New toys, old skin, basic chemistry.

Warning – horrible hand-skin pics coming up!!

It’s been a funny week or two – in an odd sort of way.  If the forecast thunderstorms would actually arrive and dump some rain, we’d all feel a lot better!  Instead, they have made devastating fires, held us in unpleasant humidity and sapped the energy around the place.   The soap progress has been slow, partly because of the weather, and partly because of having tendonitis in my left arm, and either eczema, dermatitis, or an infection in the skin of my right hand.  Each of 3 G.P.’s have given me different opinions and advice, costing in total over $150!!

So – true to the nature of all things,  I took the path from ending to beginning via the circular route, and have given up on the wet dressings, the steroid cream, the paraffin grease, the anti-fungal creams, etcetera.  Back to where I started – nature.   Aloe vera gel, pawpaw ointment, and baobab oil – 2 days so far, and no more open cracks at least!  Just have to get the dry skin to re-integrate to normal skin now – using cell salts (celloids) to help this along.

This is how it looked last week, after about 3 weeks of peeling and cracking, and then how it looks today:


Of course, the first question everyone asks is – “the soap making?”

I am SO conscious of the caustic-ness of the lye and the initial mix, I wear gloves for the whole process, along with a big plastic apron, and goggles.  E. calls me Dr Frankenstein when I am all soap-geared up!

I don’t think it’s the soap that’s making my hands sore.

Being super-conscious of the pH of the soap I make, and with my “Hot Process” experiments, I have used the “sitting in air-conditioning” hot weather time to research.  I am always bowled over by the generosity of the online soapers community – it never lets me down!

This time, I found Molly from Ridgeway’s blog post:

This was SO helpful!!   I thought it would be useful to have an infrared thermometer, which I googled – found one on special for $30 at the autoshop down the road!


I am now finding the hot process so easy – and with the thermometer, can shorten the process of cooking.  Most instructions say to cook for an hour – some say low temp, some say you can cook hot.  I figure the heat is simply to force the saponification reaction, so it doesn’t matter if you go fast (hot) or slow (low) – it seems you just need to get to 180 degrees (F), and then the mix turns to the vaseline-like texture and all is good.  I have been using Molly’s suggestion and adding the superfat oils, as well as some yogurt and coconut cream after cooking – this really does save the texture – enabling the mix to cool enough to add the volatile essential oils at a lower temp, and remain viscous enough to spoon into the mould, still “gloppy”, but  slightly smoother glop.

Looks a bit odd when tipped out of the mould, but cuts up OK.

Then – just to double check that I am on the right path, I bought some pH testing strips.  I have read that the pH should be less than 10, and mine is consistently under 10 immediately post cooking, and then on removal from the mould – 1-2 days later – the pH is more like 8 – so a very neutral soap.

I suspect, though, that I am being too enthusiastic with the superfat-ing.  The latest soaps are very soft.  Even with our weather outside – temps being between 35-40 degrees (C) – and the soap drying in the hot Shed, the cut bars are staying quite soft after a week or two.

So – more experiments coming up to get the % water (currently 38%, which is supposed to be OK for hot process), and amount of extra oils +/- using more of the “hardening” oils – whilst avoiding palm oil – the best for hardening.  I may yet try some sodium lactate, which doesn’t sound too awful, but apparently helps to harden the soap.

But – it’s back to the day job tomorrow, so until whenever, happy days to you!

Sarah : )


This handsome young guy stopped by for a chat, and sang me a little song whilst I was having a coffee the other day!







3 thoughts on “New toys, old skin, basic chemistry.

    • Thanks Molly,
      Yes, I use coconut (but try to keep to not more than 25%, 30% max because of it’s drying effect on my skin), and also use shea and babassu. Am playing with concentrations (using Soap Calculator) for max hardness. If sodium lactate has no negatives, though, I think I will try it!
      Your help is much appreciated!!
      Sarah 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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