DIY Beginners, Soap, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

Question: How to make soap?

So you’ve got your equipment, and you’ve got your ingredients. Now it’s time to get down to work and formulate a recipe!


What do we want in soap? Generally people want a hard bar of soap, as the general rule of thumb is, that the harder a bar of soap is, the longer it will last. We want soap to last as long as possible, we want the soap to moisturise, we want the soap to lather awesomely, we want the soap the not be stripping of our skin loving oils, we don’t want to be itching after a shower from dry skin, and… I don’t know about you, but I want to use the soap to shave my legs with. I’m exceedingly lazy and I don’t want too many products cluttering my shower. Or poofs or gloves or cloths… I like my shower area to be clean, organized and nothing on the floor.

And can we get all those demands? Yup! With some tweaks here and there, it is totally possible to get that done. I mentioned this before in previous posts, but what works for me, may or may not work for you. Take into account your water you bathe with, the condition of your skin, your climate/environment, clothing, type of lotion, all these and more will factor in how your soap will work.

Soap Prep1To make soap you will need to follow this simple equation:

(fats)+(lye)+(liquids)= soap

But to make a bar of soap that doesn’t look like fudge, you might want to add in some scents and colours, and maybe some other ingredients like coffee. So our equation would then look like this:

(fats)+(lye)+(liquids)+(additives)= soap

Soaping is generally always done in percentages, and each and every recipe needs to go through a lye calculator (this one is my favourite).

First things first.

How much soap do we want to make?

We want to use 500g of oils to make approximately 770g of soap. You can make a smaller amount say 250g of oils, but then you are looking at mixing for a while with spoon or a fork. And who has an hour to constantly stir?

What oils, butters and fats are going into our basic recipe? 

As we discussed ingredients in this post, we are going to use;

  • Olive Oil 20-30%
  • Coconut Oil 20-30%
  • Animal Fats/Cocoa Butter/ Palm Oil 15-30%
  • Shea Butter 10-20%
  • Castor Oil 5-10%

I don’t have those oils, can I use something else? 

Sure! You will have to run your recipe through the Laye Calculator before you move forward though. Today, we are only going to be using the fats and oils mentioned above.

What if I want my first batch of soap to be bigger? 

I’d strongly advise you to keep your very first batch of soap to be 500g, and simple. You second batch go big! Think of it like this. If you mess up this batch of soap, it’s not that big a deal as you didn’t use a lot of ingredients. Give yourself a batch or two to kind of get an idea of how things work; figure out trace, how long it takes you to pour, the mess.

Can I use a wooden spoon to stir?

No. Play it safe. Use a silicone spatula! Wooden spoons and bamboo ones too could possibly splinter in the heat of the lye solution and cause you to get a splinter in places you really wouldn’t want to get a splinter.

Let’s get started! Looking at SoapCalc; this is what you input.

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 1.14.37 PM

  1. Type of Lye: NaOH is the lye needed for cold process soap.
  2. Weight: today we are going to use 500g of oils.
  3. Water: 38% is a great place! You can bump this up to 40 and then down to 30 to see the difference.
  4. Super fat: This simply means the amount of oils left behind that will not be converted to soap. So, at the end, once cure is over, you will have 5% of that bar of soap still as “free” oils and not soap. Talk about moisturising! You can super fat at 0% for a very cleansing bar, or at 8-10% for a highly moisturising bar. Be careful though, the higher the percentage you go, the higher chances you won’t get a long life from your bar of soap. Or your soap will change colour after a few months! I shudder to think of DOS spots! (Dreaded orange spots)

Recipe One: two animal fats

(rock hard solid bar and highly moisturising bar, will last a long time)

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 1.17.32 PM

Ok! Now plug in your oils. I always plug in my oils in amounts like ingredients on a label. So, the oil that I am going to add the most of will be first, and the least will be last. You’ll see in any decent soapers recipe they use percentages. This will allow you to upscale or reduce any recipe easily. We will cover how to come up with percentages in a future blog post!

Click on calculate recipe, and your oils should equal 100%. Then click on view or print recipe. A new page will open. You’ll see a lot of mumbo jumbo stuff at the top of the page, and just ignore all that for a little while. This is what you want to look at:

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 1.19.05 PM

This is our recipe!

  • 190g Distilled Water
  • 68.87g Lye- NoOH
  • 500g Oils

With the oil break down looking like this:

  • 150g Olive Oil
  • 100g Coconut OIl
  • 75g Lard
  • 75g Tallow
  • 75g Shea Butter
  • 25g Castor Oil

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 1.19.27 PM

Then your eyes will certainly move over and see this chart. And your heart will start to race thinking YAY! A cheat chart! I just need to move my amounts around and get them to the high end of conditioning and and and and…. no. 100% pure olive oil soap makes for a insanely hard bar of soap. But it only tells you that it will make a 17 on the Hardness Range.

This chart is only just a guide. And like all guides, it’s not 100%. So don’t put a whole lot of faith in it. It only gives you a general idea; and most of the time, that general idea is not really right. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record here; the only way to truly know how the end result of a combination of oils will work in soap, is to make it and test it out.

Recipe option TWO: one animal fat

(highly moisturising, hard bar but the end result will feel like a

slick bar of soap) 


And just so you can see;

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 2.32.38 PM.png

And look at that! Your lye amount is different! How neat is that! Just by removing one ingredient, our whole recipe needs to change! You might think, whoa! It changed! But not by much. What’s the big deal? Each and every oil, fat, butter requires a different amount of lye to convert it to soap. So by swapping one oil for another, won’t work. Or you accidentally pour and extra 100g of one oil and shrug it off thinking meh, it’s all good! I’ll just reduce this other oil/fat. Don’t think so! Imagine you are grilling up a steak. You swap out salt for sugar to season your steak. Your steak is still edible. But is it good? Nope. Notta. Yuck.

