Soap making secrets: The benefits of using essential oil in handmade soap

Soap making secrets: Essential Oil

What’s the first thing you do when you pick up new bar of soap? If you’re like most people, you pick it up and smell it. (Or, if you are like one person I encountered, you stick your fingernail into it. Don’t do that.)

Scent is a critical component of most soap and one of the tools a handmade soap maker uses to add amazing scent to their soap is essential oil. Essential oil is a natural oil that is extracted from a plant, fruit, root or other source that smells like the source it came from. For example, orange essential oil smells like oranges because the oil is extracted from the rind. Peppermint oil is distilled from the leaves of a peppermint plant.

Essential oils have the benefit of being a completely natural way to add scent to soap. While I do use fragrance oils, which are synthetically produce in a lab in some of my creations, I like being able to offer soaps that are 100% natural.

Looking to try handmade soap made with essential oils? The Emmet Street Creations store on Etsy can hook you up.

My natural Lavender soap made with soothing Hungarian lavender is the perfect soap to help you relax before a stressful day in the office.

Hungarian lavender handmade soap

Lemongrass essential has an uplifting scent and this Lemongrass and Green Tea soap will get your day started on a high note.

Lemongrass essential oil handmade soap

Get the benefits of three essential oils in one bar of soap with my Eucalyptus, Lavender and Peppermint soap. This pretty soap has an eye-opening scent that is sure invigorate your senses.

Eucalyptus, lavender & mint handmade soap

 

Do you have a favorite essential oil scent? Tell me about it in the comments or on the Emmet Street Creations Facebook page. Your idea just might spark my next creation!

 

 

 

Freshly stocked: Crisp apple and rose soap

Crisp apple rose soap

Crisp apple & rose handmade soap from Emmet Street Creations

Fall is quickly approaching and with it comes apple season. I love picking apples, eating apples, cooking with apples, and taking pictures of apples. I’m pretty much an apple fanatic. Give me a peck of freshly picked Honey Crisp apples and I’m in heaven. It’s only natural that my love of apples inspired me to make a crisp apple and rose scented soap.

This customer favorite soap features a blend of olive and rice bran oils to treat your skin gently. The scent is a perfect blend of fresh crisp apples and soothing rose petals.

I’ve restocked this soap in the Emmet Street Creations store on Etsy, just in time for the fall season. Give it a try today while supplies last!

Soap making secrets: How using a stick blender saves time

Soap making secrets - Stick blender

So far this year, I’ve revealed several soap making secrets. I’ve told you about lye and I’ve explained the different properties of common oils like coconut and olive oil. Now I’d like to explain the secret behind how lye, water and oils become soap. Be ready for your mind to be blown. The secret is…stirring. A lot of stirring. OK, maybe that isn’t exactly mind-blowing but without properly mixing the ingredients, a batch of soap is doomed.

Once the oils are melted and the lye water is cooled, the two are are mixed together and stirred until the batter begins to emulsify and thicken. Depending on the recipe, it can take an hour (or several) of stirring for the soap to fully emulsify.

For millennia, soap makers sported arm muscles like Popeye’s after a spinach binge thanks to hours and hours of stirring soap batter. When the stick blender became a common household product, soap makers quickly figured out how to use the technology to make their jobs easier. A few short bursts of mixing with a stick blender can bring soap batter to the desired consistency within minutes, not hours. The extra time saved means we can make more soap!

There are some precautions that I take every time I make a batch of soap with my stick blender. I always wear rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and goggles to protect myself from any splatter that might happen. When I insert the stick blender into the batter, I tap it several times on the bottom of the bowl. This helps any air bubbles trapped under the blender to escape. Air bubbles can show up in a finished bar of soap as tiny little holes or spots and aesthetically ruin a design. I always unplug my blender before attempting to clean the soap out of it. I really like all of my fingers. I’ve known them my whole life and we’ve become quite close. I would hate to lose any of them because I accidentally hit the power button while wiping soap batter off of the blade.

