If you’re reading this you’ve probably done some research on soap making. The question you might have now, as I did, is, “How, exactly, do I begin?”
I was overwhelmed in the beginning. So many things to think about, so many things to remember, so many cautionary tales of lye…
I read a lot about soap making before I made my first batch. I watch a ton of videos. I still wasn’t clear how I was going to do it.
So, I did what I have found that works, when overwhelmed and having a strong desire to proceed, I plot it out.
I mentally go over each step.
- I visualize my ingredients and their order. I name all my ingredients and how exactly I’m going to move through each step. This gives me room for mistakes and an opportunity to make notes after I’m done with my visualization incase I’m adjusting, adding or doing something new.
- I read my recipe through completely out loud. I don’t just glance at it, but think about each ingredient.
- Lay out all my tools I know I’ll need and those I might need. The last thing I want to do is have soap on my hands and dig through things to find a needed tool or spoon.
- Measuring cups: which one will I use for lye? What will I use for water? What will I do with my spoon after I’ve mixed the lye? Where, exactly, will I set it?
- What will I do with my Lye Water? Am I going to chill my lye water or leave it to cool at room temperature? If so, where will I set my lye container for safety? Is there anyone near by who needs to have a note saying “Active Lye Water! Do not touch!” Answering all these questions helps put me at ease and create a safe place to let my mind wander while I create soap.
- I set out folded paper towels and clothe towels, just incase I spill. (I always spill, who am I kidding?)
- I set out the scents and weight them before I begin. I love the scents and helps to bring my design into being.
- At this time I also weight my sodium lactate. I set it on my other work station because that gets added later after I’ve made lye water and weighted all my oils and butters.
- I gather the coloring ingredients. What colors will I use? How many containers will I need? Do I need an extra stick blender? How many spatulas will I need? Can I, or do I need, to pre-measure my colorants?
- Will I need a chop stick or any other tool? I get that out.
- I have a calculator and pen on my work station, making notes along the way. I rarely remember the details of what I’ve done after its done. How can I duplicate a recipe if I forget the nuanced scent I created or forget exactly how much colorants I used?
- I take a break and examine my area.
It seems like a lot to remember, and, truth be told, it is. Just like anything we do with many steps, it puts the artist in the zone. I go into a hyper focused place. I can’t carry a conversation on, but I can make soap. I let the craft envelope me. I day dream, go places I hadn’t considered artistically. I see things too. Like staring at something for a long time, some things become clear.
While I’m in that focused place I can see many other things that weren’t obvious to me. I see how the chemicals work. I see how fragrance oils and colorants preform. I understand how oils melt. I also see new ideas for soap and possibilities I had not considered.
I touch the soap, mush it, mix it and wash with it, after 12 hours or more, but still… I don’t listen to ALL the cautionary tales. I try it out for myself. I figured out the only thing that is truly dangerous about soap is the lye. And then, like many dangerous things, time tames it.