Now that we have our recipe, let’s get cracking!

Barb SUITED UP!Don your apron, gloves, eye goggles and safety gear. Be sure to be wearing closed toed shoes too!

Be sure to read all instructions carefully, two or three times before beginning.

  1. Into a heat resistant pot, measure in your water.
  2. Into a separate bowl; like a margarine tub or a cottage cheese container, weigh out your lye.
  3. In a well ventilated space, wearing your safety gear, slowly add your lye to your water, stirring the whole time.
Remember! Snow falls on water! Add lye to your water, not water to your lye!

4. Stir until all the lye dissolves. Be very careful as adding the lye to the water, it will create an exothermic reaction and it gets bloody hot. Yes, hot enough to burn you! If you do get a splash of lye water on you, rinse with lots and lots of running water.

5. Put somewhere to cool. Out of reach of anyone. No touchy touchy, allowing the temperature to come down to room temperature.

6. Into a large pot/bowl, weigh out your fats and oils. Melt over a double boiler if you need to. Allow to cool. IMG_2676.jpg

7. Using a thermometer, make sure your fats and oils and lye are approximately  the same temperature. I personally aim for room temperature so sometimes I weigh out everything the night before and mix when I wake up. This way, I know for sure that everything is the same temperature. For me personally, I find when my bowls are at room temperature, I get the best pours and have the most time to make fancy dancy swirls or tops. Some soapers find that when things are a smidge warmer it provides them with more time… this is one of those things that you will need to learn on your own that no one can tell you what will work best for you.

8. Prepare your mould. You might need to line it if it is not a silicone mould. If you need to line it, please use parchment paper NOT wax paper.

8. This step is critical if you want to ensure a soap that is pretty and you remain stress free. Have every possible tool, piece of equipment, colour, additive, scent… have everything you might need right here with you. You could have made the same batch of soap a million times before, but this time it could cause you a headache. Be prepared! This is also when you will want to go to the bathroom even if you don’t need to! Grab your camera, set it up if you’d like to, turn it on to remember your first batch of soap (hint hint nudge nudge turn it on!!!!). Be sure you have all your additives if you have any, your mould, your pitchers if you want to swirl, your colours, make sure you have everything lined up.

Black Orchid Soap before mixing, look! My mould is already lined!
Bamboo and Teak Waves before the mix
Magarita Salt Bar pre-mix.
Himalayan Salt Soap Bars before mixing

8. Once everything is around room temperature, it is time to combine! You add the lye solution to the fats and oils. I usually allow the lye solution to trickle down the immersion blender so it is not such a huge shock to the batter and I find it just behaves a wee bit better.

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The mixing of Ancient Gold Secrets

9. This is where it gets tricky to explain things. I turn my immersion blender on the lowest setting and basically pulse it through the batter. I do not leave it on and stir. Some soapers will tell you that you need to come to a full trace, whilst others will tell you a light trace. At the end of the day this information is not really all that helpful to a new soaper. Cause what the hell is trace? Trace is where you lightly pour some batter from your spoon or blender and it remains on top.

Tap tap tap, you can see the air bubbles coming to the surface

I usually will pour my soap at a light or a thin trace because I like to do some funky swirls. At the moment I am all about the drop technique which I really can’t seem to master! Vicky at The Soap Mine has the most amazing looking soaps! And that’s all she does. The Drop Technique. I love the look of it! One day I’ll master it! When to pour is really a personal choice and it mostly depends on what you want to do. If I am making a solid colour soap, I’ll pour at a thicker trace as there is not going to be anything special happening in the soap. If I am swirling or doing a complicated swirl, I’ll pour at a thin trace.

So we’ve poured the soap into the mould.

IMG_196510. Tap the soap GENTLY on the countertop to get rid of any air bubbles, and then put it on a shelf away from any sunlight and curious fingers and walk away. For about 12-48 hours. This is again what makes soaping a challenge. Learning when to cut. I usually cut my soaps about 16 hours after I make soap. Some soaps I need to wait two days, whilst others cut within a few hours. It all depends on you and your soap and what you add to it. And temperatures when you mixed, how long you blended for, how hot or how cold your room is… It’s one of those things you need to learn through time and practice.

11. Once you decide it is time to cut, don your gloves, and begin to gently unmould your soap. We are wearing gloves here otherwise you’re going to leave your fingerprints everywhere! And as a safety feature. Your soap may have lye pockets (basically a a pocket filled with liquid lye that could burn you, or a pocket of fragrance oil or just something pockety filled with stuff that could hurt you, so safety first! Wear your gloves!)

12. Using a chopping knife or a clever, GENTLY and SLOWLY begin to cut your soap into soap sized pieces.

13. Stand your freshly cup soap up and put into a cool, dark and well ventilated space to cure.

14. And try to forget about your soap for at least four weeks. I try to let each bar of soap cure for about six weeks before using as then it has had a little more time to become a better bar of soap. The longer it cures the better the soap becomes. Like wine! I don’t really use soap that is less than 8 months old. I’m a snob.

And that is it! Making soap is quite easy, but it does require a whole lot of patience.