I credit my aunt for getting me started with soap making. During a visit several years ago, she gave me a stick blender that she no longer used. I was researching how to make soap at the time and I looked at her gift as a sign that I should stop dreaming about making soap and start doing it.

If you are interested in learning more about the soap making process, you can catch up on past installments of soap making secrets here.  Once you’re caught up, be sure to stop by the Emmet Street Creations shop on Etsy to try out some of the soaps you read about.

How I learned to make handcrafted soap

My visit to the Otion soap bar in Seattle

My visit to Otion: The Soap Bar, Bramble Berry’s store in Bellingham, Washington.

Isn’t the internet awesome? Without the internet my productivity would plummet because I’d have no adorable animals to ooo and ahh over in the middle of a stressful work day. I wouldn’t be able to prove Matt wrong when he misidentifies an actor in a movie (thanks for all your help IMDB). Most importantly, I would have never started Emmet Street Creations or even found the fulfilling craft of artisan soap making.

For me, it all started with an internet search for handmade Christmas gifts. I found an article by Martha Stewart illustrating how to make melt and pour soap and after one weekend, I was hooked.

I spent hours looking at every resource I could find related to soap making. I quickly became overwhelmed by the amount of information available. How could I, a novice soap maker, know who to trust? How could I be sure that the recipe some stranger posts online is actually safe to use? I nearly gave up before I even started.

Then I found her. Anne-Marie Faiola, The Soap Queen.

I stumbled across her blog and I knew I was seeing something different. The blog is full of tutorials for all skill levels, inspiration, troubleshooting guides, business advise and even the random food recipe. (I highly recommend the banana quinoa pancakes.)

Before I ever made my first batch of soap, I did weeks worth of research. I started where every aspiring soap maker should start, with the Basics of Cold Process Soap Making. This four-part video series by Anne-Marie is a quick and concise overview of the soap making process. I watched this series several times and took detailed notes about everything from lye safety to the tools that Anne-Marie used. I read “The Soapmaker’s Companion,” by Susan Miller Cavitch, from cover to cover, twice. I carefully gathered all of my soap making tools and supplies. Once I felt like I understood the process completely, I dove in and made a batch of plain, unscented soap. It came out perfectly thanks to my hours of preparation!

The Soap Queen’s blog is the official blog of Bramble Berry, the soap supply company Anne-Marie created. To be fair, one of the goals of the blog is to sell Bramble Berry products by showcasing all the wonderful things you can make with them. But, it’s more than just a marketing ploy. If your business succeeds and you sell more products, then their business succeeds because you’ll come back for more supplies. It’s in their best interest to fully test their recipes and products to ensure they are giving you only the best information. They even make themselves available to their customers to troubleshoot why something might have gone wrong in a batch of soap.

Thanks to Anne-Marie and the Soap Queen blog, I can now formulate my own recipes, decide on my own color and scent combinations and figure out what I did incorrectly when a batch goes wrong. I can also look at other resources with an objective eye and decide if the information is good or bad.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I’d love to learn how to make soap,” then start with Anne-Marie and the Soap Queen blog. You’ll be happy you did!

P.S. The opinions in this post are completely my own. I have not been provided with any products or compensation to write about the awesomeness of Anne-Marie and Bramble Berry. 

I cannot lie…

Bag of ButtsI like little butts. (Soap butts that is.)

Our customers inspired the idea for the Bag of Butts. Folks said they were interested in trying samples of our soaps before they committed to a full-sized bar. Unfortunately, we don’t have molds small enough to make mini bars of soap… but we do have a bunch of end pieces (which we dubbed soap butts) from our regular batches that are not quite large enough to be a full-sized bar. Thus, the Bag of Butts was born!

