I mentioned in this post that I buy soap from other soapmakers. It probably sounds crazy when I make and sell my own soap, so let me defend my craziness.
When I started making soap, I made plain unscented soap in small batches. I was still learning the process and tweaking my own recipe, trying different oils to see what they would bring to the soap. Most of the time I had no problems using unscented soap, but sometimes a girl has a hard day and needs a pretty soap in the shower to make her feel better. I went online in search of pretty soaps to use on bad days. I found a lot of them. I bought them all. *not really, my husband just thinks I did*
When I started making scented soaps, and selling them, I thought that would be the end of my soap buying days. Not true at all. I quickly discovered that no two soapmakers soaps are alike, everyone uses different oils, additives, colors, fragrances… and there was no way I could make them all, but I wanted to try them. I continue to buy soaps in fragrances that I like, but maybe my customers wouldn't enjoy. I buy soaps that use different types of oils because I want to see how those soaps age and how they feel in soap. I buy soaps that use different additives, such as vinegar or sandalwood powder, because I want to know what they feel like. Would my customers enjoy having these ingredients in my soaps? Would they make my soaps better?
While many of my soap purchases are made for research and development, not all of them are put under a microscope. Some soaps I buy because it’s beautiful soap, because I admire a soapmaker, or sometimes because I run across a soapmaker who is just starting out and needs a sales boost – I want to support her passion.
I don’t always buy soaps. I have friends who will gift me soaps because they know my passion for all things soapy. I’ve done swaps with other soapmakers, sending them a few bars of my soap for a few bars of their soap. I’ve had work colleagues who travel bring me back unique local soaps, giving me a soap collection from around the world.
This sounds like a lot of soap – it is! – and I bet you’re wondering, “Sherry, do you ever use your own soap?” Yes, yes I do.
If you come to my house, you’ll find my soaps at every sink in the house and at least one bar in every shower. My shower will have 5-7 soaps at any given time, about half of them being my own creations.
Want to see what goes in my shower? Follow me on Instagram @soapiesandsparkies to see what new soap I’m using. You can also visit my Photo Gallery, where I’ll be taking a more in-depth look at what goes in my shower.
All this to say, I love soap. I love making it, I love using it, I love looking at it. Soap is a functional art that makes my weird heart happy. What makes your weird heart happy?
Stay Soapy, Friends!
Bad soap happens. To clarify, I'm not talking about ugly or misshapen soap, or fragrances that don't smell good. I'm talking about soap that is spoiling.
Soap gone bad will do one of two things:
When using foods in soap, we use fine purees that allows the natural pH of the soap to preserve the small molecules of food matter. No big chunks allowed!
To preserve oils, we may add ROE (Rosemary Oleoresin) to our oils before soapmaking to prevent oxidation, or we may add EDTA or citric acid during the soapmaking process, which helps prevent rancidity. Some soapmakers, and I am in this group, chose to reduce the amount of free oils available for spoilage in the soap.
These free oils are called "superfat". A percentage of oils intentionally left out of the lye calculation that prevents them from turning into soap. Superfat is what makes handcrafted soap better than your average supermarket soap.
So how do you tell if your soap oils are spoiling? Your soap may develop raised portions that are slimy and... well... gross, like in the picture above. [side note just in case you're curious: I was given this soap a few years ago for Christmas. I found it just this weekend when I was cleaning out my soap stash. It is a goats milk soap, so I suspect that the soapmaker uses a high superfat in addition to the natural fats in the milk. This left a lot of room for spoilage. Lesson: Don't be like me, use your soap in a timely manner.]
If the soap is covered in a white ash that is not orange or green mold looking, that is a natural occurrence in soap called soda ash. It is not spoilage! I just wanted to clarify that, because soda ash does sometimes show up on my soaps. The EucaMint Coconut Milk soap is a popular soap that shows this phenomenon. It's safe to use and won't hurt you. (I'll talk about it in a future post.)
In the picture below, you'll see that this soap has orange discoloration, most noticeably surrounding the heart design. Soapmakers call this DOS, or dreaded orange spots. This soap was an experimental recipe that I made in the beginning of this year using sunflower oil. Unfortunately, I did put this soap into the store, but a few months later noticed that my stock had started to turn dossy, so I removed this soap and all the soaps that used that recipe. (I've gone back to my policy that all new recipes need to pass the 9-12 month life cycle test.) These orange spots are a sign that the free oils in the soap have started to turn rancid. These soaps will also begin to smell "off" or unpleasant.
Are dossy soaps safe to use? Yes, if you're comfortable using it, go ahead (and do it quickly because DOS will get worse the longer it sits)... but I don't want you to. If you ever find an AMD Soap that has developed DOS, please contact me. I'll send you a replacement soap.
What can you do to prevent soap spoilage? Use soaps in a timely manner. Even though I test my recipes 9-12 months before I make changes, I suggest never keeping more soap than you can use in a year. And yes, you can shame me because I don't follow my own advice. We'll talk about that in another post... Store unused soaps in a cool dry place, such as a hallway closet or linen drawer. Bonus! Your linens will smell awesome! Don't store them in a bathroom. Also, don't store soaps in a plastic tote. Shoe boxes or other cardboard boxes work great if you need to keep them bundled together. Plastic totes or bags invite and trap moisture, making your soap unhappy.
Life is too short to use bad soap.
Stay Soapy, Friends!