Brooke’s Top Ten Soaping Tips

It’s been awhile since we updated our blog.

Reason for that? There are a lot going on, but a lot of things were waiting on others. Like waiting for soaps to cure etc. And I really wouldn’t like to bore you guy silly with tales of how soda ash builds up on some of our soaps.

So what really happened to us these couple of weeks?

  1. We’ve decided on our logo. It’s nothing fancy, but we love it. And it’s so us.
  2. We roped in Andrew Goad who’s going to be our financial and web guy leaving us free to focus on R&D and production.
  3. As of 7th Feb 2014, we are officially registered as The Soap Engineers LLC. Milestone reached! High five!
  4. We have been invited to Spring Fling Vendor Blendor Vendor party on March 23rd. This is super exciting for us. Bless Sheri for making it happen.
  5. In preparation, we made 10 production batches. (By we, I really mean Brooke). So while I was away on a 3 weeks vacation back home to sunny Singapore, Brooke was making batches and batches of soap. And that’s why having a talented partner is sweet! :p

There are drastic differences between making test batches vs making experimental batches. And like everything we do in life, every time we (Brooke, really) made a soap, we end up with a  *facepalm* “what did I just do” moment .

And if you follow us on Twitter, you would see random tweets from Brooke with hashtag #tipoftheday

So here’s a compilation of the top ten #tipoftheday.

 Brooke’s Top Ten Tip of the Day:

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Tip #1: Some FO/EO speeds trace and some causes soap to seize. Then you will cry. And kick yourself for ruining the day’s work. But don’t fret, if you know about this property in advance, you may still be able to use this FO/EO in your creation by

  • Adding more water to the mixture instead of the recommended amount. This increases cure time, but you will avoid soap on a stick situation.
  • Pre-mixing FO/EO with base oils at a 1:4 ratio. Set aside.
  • Blend your lye+oil mixture to a really thin watery trace. Nothing more.
  • Bring down temperature of lye+oil mixture to 50-60 deg F  (if your recipe contains solid butters, they do solidify at this temperature, you got to play around with the ideal temperature)
  • Add FO/EO/Oil mixture in.
  • Use a spoon to mix in FO/EO instead of using hand blender to control speed of trace.
  • And if all fails. Try adding more water to your next batch. Or ditch that FO/EO. Breakups are part and parcels of life.
  • Question: “How do I know this information in advance?” We’ve chanced upon a mighty google document powered by fellow soapers like you and us. It’s a wealth of information. All you have to do is to update it with what you are using, and how it’s treating you and we’ll be able to share the info as well. Whoever the creator is – Hugs and kisses!

Tip #2: Lining your soap mold may take 5 mins, but it will save you a lot of hassle in the long run, especially when making soft, sticky milk soaps. Here’s two slightly different, but effective methods from BrambleBerry and Angle Craft Soap on how to line a mold.

Tip #3: Soap stuck in mold? It simply won’t come out? Stick it in the freezer for 30 mins and then place it in a warm water bath for a couple of minutes. Your soap should come right out.

Tip #4: Do not be alarmed when your beautiful soap is covered with soda ash. It’s not harmful. But if it really bugs you, then here’s a link from BrambleBerry on how to remove soda ash from your soap. I personally like the handheld steamer method. Fast and effective.

Tip #5: When deciding between if your soap should go through gel phase or not, what we’ve found is that soaps that did not gel typically needs to be cured a couple of weeks longer.

Tip #6: Be extremely cautious when adding exfoliants to your soap. Sure, oatmeal feels velvety soft between your fingers. But wait till you are soaping over sensitive parts of your body. It hurts. Trust me. And Brooke. And Andrew.

Tip #7: Watch out when using honey in your CP soap and trying to force it to go through gel phase. If overheated in an oven, it caramelizes and you are left with a bar of soap that oozes honey. But it sure smells good.

Tip #8: If adding glycerin to soap, adding it to the oil mixture initially works better than adding at trace. If you add glycerin at trace, you would end up with glycerin sweat beads in your bar. We learned this the hard way too.

Tip #9: IMPORTANT! ALWAYS use distilled water when making soap. If you have no distilled water, you can get away with using filtered water from your fridge. But never ever, ever, EVER, use tap water. It just turns your soap lumpy and cuddly looking because of reactions with all sorts of minerals existing in tap water. Imagine the texture of bleu cheese. Or cottage cheese. Or cauliflower.  Urgh…

And my personal favorite of all of her tips:

Tip #10: At the end of the day, even if your soap doesn’t turn out the way you envisioned it to be (color, pattern, texture etc). Don’t stress. Someone will love your soap!

And it’s true. I truly love all of hers from the bottom of my heart! Even the one that looks like bleu cheese 😀

Have a great day soaping!

How to disinfect your bath tub

Christmas is drawing near, and we decided to make bath truffles for Christmas presents for friends, colleagues and families. Then came the question – “Are you sure everyone has a functioning bath tub?”

And this prompted me to share a little tip of how to disinfect bath tubs. Please share this little tip with your friends. The more people knows this, the less chance they will get infected with some random disease.

When I moved into my new house, I faced a daunting task of disinfecting my bath tub. I figured that pure elbow grease only gets rid of the grime, but it might not do much for killing all lingering bacterial. Furthermore, imagining what the previous owners did in the bath tub leaves a “eeeewwwww” feeling in my mind. I was thinking of how to disinfect the tub in the most efficient way, and then, a Eureka moment strikes – using shock chlorination method!

Here are the steps and a short explanation on why it works:

STEPS:

Step 1: Turn on bathroom exhaust fan and open all bathroom windows. Get pets, children and non-essential adults out of the way.