Like our own heinies, no two pieces are the same size or shape. Your bag of booty will contain 4 to 5 butts of different scents. We will, of course, give you a list of the contents of the bag so you know which of our lovely scents gets the stink off your posterior the best.

Of course, the best way to try out our scents is to come see us in person. Don’t forget we’ll be at The Flea at the Evaporator Works in Hudson this Saturday (6/27) from 9 AM to 5 PM. Come out and give your nose buds a treat! 

Soap making secrets: The versatility of avocados

Soap making secrets: The versatility of avocadosAh, the avocado. That beautiful fruit with the bright green, tasty flesh. You know that avocados are tasty and nutritious. But, did you know that they make a wonderful addition to bath and body products?

Avocado oil, an oil pressed from the avocado fruit, is chock full of Vitamins A, B1, B2, D and E. It contains a high percentage of “unsaponifiable” components. This means that, when used in handmade soap, much of the oil doesn’t react with the lye and remains oil in the final bar of soap. This is great for your skin which easily absorbs the oil.

Avocado butter is also a popular ingredient in handmade soap and has many of the same properties as the oil. My favorite way to use avocado butter, however, is as the main ingredient of body butter. When whipped with oils like meadowfoam or jojoba, it makes a thick, creamy, luxurious body butter that combats the driest of skin. I’ve been experimenting with body butters for a few months and working on perfecting my recipes. If you visit me at any of the maker fairs I attend this summer, you’ll be able to try them for yourself!

Some soap makers are brave enough to use fresh avocados in their soap, like this recipe from Modern Soapmaking for Luxury Argan & Creamy Avocado soap. Using fresh avocados is on my list of things to try!

Looking to benefit from this “super food” in your bath? Check out Beachin, Rose for Katy or Eucalyptus Lavender & Mint soaps, sold in the Emmet Street Creations Etsy store.

Soap making secrets: The challenges and benefits of working with olive oil

Soap making secrets: The challenges and benefits of olive oil80% olive oil soap

If Castile soap were a high school student, it would be voted “Most Likely to Test a Soap Maker’s Patience.” Castile soap, named for the Castile region in Spain where it originated, was originally defined as soap made with 100% olive oil. Today, you’ll find Castile soap made with other oils, like coconut and palm. As a soap maker, I can understand why this shift took place.

Soap made with olive oil as 100% of the oil in a recipe can be a challenge to work with. After adding lye water to the oils, it can take a very long time for the oil and lye to react and start to turn into soap. This means a soap maker has to spend more time mixing the batter to ensure the full chemical reaction, known as saponification, takes place.

Because olive oil is a liquid oil, there is a lot of moisture that needs to evaporate from the bar. After pouring the soap into the mold, it can take several days before it hardens enough to be removed and it can take up to a year of curing for a bar to reach its full potential. The normal four to six week cure time recommended for most handmade soaps doesn’t work for 100% olive oil soap. A short cure time results in a softer bar of soap that doesn’t lather very well and isn’t as gentle on the skin as it could be.

So, why do I use olive oil in almost all of my recipes? Olive oil is highly moisturizing and it makes skin feel great. Additionally, like rice bran oil, its slow reaction time makes it an excellent oil to use when I want to achieve beautiful swirls and designs in my soap.

I don’t have the patience to wait a year for my soap to cure so I do some things to help it along. I add coconut oil, which helps boost the lather, and palm oil, which helps the bar to harden faster. I’ve experimented with using olive oil at up to 80% of the total oils in a recipe and love the results. The lather is thick and creamy instead of bubbly and my skin feels soft and lovely after using it.

If you are interested in giving olive oil soap a try, you’re in luck!  The Emmet Street Creations Etsy store has one pound bags of unscented 80% olive oil soap on sale for $10. The lack of fragrance makes this soap an awesome choice if you normally have sensitive skin. The low price makes it easy to stock up and save!

Do you have a question about the soap making process? Ask it in the comments or on our Facebook page and I’ll do my best to answer it in a future post.