Sunday, August 14, 2011

This is your brain on soap...

Some Seriously Pink Soap!

I've been trying to figure out a way to show you the different stages of cooking a batch of soap because it is some pretty fascinating stuff, but my main problem was that I don't usually like to color my soap (I get a thrill out of seeing the natural variations in color that the soap produces on its own based on the ingredients in it) and I figured it'd be harder to see the action on "blank" soap.  Because I had been wanting to make some watermelon-scented soap for a while, I figured that by coloring the soap pink it would make it easier to see all the crazy things that the soap does at the various stages of the cooking process.

I decided I was going to make some Agua de Sandia soap.  Those of you who are familiar with aguas frescas have already started drooling, I guar-ohn--teee!  Agua de sandia literally translates to "watermelon water" and is a tasty and super refreshing Mexican concotion.  All you do is blend watermelon, sugar, and water and serve it over ice.  That's the simple version - I'll get to the fancified version in a bit.

Some soapmakers use a little trick of adding sugar to their soap in order to make it lather more.  A spoonful of sugar not only helps the medicine go down, it also helps the bubbles go up!  This saves them from having to invest in pricey oils or additives that would boost the soap's lather.  I figured this was the perfect thing to do for this batch, since my recipe called for watermelon scent and water and all I needed was sugar in order to make it a true agua de sandia formula.  The problem?  I didn't have sugar in my pantry.  Technically.  What I DID have was a box of sugar cubes.  Sugar cubes make me happy because they're like tasty Legos.  Who can resist building sweet little structures out of those teensy squares??  I was a little nervous about how hard it would be to mix the cubes into the lye water, but thanks to my stick blender everything worked out juuuusssst fine.

Here I am thinking, "Hmmm, sugar cubes....  Should IIIII or shouldn't I?" 
(Yes, I am aware of the fact that I am sweating profusely.  Monsoon season makes for one very muggy environment and my little swamp cooler is useless at providing any sort of relief.  Useless!!!)
After beating the living tar out of the sugar cubes in the lye water, I poured the mixture into the oils.  This is when the saponification process begins. Here's my stick blender whirring away and mixing everything together.   It looks almost celestial, kind of like the stick blender is the center of a pink nebula.

Stick blending the oils and lye
After blending for a bit, the soap thickens up and gets to what is called the "trace" stage.  This is where it leaves a pattern behind when you pick up the spoon or blender.  There are different stages of trace and each one serves a different purpose.  For example, if you want to make those awesome swirls in the column swirl video I shared, you take your soap to a really light trace.  I take mine to a really thick trace before setting the crock pot on and starting the cooking process.  See:

Pink Pudding!!
(Or soap at thick trace, if you wanna get all technical on me!)
Once you start cooking the soap, the first thing it does is start to "turn" on itself.  The edges start rising up and curling over, like so:

Run for yer liiiiives!  It's a Pepto Bismol tidal wave!  :O
After some more cooking time, the wave gets bigger and bigger....  This is actually my favorite part because when you look in the middle you can see a little pool of glycerine forming.  This is part of the magic of making your own soap.  The chemical reaction between lye and oil magically creates glycerine.  Glycerine is really good for your skin because it helps to moisturize it.  When commercial soap manufacturers make their soap, they take out the glycerine and sell it seperately because the glycerine is worth more than the soap.  Who do they sell it to?  To companies that make lotion!  Those brilliant bastards!  When you take the glycerine out of the soap it leaves you dry and itchy, so you go running for lotion for relief.  Sneaky sneaky!!

*cue "Glycerine" by Bush (...the band, not Sr. or W.)*  
It's starting to look like a half-brain, dontcha think?
After some more cooking time, the soap wave completely takes over.  If you get the soap too hot, it foams right up and can crawl right out of the crockpot and attack everything around it.  Think of the movie, "The Blob."  EEEK!!!

What do you see in this "cloud" of soap batter? 
I see that the poor Cheshire cat suffered a tragic accident involving an acid peel and a garbage disposal, resulting in his face looking like a chewed wad of bubble gum... 

Once the soap has finished cooking, you let it cool down a little bit and then mix in your scent and whatever additives you might have set aside.  You stir stir stir, and then glop your smelly taters into your mold.

Ooooh, pink mashed potatoes! Nom nom nom!!!