Cure 1
Goodnight freshly cut soap for a few weeks! 
DIY Beginners, Soap, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

Question: What should be in my first order? Making Soap

Honestly? The whole dang shop should be in your first order. Remember? I’ve got an entire room, eating area, TV room and the only place actually safe these days from this hobby is my bedroom. And it’s been stolen by boxes and moving stuff. So really. I’m the worst person to ask. And don’t ask any of my DIY buddies as we are the worst enablers of all time. But I am going to try to put my insatiable need for more more more- oh look! New ingredients!- and give you only the ingredients I think work the best in soap. I’ve been soaping for almost nine or ten years now, and have used these ingredients for the past three. The people who knew me way back when that I gifted soap to always said my soap was amazing. And it was. Compared to commercial soap. But. Those old bars hold no candle to the soap I currently make. Those same people when they see me ask for gifts of soap as their own presents from China. Yeah. I’m one of those people who travel to visit their families across a friggen ocean and half my suitcase is soaps. 

Hey you! Random foreigner walking down the street. Are you going to American or Canada anytime soon? Can you take some of my stash with you? My friends and family are requesting product!

SoapWe’re going to Ireland in a few weeks so we are sitting down placing some orders from various shops around the EU and I’m worse than a kid at Costco, “Holy sweet mother of coffee beans! They have Crothix!” “Dear Spatula Goddess, you sent me a shop that has polyquats! Now I can finally make that hair recipe Marie’s gone on about!” And everything is in English. It is amazing! And so easy! The hard part, is figuring out the amounts to buy of each product. Lowest amounts. Low. Low. Low amounts. But we’ll discuss that later. Today is all about soaping! 

In this post, we will already assume you have read and have all your equipment you need. We won’t be talking about recipes… yet. That really does come later once you’ve figured out some stuff. This post is just your shopping list to be able to make some simple (but awesome!!) soaps somewhat cost effectively so you can get a feel for the process and how it all works. Soaping can be somewhat dangerous if you don’t respect your ingredients, and if you are playing with various pours and swirls, you want to know a little of what is in store for you. In terms of what your soap may or may not do. Blend too much? It gets too thick. Don’t blend enough? Your soap separates and is ruined. Add the wrong ingredient at the wrong time in the wrong way, and your soap accelerates to the point where you can’t do anything by pray to the soap gods that it will turn out. 

Southern BelleBut by taking it slow, making a practice batch or ten, playing with your ratios, your liquids and their amounts, you are ahead of the game. But by jove listen to me when I say this…. KEEP IT SMALL SILLY! The DIY’er version of the other KISS.

The soaping community is a fun loving, soap porn/picture sharing community. A word of advice? Every soaper out there will tell you the same thing. And when everyone tells you the same thing, listen.  And I’m serious about this. Listen. And if you don’t, very soon you’ll end up thinking the way we do; eventually. I mean you can do what almost all of us have done when we started, totally ignore seasoned soapers and decide that you will be learning from your own mistakes. It’s the much more expensive route, and much more fun…. and exactly what I did when I began soaping, but I have a fantastic excuse. I had no access to YouTube and most of the internet as I was trapped behind The Great Firewall of China. And some of my bulk ingredients were ridiculously cheap. 

IMG_0388.JPGAnd that is part of the reason I created this post for you. It’s simple, pretty easy and you can get everything I’ve listed pretty cheaply, from one supplier too! You need not worry about messing up a recipe, because the ingredients were not expensive. And even when you cut your soap, you may or may not get the most beautiful bar, it might look like a hunk of fudge, but it will still be an amazing bar of soap. 

You’ll notice that each fat, oil or butter will list a range. And that is because, that’s the fun in soaping. Creating and learning to create a soap that you like. I could sit here and give you the hundreds of soap recipes I’ve tried over the years, but you may or may not find them good. Everyone’s skin is different, everyone has a different kind of bathing water, some people want soap as hard as bricks whilst others want one that is a little softer. Some want their soaps with cocoa butter, whilst others want it with lard. Some want it with olive oil and others refuse to use anything with olive oil. It is all about finding out which soap recipe works best for you. What is important to know about these, is that it these are general guidelines. These guidelines are meant to be observed while you are starting out to get an idea of how to do things. But once you are a comfortable soaper? GO CRAZY!

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 7.10.24 AMNew Soapers Buying Rules to Follow:

  1. Don’t use or buy any expensive, exotic or luxury oils until you’ve made a few batches and have allowed them to cure and have used them so you know what to expect from soaping. Once you’ve used your soap after a suitable cure/age time (I suggest six weeks), that will help you to figure out what your soap needs more of, or less of. 
  2. Drool over those luxury and exotic oils and their descriptions all you want while you get comfortable soaping. 

Enchanted Nights 6.jpg

And that is about it. Fragrance oils all will act differently in your soap. I made soap with vanilla fragrance oil the other week for the first time in my life, the website I bought it from said will heavily accelerate trace. I’m standing there blending and blending waiting for trace to happen and it is just not happening. It took so long to get that batch of soap to even thicken slightly! If I were a new soaper, I’d be wicked worried I did something wrong as it wasn’t thickening up. And then there is the salt bar soap fiasco. I can give you hundreds of stories where someone out there said that this or this would happen whilst making a specific type of soap, and the exact opposite happens. Everything will play a part in how your soap sets up. Climate, temperature, even your ingredients and where your supplier gets them from. 

So take everything, including what I say about soaping with a grain of salt. Learn from your experience and write it all down. What works for one, won’t work for another. And may or may not work for you. And that is the crazy part of soaping. And the joy. 