Step 2: Fill bath tub with hottest water you can get . If you decide to fill it with boiling water, all the more power to you. Water level wise, fill it as high as you can go without overflowing.

Step 3: For a previously occupied house, I don’t take chances. I simply pour in at least half of my existing bleach solution, a good 15-24 oz of it and mix that into the water using gloves or a long painting stick (true story!).  This is known as shock chlorination. Note:  because of the high chlorine content, it is going to emit a bunch of fumes. Unless you like to get high on it, my advice is to close the doors, make sure the exhaust is on, windows are open, and keep children, pets and unsuspecting grown-ups out of the way. It also goes without saying that you need to plan a good time for this, a good example would be when everyone is done with using the bathroom for that day.

Step 4: Pour yourself some wine and sip it while waiting for at least 30 mins (I read that 10 mins is more than enough for swimming pool disinfection, but you never know what the previous owners did in that tub… Engineers can be paranoid, and I personally feel that in this case, paranoia might be a good thing.)

Step 5: Drain the bath tub. This will also disinfect the drainage systems. Make sure windows are opened to allow some of the fumes to dissipate.

Step 6: Once fumes are dissipated, rinse tub thoroughly with warm water.

Ta-dah! Sparkling clean, disinfected bath tub.

WHY THIS WORKS:

When bleach meets water, a chemical reaction takes place:

Cl2 + H2O –> HOCl + HCl

In other words:

Bleach + Water –> Hypochrorous acid + Hydrochloric acid.

HOCl (hypochrorous acid) happens to be neutrally charged. Because it is neutral and has no charges, it remains unaffected by the negative charge of any bacterial cell membrane. This trait allows it to penetrate any negatively charged microbes cell walls and effectively interfering with a bacterial cell protein structure. Think of that protein structure as the brain and heart of the poor bacterial.

Once the hypochrorous acid manages to pass through a cell membrane, it will begin to attack and start oxidizing the protein structure.Sooner or later, muahahhahaha, the poor bacterial will die a very horrible death.

CAVEAT: This method kills most germs and bacterial, but there may be some strains of viruses/bacterial that are rebels, and refuse to yield to chlorine.

Because of this, I do an additional step:

Step 7: Boil a LOT of water. The slowly pour along the sides of the tub. Repeat for as many times as you like. I decided to give up at two repetitions and take the chance. Of course, you may combine Step 7 with Step 2. But be careful. Do not burn yourself.

So there you have it, the quick and easy way to disinfect a bath tub, and the reason why it works.

Please share this with your friends so that more people can disinfect their bath tub before using it. And who knows, this little trick might save their life.

The Waiting Game

It has been two weeks since Puja, Brooke and I made our first bar of soap together.

Making the first bar together gives us confidence that soap making is not scary. The process, while complicated, and somewhat dangerous, can be strangely satisfying and extremely exciting. NaOH, while super duper caustic, can also be a wonderful, magical friend that transforms boring pantry items into bars and bars of creamy, luxurious soap.

We had so much fun that we met one day after work, looked at each other, and unanimously decide that yes, we would like to take this to the next level and we’ll like to make soap for the rest of our life! 🙂

The rest of the week is a whirlwind of activities – we each purchased a set of dedicated soap making equipment and created a little “soaping lab” in our house. Brooke got a cabinet dedicated to soap making stuff. I moved my items around and set up a “This is for soap, prepare food here at your own risk” kitchen counter zone and Puja is seriously contemplating if she should convert her garage into a soap lab and storage area.

We also made, for the first time, a bulk purchase of raw materials. Yes, bulk purchase can seem like a big commitment. There’s like 8 pounds of everything! But, there are some hobbies worth investing in. We figured that if it made our skins glow, and our kitchens smell nice, give us something to focus on and works as an excuse to drink wine and chill while doing something we really enjoyed, then yes, it is a great investment.

Our mission for the next couple of months (or however long it takes us to perfect it) is to create at one recipe for each type of soap:

  • Old school super sudsy, but still not too drying type of soap
  • Ultra moisturizing, hopefully no need to slather on lotion after shower type of soap
  • Gentle facial soap that conditions without stripping off all moisture soap.

With this driving force, we really looked forward to after work every night. Since the first bar of soap, we made 8 more soaps. Each recipe is created by us stemming from the need to study different properties of different oil ratio. There is a long story behind each bar of soap, some good, some sob, and some downright horrifying. But with each soap creation, we gained new experience and insights, and we formulated new strategies to handle unexpected curveballs. And this means that each soap here warrants a post of its own. But, like any proud parents, we couldn’t resist showing of pictures of our creations. Please bear with our excitement. This was pretty exciting for us.

  • Lavender Castile Soap20131209 - 2
  •  Rose Bastile Soap

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  • Dreamy Coconut Cocoa Butter Soap 20131209 - 6 
  • Little Miss Flora Shea Butter Milk Soap20131209 - 1
  • Oatmeal Honey Almond Milk Soap20131209 - 3
  • Grapefruit Pear Soap20131209 - 4
  • Lavender Oatmeal Milk Soap20131209 - 5
  • Lemon Poppy Soap20131209 - 8

Though pretty, until the soaps are completely cured, we won’t be able to fully characterize its properties. All we can do now is to wait, pray for the best, research more, systematically design new recipes, execute it. Then it’s back to more waiting.

So, with each bar of new soap made, the waiting game commence.

But ready or not, every night, before I sleep, I find myself wandering into the kitchen, picking up pieces of soap, touching and smelling it and mentally making notes of what could be done differently for the next batch. And I bet you Puja and Brooke does that too.