my website's Links & Resources page. Each ingredient is rated for it's level of toxicity and potential harm, which is useful for people who are interested in reducing their level of exposure to some of the more more questionable chemicals found in everyday household products.

One caveat. Keep in mind that the toxicity ratings are often based on tests that involve substantially higher exposure rates than one would experience in normal use of whatever the product is.

But that said, I think it's a useful resource for consumers and an especially valuable resource for soap makers who use pre-made soap or lotion bases or add chemical detergents, surfactants, preservatives, and so on to anything that they make.

And the site has the most beautiful soap bubble image! Isn't this gorgeous?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Edgewater Soaps has been Yelped!

I must thank my good friend Julie for Yelping Edgewater Soaps. As you may know, Yelp! is one of those websites like CraigsList that's national but has local sub-sites for cities and towns across the country. Yelp! enables anyone who wants to submit their own personal review of anything from a restaurant or retail outlet to an event or just about anything else.

So when my friend Julie, who loves my soaps and is just a terrific person, offered to write a testimonial that I could use on my website or in an e-mail newsletter, I said "You are WONDERFUL! And if you really will do that, I'd love it if you would do that as a review on Yelp!"

And here's why, I told her: just type the words handcrafted soap chicago into Google, and what's the very first site that comes up? Yelp! And if your testimonial is on Yelp!, I can link to it on my website or from an e-mail newsletter. Kill two birds with one stone, as they say. (But please don't tell the PETA people I used that horrible expression that treats violence toward innocent creatures so casually and ought to be stricken from the English language! I have never killed even one bird with a stone.)

If you'd like to read the review or add your own, just Yelp!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Welcome to my blog! It's named Life and Soap because the two intersect in many ways. A perfect example is this article, which I e-mailed to everyone on my Edgewater Soaps list and posted to my facebook page.
It's about triclosan, which is the primary ingredient in practically every commercial antibacterial soap product. It's in nearly 1,000 consumer products, according to the Skin Deep database. Tons of it are washed down the drain every day, and it's now showing up in the ocean food chain.
And what really gets me is that it's totally unnecessary for any normal cleansing need. You don't need to kill germs and bacteria, you just need to wash them off. Plain old soap does that very effectively.
Regrettably, people think they're actually doing something healthy when they use these products, not realizing that they've been sold on a need that doesn't exist . . .