If you take nothing else but this paragraph away with you when you begin your soaping journey, start small.

And never ever ever put lavender buds in your soap. They really do look like mouse turds!

So what should be in your first cart? As I mentioned above, we are assuming that you already have all your equipment to make soap. So let’s begin our list:IMG_6788

  1. SAFETY gear. I like my surgical gloves as they are a pretty colour. And they protect my hands from the soap and lye. I like to look down and say oh la la I have purpley blue hands! Or pink. Or purple. Or black. I really want green ones. Don’t forget about eye protection too. And an apron to protect your clothes. And closed toe shoes. Ask me how I know about closed toe shoes and soaping! 
  2. Lye: Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)
  3. Refined Coconut Oil 
  4. Pomace Olive Oil 
  5. Shea Butter 
  6. A hard butter or animal fats 
  7. Castor Oil 
  8. Distilled water

And that is honestly about it. From these ingredients, you can make a fantastic bar of soap and alter your recipe in many ways to find a great base recipe. Let’s go through each one, where we will talk about what it does in soap, and how much I would suggest buying your first time around. IMG_6785

Lye: Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) 500g

You cannot make cold processed soap without this one very important ingredient. Without this ingredient you are going to get mush. And mould. And a gross smelling pile of mess. And a large waste of money. It is the ingredient that converts oils into soap. Without this ingredient, cold process soap is impossible. Let me say that again, it is impossible to make cold process or hot process soap without lye. Yes, it is a dangerous and it is found in many drain cleaners, or you’ll read about it being used as an industrial cleanser, but it is the chemical that saponifies out fats, oils and butters to make what we know and love: soap. 

The soaping process begins immediately once your mix your lye solution with your fats/oils. You’ll find your soap begin to thicken up after some mixing, and that is the magic. You pour, leave your soap in a mould for a day or two, unmould and cut. Your stash is now soap. You’re first few batches you will be there feeling up your bars of soap enjoying the look, and admiring and patting yourself on the back. You’ll find each time you touch them, they get harder and harder. And after about two to seven days, there is no longer any lye left in your soap. It has evaporated with the water. And all that is left behind, is salt. Oh yeah! Salt.

One more time;

You cannot make soap without lye


If you hear about people making soap without lye, it is a joke. They are making MP (melt and pour) soap.

Coconut Oil (refined): 1kg 

Use: 1-100% Generally 20-30%

Purpose: produces a hard bar, large fluffy bubbles

Property in soap: has the potential to be an overly energetic cleanser when used in high amounts, white soap, I use it as a filler and for it’s hardening properties. And that’s all I use it for. To help give me a harder bar of soap which means longer lasting. 

Yup. I am actually saying buy refined coconut oil here. And use it ONLY in soap. Refined coconut oil still possesses some of the amazing qualities as virgin coconut oil in soap. You’ll still get the hardening factor, you’ll still get your lovely bar. Used usually at 20-30% to impart a nice hard bar of bubbly soap. There is no reason to use virgin coconut oil in your soap. The smell does not survive the saponification process (the soap making process). So you’d just be watching those extra dollars go down the drain every day. Refined. It’s all you need.

IMG_8338.jpgPomace Olive Oil: 1kg

Use: 1-100% Generally, 20-30%

Purpose: When I use olive oil, it is mostly as a liquid filler to be honest and for marketing appeal. It will help to create a wicked hard bar of soap, in time. Which means a longer lasting bar.

Property: I’ve not really noticed any truly distinctive properties to be honest with you other than creating a hard bar of soap.

Ah. Pure olive oil soap, Castile soap. How disappointed I am in you. I do feel you suck as a soap, no matter how long I’ve cured you for. You are overly drying and you produce a snot like lather, which is why I call you the “Snot Soap”. But, you do serve your purpose in soap. You allow my soap to be pourable even with all the hard oils and butter I add into you. You help to produce a nice hard bar of soap even when I use you at 20%. But, other than these two worthwhile mentions, there are much better alternatives for moisturising, and skin loving oils than olive oil.

As I mentioned, I use olive oil simply as a filler in my recipes. I don’t rely on the “amazing” properties of olive oil in my soaps. As I find pure olive oil soap kind of sucks. Which leads me to tell you that the next few fats are pretty dang important.

IMG_0098 2Shea Butter 500g

Use: 10-20%

Purpose: to provide marketing appeal, highly moisturising

Property: VERY easy to work with, helps to create a hard bar of soap if left to cure properly, purely awesome moisturising abilities.

Shea butter is an awesome ingredient in soap. It will help harden your bar over time, but a soap with a higher amount of shea butter will take longer to cure (I’ve found a 30% bar needs about 6-8 months to really cure up well, while 15% is about 6-10 weeks; again, depends on the whole recipe though). Shea butter is one of those magical ingredients that will help moisturise your skin and leave it feeling awesome. There is only one other ingredient I would feel comfortable swapping shea for and that is lard.

Shea Butter


Animal Fats 1kg (or cocoa butter, palm oil) 

Use: 1- 100%

Purpose: provides a highly moisturising bar of soap, and makes for a very hard bar of soap

Property: HARDNESS FACTOR, lard and tallow make for a very hard bar of soap, highly moisturising. Even more than shea butter.

This is where some people get queasy thinking of fats on their skin. But did you know? Olive oil is a fat. Shea butter is a fat. Coconut oil is a fat. And yup. Yeah, I was once there too getting all grossed out thinking of tallow and lard on my skin. But after doing the research and the experimentation (go on and do a quick google search of, “tallow and skin”, you’re eyes are going to go huge at those results) there is no way I want to go back and use a soap for personal use that does not contain tallow or lard.

