This week I rebatched the first batch of soap I ever made, which was a 100% Castile soap recipe. I haven’t done much soapmaking and this had been my most successful batch yet, but it went completely unused and unloved because:
- The soap was a bit rough on the hands. I don’t think it was technically lye-heavy, but it wasn’t superfatted at all and it made my hands feel itchy and dry after I used it.
- It didn’t bubble. I didn’t understand what I was signing up for by making 100% olive oil soap. Castile soap doesn’t really bubble without extra additives, it just feels slimy.
- I had added fragrance oil when I made it, but it had burned off during saponification, so there was no fragrance in the finished bars.
- I had poured the original soap into some silicone candy molds, which were pretty but only served to accentuate the hard edges of my hard soap. Ouch.
So I grated it back down and rebatched it, which involved melting it in the slow cooker and adding heavy cream, coconut oil, and more fragrance oil. Rebatching is a way to fix many different problems with soap, but it never really ends up looking as smooth as the original soap. In my case I don’t mind, since this soap is for me, partially as a learning exercise and partially for home use, and I certainly want a soap that feels nice on the skin over a soap that looks good.
Why even make my own soap at all? In my area, even the “locally-made artisan soap” contains palm oil, which involves supporting slash-and-burn agriculture in the tropics, and I’m just not down with that. Nearly every brightly-colored soap also contains mica, which poses its own set of health and environmental concerns. I’m sure there are some issues with my soap as well, but at least I have a path forward to eliminate those issues as I find them. My next batch will likely be an OO+coconut oil soap, but eventually I’d like to find a recipe that works with more local ingredients. Coconuts don’t really grow here and olives are a bit of a stretch, although there is at least one grove in the Gulf Islands. Switching to local ingredients would likely mean switching to a recipe that uses more animal fats, possibly rendered pig lard, which I am OK with as long as the pig was raised and slaughtered in humane conditions. Lard is also supposed to make pretty good soap.
Another alternative in the PNW, especially for household cleaning, is the soapberry bush. I’d like one of these eventually but it’s probably a bit much to try to replace all my soap needs with it.
Anyway, I unmolded the first bar last night and I thought it was pretty funny because, as a rough rebatch soap, it didn’t fill the mold completely, so rather than being stamped with the words “100% HAND MADE” it says, “100% HAND MAD”, which isn’t an entirely-inaccurate way to describe some of my DIY motivations.
PS — tested out the soap. It feels good and it’ll clean ya!