Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Soap Diaries, Chapter 1- The Hunt!

I have long wanted to make soap. I have always thought it would be a fun thing to do that I could include everyone in. I don't plan on making a business out of (which is on....) but for just a hobby it would be interesting. And, since I am a purist (cough, cough) I wanted to do cold process, from scratch!

So, I came upon a recipe the other day for olive oil soap. It sounded like it would be good for my daughter, who has eczema. I search for soaps that don't have nut oils or soy oils because of her allergies, so I thought just a pure olive oil soap would be great.

So, I started researching how to do it, reading lots of websites and watching tons of videos. I learned through my research that pure olive oil soaps aren't that great of a soap. They can be slimy, not lather well, and smell bad. I began my search for a better recipe.

I came upon one that had some coconut oil in it. That promised to be a better soap, less slimy and more bubbly. I settled on that one. Now, to find my ingredients. In all the websites and instructions I had read, I was lead to believe the supplies (including lye) were readily available in any store. So, off to Walmart I went.

I found coconut oil and olive oil in Walmart. I also picked up plastic measuring cups, two candy thermometers, a pitcher to be dedicated to use with lye and various plastic spoons and spatulas. Now for the lye. I went to the draino lye. Maybe in the hardware department. I found a well meaning helpful employee to ask. After trying to explain what I wanted to repeated puzzled looks I began a sentence that I would repeat more times than I would have imagined in a 24 hour period. "No, I don't want lime, I want lye, L-Y-E". They don't carry lye. "No, sorry mam, we don't carry it".

Hmmm. Oh well, Home Depot is just across the street. I make my purchases and head to Home Depot....The same scenario......"No, I don't want Lime, I want Lye. L-Y-E!" . Sorry mam.

Off to Lowes. I head to the plumbing department and was lucky enough to find someone who knew what they were talking about. After explanations and puzzled looks as to why a nice girl like me would want something like lye. Sorry mam, no lye, but you might find it at a feed store. A feed store? What's a feed store? After some not so clear directions I was off the beaten path, on a mission. Down farm to market road 11-something-or-other to find a feed store.

Now, please realize I am a city girl. When I was young I used to be around horses all the time, but, they belonged to a friend. My extent of horses/cattle/livestock experience has always been from the observer's standpoint with the exception of an occasional ride. Imagine the shock to my sense of smell when I opened the door to that feed store. I almost wretched. I know I let out an audible "uughgghgaasheeh" before I saw the clerk on the other side of the too close counter! Long story short "No, I don't want lime, I need lye L-Y-E", back in the car.

Now, again, I was lead to believe this was readily available, so it must be here somewhere! Ace Hardware No 1: "No, I don't want lime, I want lye, L-Y-E". Ace Hardware No. 2: "No, I don't want lime, I want lye, L-Y-E". Sorry, mam.

While driving through town I spotted a plumbing store that I could tell was a warehouse and dealt directly with tradesmen but I was desperate! I did a u-turn and pulled in. Both men sitting behind the counter had a lip FULL of chewing tobacco and looked at me like I had two heads. After questions and more puzzled looks (no, I didn't have to use my new catch phrase), they had to look on their shelves to see if they had any. Nope. No Lye. Sorry mam.

One last stop at the Giant HEB, if anyone had it they would. Searching and searchin the giant store that I was not familiar with deepened my frustrated mood. I couldn't find any and thought a clerk wouldn't appreciate me yelling "L-Y-E" at her, so I didn't bother asking, I just went home.

Expecting to have to online order I began googling. Eureka! I learned why lye isn't available anymore. One word - Methamphetamine. Sheesh! Can you believe that is used in making meth? (an aside note: no wonder it kills your brain.) Thanks for ruining it for all the soapmakers and allergy sufferers out there!

Finally, through many websites and many links I found a supplier. The price seemed reasonable and the amount, too. So, planning to place my order and reading about the company I read the most beautiful words I could have possibly read that day "If you're in the Houston Area, come on by and save on shipping" Wha???? they're local??? The soap gods were being good to me. Not only were they local, they were about six miles from my house! WOOHOO!

I hopped in the car and headed straight over there. As you can tell from their website, they are a chemical distributor, but dabble in soap supplies because the owners are soapers themselves. Very nice people! They gave me lots of tips, talked soap for a while, and linked me up with their soaping forum. (had never heard of Etsy, I gave them MY card)

I headed home happily with my bottle of Sodium Hydroxide (L-Y-E). I'd have to put off my soap making until tomorrow, but, I had everything I needed. It was a productive day!


Shimmermeblue said...

Oh no, you poor thing, that had to have sucked! I hope all that hassle turns out in the end and your soaps turn out great!

Gossamer Creations said...

I loved your story, I'll have to check tomorrow to see how it turned out. Have a great day.

Shimmermeblue said...

I gave you a bloggy award. Check it out.

Anonymous said...

wow that was a crazy trip for something you were told was so easily found! lol your so funny about the men with spit in their mouths hahaha thanks for visiting my blog! I love your blog I am adding it to my favs! big mermaid hugs


So-Sew Me said...

Just a side note. My daughter has eczema too and just the straight extra virgin organic coconut oil does wonders for her skin. It seems like it would be greasy but it melts into the skin leaving it very very soft. I use it on my hands and feet as well. Good luck with the soap making.

Anonymous said...

I cannot wait to hear how this turns out for you! I've always thought it would be fun to make soap as well so I'm curious to find out what you think of the process. Hope it's fun and you have a blast!!

P.S. Congrats on finding the great supplier. Sometimes hard work really does pay off, doen't it?!