I think of it like this, most of us eat animal meat. We wear animal skins. And we are ok with that. We slaughter animals for various reasons, I love my beef and chicken soups and my nice Australian steaks. But all that fat doesn’t get used. It gets tossed into the rubbish bin… so why not actually respect the animal and use all that we can instead of throwing it out? Wasting a part of any slaughtered animal for our use is just plain wrong. Most people are not going to become vegetarians or vegans for meat is a part of their way of life, so there will always be these fats going to waste. Why not render them, and use them so the less likely used parts of the animal does not go to waste? The fatty acids found in tallow are also pretty similar to those found in human skin. Tallow is also full of fat soluble vitamins… what is not to like? Soaps made with these fats generally will be ready to be used after about a three to a six week cure time.

IMG_6796Other options: If you are averse to using animal fats in your soap, that’s ok too. There is palm oil (which presents a whole host of issues when it comes to the process of making the oil: deforestation and the orangutan’s natural habitat being destroyed, so please be sure to look into where your palm oil is from). There is also cocoa butter but like shea butter it can take a wee while to really get the nice hard bar of soap from the cure time. I do like lots of cocoa butter in some bars of soap as I find the cocoa butter I buy at the moment, the scent of chocolate does actually come through in the final soap!

Castor Oil 250mL

Use: 5-10% NO MORE!

A high percentage of castor oil in your recipe will make for a very tacky, almost rubbery bar of soap. Castor oil helps to stabilise the lather and I add it to almost every batch of soap I make at 5%.


This one is a little on the iffy side. I personally cannot get access to distilled water as it is not sold where I am. I use filtered water as that is the best I can do. Tap water is most certainly a no no. You want your water to be clean, otherwise it may react negatively with the lye causing you a ton of grief.IMG_6805


Be sure to pick up some colours! Once you’ve got one batch of soap under your belt, you are going to want to start making some pretty pretty soaps and that means playing with some swirls and colours. I like using micas over oxides as micas seem to be able to get more intense colours with and you get more control over them. But, you have oodles of choices here; micas, LabColours, oxides, clays, spices and herbs, and others. Be wary of using various extracts or powdered fruits and vegetables as they might look glorious on the computer screen, but in actuality, they’ll probably turn some brown colour (hibiscus powder anyone? Yup! Brown soap!).6

I’d also suggest picking up some fragrance oils or oodles of essential oils in your first order, you are going to want to try using them after your first batch or two. They are a little on the pricey side, so you don’t want to waste them. Be sure to look at the reviews and the suggestions. The reviews will be your biggest helper in picking various essential oils and fragrances.

Personally, I don’t use essential oils in soap or that much in general for my personal products as they are ridiculously expensive. And in soap? They are only on you for maybe a few seconds before they are washed off. So are they really there to benefit you if your soap is made with lavender essential oil or lemon essential oil? I don’t feel there is a reason to put them in. Just kind of a waste in my opinion.

So! Ready to place your order? Ready to soap???? Huzzah! It’s addictive. It’s calorie free baking at its best!

Soap 3


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Information, MsBarb, Questions, Soap, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

Question: What's the differences between MP and CP Soap?

Since we’ve started this blog, I’ve posted a fair bit about soap. But, there is a big difference between our two current soap options.

  1. CP soap- cold process soap
  2. MP soap- melt and pour soap

There are other types of soap, but these are the two types we deal with at the moment.

CP soap, is made from the base ingredients- this might be confusing. So let’s change them up to something simpler. Baking. Cakes. Yum!

  1. From Scratch (cp soap)
  2. Box Cake (mp soap)

1) So you want to eat some cake. Yum! So you go to your kitchen and look at your cupboards. You’ve got eggs, flour, sugar, butter, baking soda and most importantly, cocoa powder (cause after all, homemade chocolate cakes are the best!). You toss them into a bowl and begin to stir. You add in some vanilla, and stir and pour into your prepared pan. Into your preheated oven it goes.

2) So you want to eat some cake. Yum! So you go to your kitchen and look in your cupboards. Oh wow! Easy! There’s a box of cake mix! You toss it into a bowl, add in the eggs, oil and water and mix. Then you pour it into your prepared pan, and into the preheated oven it goes.

And you’ve got cake! Now, cool and frosting each cake the same. When you eat it, there is a very good chance people would be able to tell the difference.

Are they the same? No.

Do they taste the same? No.

Do they have the same texture? No.

Do you get to control all the ingredients in both? No.

Do they cost the same to make? No.

Do they leave you with the same feeling when you eat them? No. Well… no. They leave you satisfied that you just ate cake. I find homemade cake to be more filling and more satisfying than box cake. I do make box cake from time to time! It’s much cheaper!!!

Let me begin this next part but saying I am 100% biased on this when it comes to cake making or soap making. I will always prefer my things to be made from scratch. I find they taste better and have more of a flare that pre-made stuff doesn’t have. But that also means the cost and time will be different too.

