This may come as no surprise to some of you, but to me it was a bit of a shock!

A couple of weeks ago I had a shower. It wasn’t a momentous occasion in itself, I promise, I do clean myself more regularly than fortnightly. The reason this particular shower was significant is that clearly I didn’t have enough yarn projects or boobs or whatever the hell else I think about in the shower to keep me distracted, so I started thinking about what I was actually doing.

In the space of around 15 minutes, I’d used shampoo, conditioner, facial wash, shower gel, soap, leave-in conditioner, deodorant, facial moisturiser, body lotion, toothpaste and mouthwash. That’s kinda a lot of stuff, right? For someone who claims not to be a girly girl? Granted, most days involve about half the number of items…I don’t wash my hair that often cos I’m trying to avoid the grease stripping/scalp panic and makes grease cycle, and I only use body lotion when I’ve shaved my legs so my skin doesn’t get dry and itchy, but even so….that’s a lot of stuff. And I’d hazard a guess that I don’t even know what 50% of the ingredients are for.

Last week I cut my hair, from navel length to just below my boobs, just to get rid of all the split ends and really dry bits, and now I’m planning to look after it properly as I grow it. I stopped bleaching it when I started growing it, and I never use a hairdryer, but I started reading a no-poo thread on LSG, and everyone was talking about SLS and parabens and *cones and oh my! I’d tried the baking soda/apple cider vinegar thing before, and that didn’t work for me, it made my hair feel dry and stringy and gross, but the logic behind it all made sense…I don’t want to be stripping the oils from my hair with SLS, then adding condition with stuff with silicones in, which need something strong like SLS to remove. Since reducing my shampooing to about once a week last year, I’ve not really had a problem with grease build-up, but my hair does get pretty dry, and as it’s getting to winter, it’ll probably get worse. So with a heavy heart I’m going to be ditching my awesome-smelling Lush shampoo bar and conditioners full of crap, and making my own hair products.

I’ve been sporadically using an oil cleansing method to wash my face for the last year (a mix of castor and olive oils), and it does work really well, but I keep forgetting to put the facecloth back in the bathroom after I wash it, so it has been very sporadic. I’m going to try and stick to it this time though, but i’m not so sure about giving up the moisturiser…my skin doesn’t feel dry using the oil cleansing, but I like using moisturiser with SPF15 in it…I don’t want wrinkles!

But aaaanyway, the point of this huge ramble was…I made soap!! I looked around the internet for recipes, decided I wanted to make castile soap, but then decided I wanted something more foamy and easier to blend, so settled on something with coconut oil in. Then I read the quantities involved. I neither wanted nor needed 7 fucking lbs of soap, especially if it all went horribly wrong. All the sites warned against making smaller batches because you need to measure more accurately, and use a proportion of a can of lye. Well, given that most of the sites were in the states, I was going to have to measure the lye myself anyway, and I am perfectly capable of using a set of scales, so I came across this saponification chart and decided to just make it up as I went along (using the 5% discount numbers, cos I’d rather have a soap that’s a bit oily than one that could give me chemical burns!). The recipe I ended up with was (don’t copy this btw, cos I don’t know if it worked yet!):

443g olive oil, 220g soybean oil, 211g coconut oil, 291g water, 123g NaOH

I mixed the oils in a pan and put it on a low heat, then made up the lye in a big mug outside the backdoor. The second I was working with dangerous chemicals, the cats were all ‘OH HAI THERE!’, so I had to shout at them a lot, then eventually bring it inside and put it in a pan of water to cool on the countertop next to the open back door.

Then I realised my candy thermometer had got smashed in the drawer, so the temperatures I used were…oils: just above body temp, probably about 40 degrees C, lye, about the temperature of a cup of tea that had been sitting around for 10 minutes. But I didnt put my finger in that to test it, so I could be wrong!

I took the oil off the heat, poured in the lye slowly, and blended it with my bargain £4 tesco stick blender. It took less than 5 minutes until I got trace. Not actually knowing what trace was for sure, I carried on a bit until it was like thick custard, then poured into my mould, which was a loaf tin lined with clingfilm, which I then put over the top of the soap too, partly cos of OMG ASH, but mostly so i could wrap it in towels with no mess. I then put the towel wrapped bundle under a cardboard box to prevent unwanted feline attentions.

I kept peeking at it for a couple of hours, and it was soooo hot…and then it looked like it had swollen a bit, then looked a bit more transparent, and then I went to bed. The internets said to leave for 24 hours before cutting, but I am impatient, and this morning it was cold and looked solid enough, so I pulled it out of the tin and sliced it up. IT LOOKS (and smells) LIKE REAL SOAP!!!! It currently feels a littttle greasy, I’m not sure if that’s because I overdid the oils a little, or whether it’ll be okay after it’s cured.

I’m planning to leave a couple of bars as they are, then in a few days when the texture is right I’ll grate the others up, some for rebatching with essential oils, some for making shampoo, and some for trying to make my own laundry detergent.

Here are some not-so-impressive pictures.  You know, it’s soap, really, not that interesting. But there are no air bubbles or pockets of goo or anything else untoward, so yay I guess!