Once the soap has cooled down and hardened, you pop it out of the mold and cut it into bars.  I like to let mine sit for a week or two in order to harden and dry a bit more, but the nice thing about hot process soap is that it's ready to use as soon as it comes out of the mold.  Sweeet.

How many of you remember the Log jingle on Ren & Stimpy?  Good times.

Hope you enjoyed seeing the different stages of soap!  I was honestly surprised at how pink this batch turned out.  Holy hot pink, Batman!!   Next time I'll tone it down a little.  As it was cooking and bubbling away, it looked like a big throbbing brain.  Mojo Jojo immediately came to mind, although I also couldn't help but think of Pinky and the Brain...  hmm, guess I had cartoons on the brain and it wasn't even Saturday morning! I'm already plotting my next batch of Agua de Sandia soap based on a fancy version of the drink that I found online.  It calls for agave nectar and mint, both of which I happen to have handy.  I have packets of peppermint tea sitting around begging to be used, and I think the contents of them will look nice swirled into the soap because the tea leaf flecks are dark, so it'll make them look like watermelon seeds.  AY CARAMBA, I can't wait!!


  1. I like how pink it turned out. Especially if it is watermelon scented. great post!

  2. Thanks! This is by far the brightest soap I've ever made. It's taking my eyeballs some time to adjust to it. I keep staring at it in wonder. ;)

  3. AhhGADZ!!!! That is one pink soap, wowza, seriously. What did you use for coloring? Love the photo story and your writing style as always tinkles me pink!

  4. Awwww, shucks! Thanks! You just left my cheeks the same color as my soap with your compliment! I used a block colorant that I bought waaaaay back in the day when I first started soaping. It's simply labeled "pink" and almost looks like a black eraser (same size and shape). I just shaved off some tiny bits from it into the oil and all of a sudden I was staring at hot pink soap. I'm hoping to buy some liquid colorants soon so I can get fancy with swirling and such. Fun! :D

  5. i wrote a small post about you...hope you like :)

  6. Just found your blog thanks to Cocobong. You're different than the other've got this edge about you. I like edge.

  7. Very cool, I enjoyed reading this post and found your blog via Cocobong.


  8. not sure if my last comment didn't make it, but I don't see it here goes again: i wrote a small post about you on my blog. Hope you like it :)

  9. Just sitting in my office doing balance sheets I needed a little rest (after having too much wine yesterday night) and turned to read my blog list. There I found a link to you from cocobongs blog and now I have to do overtime today because I spent so much time reading your awesome blog. You made my morning! God, I love your sense of humour! And your soaps, of course. Really looking forward to read and see more from you.

  10. HOLY SMOKES!!! I took a week off and came back on tonight to find the sweetest of surprises! I'm so honored to be on Cocobong's blog! <3 I can't stop smiling! Thank you sooo much!!!

  11. Hi!
    I found my way from my friend cocobong to your blog and I had the funiest 30 minutes reading your blog since long.
    I hope you will share more of your soaping experience with us. Love to hear more adventurous stories :) And I really like the color of your beer soap in the crockpot.

  12. I read Cocobong's blog post and I love your blog!!!

  13. Thanks so much! :D I'm so excited that people are actually enjoying my posts! Thanks to Cocobong's post about my blog, the number of followers I have has more than doubled. I don't even know how to begin to thank her. A shopping date to Goodwill would be a great start, though! ;)

  14. This is regarding an earlier post, but the Comments were turned off and well, I'm giddy with the NEED to express my gratitude for this particular bit of comic prowess:

    "Pupils fully dilated, I had to fight the urge to do a victory lap around the aisle while pumping my fists in the air in Rocky-like glory."

    This soaper is still laughing her ass off at that one.

    You're not secretly from Alberta, Canada are you? And just living in exile over in Oz?

    Your imagination is sheer delight. And that you're willing and able to document the maniacal, crazy-ass funny scenes playing out in your mind is a gift. Please keep at it.

  15. i, too have found my way here via cocobong's blog!Wow! You're a natural-born story teller lady!Please keep on a postin' and let us be the first to know when you publish your first book!

  16. I sincerely hope my round of applause hasn't brought on writer's block...forgive me, should that be the case

  17. Not at all! It actually kept motivating me to want to write as soon as I got a chance. I've been ridiculously busy and just today got a chance to log on and write a post. It feels good to be back, but now I'm completely bewildered by the new format. ;)