Butters, fats and oils… I get to control them.
Making CP soap

In cp soap, you get to choose each ingredient you add in. Each ingredient has a very specific purpose and reason for being there. Coconut oil is there for hardness and to try to get some bubbles as bubbles are what people want. Castor oil is there for it provides the bubbles with stability. We add some sugar to help get better bubbles. Kaolin Clay is there to give the soap a creamy feeling. Lard and tallow are used as it they are the best moisturisers in soap making, helps to combat the signs of aging, and is the most amazing skin food. And they provide wicked hardness to the bar which means long lasting. Shea butter, because people associate shea with good skin (and really, thats the only reason I toss it in! It is good, but there are better ingredients!). Olive oil is actually my filler in soaps. Then I get to choose things like colours, fragrances, extracts, herbs, do I pipe? do I add in coffee? Salt? This? That? The kitchen sink? Do I make it look like a bar? A food item? But then, you need to let it sit for about six weeks before you use it. And when you begin to mix… you could get an explosion, a volcano, seizing, ricing, acceleration, perfect trace… you really really never know what is going to happen when you make cp soap.

BEST part of MP soap? Colour no good? Melt it down!

In mp soaps, your base is pre-made. You don’t get to choose which ingredients go in. You can use it as is, or add in some colours, some fragrances, a little toy in the middle. Let it cool down for a few hours then use it that same day.


Do they perform the same? This is a very difficult one for me to answer as I can only speak for my skin. And my skin says no. 100% no. You couldn’t even pay me to use mp soap. Even if I were at someones isolated house on a mountain top and I ran out of my soap and had no way to get more, and all they had to bathe with was mp soap… I still wouldn’t use mp soap. My skin cannot stand it. I find it very drying.

Now that I’ve told you that my skin is biased in regards to soap, let me say, that some people really really like mp soap on their skin. They find it great and that it meets their skins needs. They find it perfect for them and they talk about how amazing it is. And let me just say I am suffering from envy at this moment. How I wish that were me! We are just beginning our mp soap journey and how I would love to have all those glorious and beautiful and artistic looking soaps to have in my bathroom for use, but I cannot. My skin won’t take it.

If we take a look at the differences in appearances, there are some really amazing and talented soap makers out there. Especially when it comes to mp soap. It’s amazing to work with! The art you can create with it is astounding! Your fragrance lasts longer and is more potent, and you don’t have to wait months or even years before first use. And you can see through your soap. How cool is that? And even I would want the funky looking stuff in my bathroom! Just to look at.

One day I’ll be able to do this!

CP soap on the other hand, you cannot see through. But! You can do so many different types of swirls and twirls and fun piping tricks and much more! You can play with embeds and design techniques to make it yours.

All soap is art! But at the end of the day, I drool more over mp soap, but some of our newer soaps coming out of The Scrub Me Down Kitchen are getting pretty neat!

Currently, nameless soap! But smells like candied passion fruit!
“Ancient Secrets”
“Cucumber Delights”

In our soaps we use mp soaps to make embeds in our cp soap. We carefully calculate our cp recipes to counteract the possible drying factor of the mp. In the future, we will also have a range of mp soaps in various scents and colours to help to brighten up the cp soap room! And my absolute favourite part of mp soaping? If you mess up, you just melt it down again and try again! In cp soaping, if you mess the design up, you won’t know for a day or two, and if you mess up the recipe? You won’t know for months!

My skin may not like MP soap, but good golly I wish it did! So until I can get . skin transplant, I will have to settle for adding cool stuff to our CP soap!








Information, MsBarb, Questions, Soap

Learning Curves- Soap Questions

I have a mad love affair with soap. It is so addictive! I love the choosing of ingredients, and I love the whole thought process that goes into making them. And then! choosing the additives and extras, and then thinking of the colours, and then the swirls or design!

And each and every time I make a new batch of soap, I learn something new.

I never used to use fancy colours or fragrance oils and hardly ever used essential oils as they were just too gosh darn expensive to put in there and the scent faded anyways. And since I was just giving away soap to people, I didn’t and couldn’t take on that much added cost. But once I started selling them, like properly selling them (and not just the “hey Barb, got any soap? Yeah, here, 60rmb” type of selling, but the we want to make this an actual business lets set standard prices), we learnt some things. And some of them were not pretty or easy to swallow learning curves.

A sampling of Scrub Me Down- Happy Skin All Natural Soaps, some of these are over five years old! Look! Can you see the rose extract swirl? (Coffee Cream, Orange Zest, Tiger Tail (rose extract swirl) and Neem II
  1. Both Sonia and I think Natural Soaps are actually quite pretty. They are rustic. We both don’t really care what it looks like as long as it does the job. The colour profiles are usually quite muted if natural colour additives were used, or if natural extracts (like bamboo, rose, green tea etc..) were used, they will generally always fade to brown within a few days. There were rough edges and sometimes way too scratchy if herbs were tossed in. Or looked like mouse poo if flower buds were added. But it was soap. And it did the job.
  2. Natural Soaps smell like…. well, soap. And can possibly be a little smelly/funky depending on the ingredients. If you have never held onto or used a bar of real soap (and Zest, Dove, Irish Springs commercially bought are Beauty Bars NOT soap) with no fragrance oil or essential oils, you will know what I mean. It didn’t matter as it was doing the job it was designed for.
  3. Bars were not always even, cut straight and were cut free handed. But again, it did the job.

So this is what we thought about natural and mostly organic soaps.  And we thought, people will love it when they use it! It’s natural and a great product! Which is true, but we learnt very quickly, that most people don’t actually want “natural” soap, they want, “natural PLUS some some chemicals to make it smell like a favourite fruit or flower or food and colour additives to make it look pretty too”. So we had to go back to the drawing board and rethink our additives, extras and spend a fortune on fragrance oils. To make our soaps more pretty. We also aded in more vibrant colours, began using much more difficult swirl techniques, invested in better cutting tools and learnt various and better ways to cut soaps.

Soaps May 2017
Some soaps made in the past month using the “natural PLUS” method

It hasn’t been easy, but thankfully soap is a very forgiving mistress when it comes to swirls and pours. But when it comes to a new and strange and horror story filled past with no one in China that I can ask for help or guidance on a new ingredient like fragrance oils in soap, that’s when grey hair begins. And the worry creeps in. It took a few batches to learn how to use them, and after almost 7 or 8 years of making soaps, I’m finally using fragrance oils and colourants in my soap making with a pretty good success rate and with confidence. My house reeks of grapefruit, bamboo & teak, lemon and lime, strawberries, ocean rain and plenty more! And it is not a bad thing!

A serious concern we have, is some scents that are very popular give me a mighty migraine. So something that we have to think about is, do we make that soap that we are pretty sure will sell well and suffer the few week migraine? Or where can I store it while it cures so it doesn’t affect me? Then there is, how to deal with the space issue of soap cure time (depending on the water content, usually 4 weeks to 8 weeks and that also depends on the weather conditions too)?

And then the question of, When do we start advertising the soap? I love to share my creations when I make them! But soap needs to cure. So do I wait till they are finished curing before posting pictures of things we’ve made? Provide little teasers? Little games of guess what I made today?

There are many things that we have to figure out when it comes to this soap making business. And at the moment, we’ve more questions than answers. These questions thankfully, are only on the business side of things and not the actual product side of things.

A sampling of soaps from the cure room. Which would you rather buy?

Now I know this is a fresh out of the gate blog, and not everyone reading it is an aspiring soap maker or seller. I can tell you one word of advice from the business side of soap making that I never wanted to believe or follow and I wish I did follow it much earlier. The number one way to figure out if you are hobby soap maker or out to make this a business is look at the number of recipes you have. If you have more than three base recipes, you are a hobbyist (or a hardcore soap seller in this business for years and years). If you have one to three base recipes and only your colours/fragrances/top changes, you are serious about turning your soaping into a business.

Information, Soap, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

The History and Making of Soap

I’ve wanted to write a post about the history of soap as it is thousands of years of tradition, invention, trail and error and just in my opinion at least a fantastic topic. But I do understand that while I am fascinated by it, it is not something that everyone finds so interesting. So I’ll do my best to keep it short simple and brief.

Short and Sweet History:

Image result for ancient soap picturesThere is Roman legend that soap was named after Mount Sapo which was a sacred site of ancient animal sacrifices. After the sacrifice, rain would wash the fat of the animal, the ash that had collected down to the Tiber River banks. The legend goes on to talk about how the women would only visit certain parts of the river after a heavy rain as they claimed their clothes were much cleaner. There has also been evidence of early Babylonians making a soapy substance as early as 2800BC. Clay cylinders found have a soap like material in them whilst on the cylinders themselves, there are inscriptions to show almost instructions on how to make soap: fats boiled with ashes.

200AD, Galen, the Greek physician, suggested soap for both medicinal and cleansing purposes.

In the 7th century, soap makers began to appear in France and Italy where soap was made with goat fat and Beech tree ashes. And, around this time, the Spanish began using olive oil to make soap (Savon de Castile anyone?) . It wasn’t until the 12th century that the English began to make their own soaps.

Wealthy ladies of the Tudor period (1485-1603), used a scented toilet soap (probably Castile soap)

In the 19th century, soap making was one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S.


Dove White Beauty Bar 4.0 oz 6pk
Dove. Is NOT soap. It is a “beauty bar”. 


The most difficult part of soap making at this time, was making sure the lye was the correct strength. During World War I, commercial soap as we know it today came into existence. Injuries sustained in war increased the need for cleaning agents. But the ingredients needed to make soap were not easily found. German scientists created a new form of “soap” made with petroleum by-products and detergents were born.

1930- present: legalisation of terms.

Soap: a cleansing and emulsifying agent made usually by action of alkali on fat or fatty acids and consisting essentially of sodium or potassium salts of such acids

Beauty Bar/ Body Bar: made with petroleum by-products

Commercial soap manufacturers learnt that they could actually remove the naturally occurring glycerine from soaps that give it its moisturising properities and add it into your creams and lotions you need to use when commercial “soaps” dry out your skin.

1970’s- body washes were born (notice, not a soap, but again made with by-products)

1980-1990’s shower gels (again… crazy isn’t it?)

There you have it! A VERY brief history of soap!

How to make soap? Making soap

You need three parts,

  1. liquid
  2. fats, oils, butters and waxes
  3. lye

Then you get into the fun part! Or in my case the hardest part. Which do you add? Do you add the milk as the liquid? Water? Coconut milk? Which fats do I use? Lard? Tallow? Palm? Olive? Shea? Avocado? How much of this do I add? That? This? Do I add clays? Extracts? Silk?

Once you’ve measured out your ingredients, then the magic happens! Blend until you reach a good emlusion, then pour into a mold. Let sit for at least 24 hours or more, then cut! Then you have to wait for your soap to cure. The longer it gets to cure, the better the bar will be. Soap and wine have so much in common! Usually one to three months is a good cure time for most soaps.

So ummm… yeah… lye?

Image result for NaOhYes, lye. NaOH. Caustic Soda. It’s not a very nice chemical is it? I’ve got the lye scars to prove that it can be a very dangerous substance. But, as I said, you cannot create soap without it. You can substitute water for strawberry puree or cream. You can substitute tallow for olive oil or lard with shea butter and still get a fantastic bar of soap. But you cannot switch out lye for something else otherwise you are not making soap.

There is good news about lye though! By the time the soap comes to you, there is no longer any lye left in the bar of soap. It is all used up during the sponification process which usually happens during the first 48 or so hours.  And all that remains of the lye in the soap, is simple sodium. Salt. And salt just helps to make the bar harder.

Cure Time what exactly happens?

Soaps curing.jpgAs I mentioned above, to make soap you need a liquid. And then you mix things together, then you pour… yes. Pour. When you make soap, your soap is very liquidy, then the sponification (the process of the fats, oils and such being converted into soap) process takes place and your soap gets firmer. After about two to three days, the lye has done it’s job, converted the fats and oils into soap and you are left with an awesome loaf of soap!

But, the sad part, soap making requires a lot of patience. And I mean a lot of patience. You can begin using your soap after about a week, but that soap might be harsh and probably make your skin red and tingle (and not in a good way). It will also last about as long as a Cadbury Cream Egg in my house. Your new soap will still be very soft (like play dough), and will “melt” as soon as it comes in contact with water.

At this point in the soap making process, there isn’t any lye left. What’s left behind has more in common with common table salt than lye.

Letting your soap cure, allows for all that liquid used in the soap making process to evaporate. And the longer the soap is allowed to cure, the harder and milder the soap will be.

Now for the crazy part. Some soaps take forever to cure up. I’ve some soap that I’ve been curing for six years. Some for two. I made a batch of “Snot Soap” (pure olive oil soap) last year and won’t touch it for at least another year. It depends on the ingredients used. Some fats, oils and butters need longer to cure while others can be as hard as a rock in a matter of days. It’s all about learning how things work!

Internet Soaping Rules

If you ever plan to make your own soap, do lots and lots of reading. Watch lots and lots of videos. Take the proper safety precautions. But then throw most of it all out the window. Rules are meant to be broken! My most popular soaps have broken all the “rules” of soaping!

Soap, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

Margaritas, Himalayan Salt and Bars

It’s Monday here in the Middle Kingdom and I am at home relaxing my tender tootsies. My feet are tired and I’ve got a lovely itchy little blister forming on my baby toe. Damn summer shoes.

Weekends for many teachers in China mean long IMG_0819[1]hours spent in the classroom which takes us away from The Scrub Me Down Kitchen. And that makes me sad. Rather than creating or perfecting recipes, I get to spend my day with tiny humans who don’t realize that hands down their pants or coughing in your face is not ok or playing with their snot is actually not funny. But it also means I get to sing and dance and beam with pride every time they get something right or ask for a book exchange or want to know more about dinosaurs. And that alone makes up for every single inappropriate fart, nose pick and shirt yank I get.

IMG_2134[1]On Friday we tried our second attempt at making a foaming hand wash, and it was an epic failure. We wanted it in a foaming bottle, so that meant diluting it down a heck of a lot, but when it cooled down and actually used it, it had very little foaming action. Which made me sad. So I get to go back to the drawing board and try again!

Another awesome thing coming out of The Scrub IMG_2195[1].JPGMe Down Kitchen once its cured is our Margarita Salt Soap! And this one I am soooooo excited for. My skin+salt=HAPPY! We have Margarita Salt Scrub, Margarita Summer Silk Hand/Body Lotion and now we can add Margarita Salt Soap to the mix! I wanted to have some Margarita Room+Body Spray too, but I ran out of that fragrance oil. And our suppliers don’t have any more! So we have to stop at three products in this line.

Let’s talk about salt. There are many types of salt. For clarity, I am not talking about table salt here. When I talk about salt and using salt, salt in recipes, do not think all salts are equal. I am talking about Himalayan salt, Dead Sea Salt, Sea Salt (various kinds). Dead Sea Salt is very expensive here in China, so I use it sparingly. Mainly I use Himalayan Salt as it is the most cost effective as easiest to obtain.

When I tell people I use salt on my skin, many react in horror and one of the first questions I get, “isn’t it drying?” Everybody has different skin. My skin loves the salt, and some people find salt too much for their skin. It’s learning about what your skin likes. And not so much what you think your skin likes or doesn’t like.

When you go into the ocean and then you begin to dry off, of course your skin is going to be itchy. That amount of salt left on your skin is never a good thing! Even I scratch and itch (You need to rinse it off). But I feel so good and happy and relaxed and and and after playing in the ocean. So how can someone like me who lives inland and far away from the ocean, who doesn’t have a bathtub to soak in, get maybe some of the benefits of salt?

IMG_2192[1].JPGNow, as I’ve mentioned before, I am lazy. And as much as I love the thought of an actual bar of salt in my shower, you have to rub it all over your body, let sit for a few minutes then rinse it off. Yeah, I that’s just too much for me and besides, my coffee just sits there brewing away calling my name. So the salt soap for me was the answer to a few of my wants. 1) easy 2) convenient 3) simple 4) shower friendly.

How to use: Lather up. Rinse.

Ingredients: Himalayan Salt, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Coconut  water, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, sodium hydroxide, parfum, mica, titanium dioxide.

Warnings: Avoid contact with eyes. Do not eat. Not for internal use.  As with any skin product, if you notice any skin issues pop up, discontinue use.

Magarita Salt Bar pre-mix.
Shameless photo of all the ingredients before they were mixed. That is really 2kg of Himalayan salt right there.


For further reading on the wonders of Himalayan Salt.