Tag Archives: Soap

Saponification Value and Soap Chemistry

Part Five of a Series on Soap. Part One, On the Quest for Soap. Part Two, What is Soap? Part Three, On the Quest for Lye. Part Four, A Homemade Soap Recipe are linked if you’re interested.

Making soap is inherently chemistry. Sure, it’s relatively easy chemistry, but it’s chemistry none-the-less.

Back in high school chemistry they taught us about ‘limiting reactants.’ I always remember the bike analogy. Imagine you have two bike frames and six bike tires: how many bikes can you build? Two bikes. Each bike needs two tires and a frame so you’ll run out of frames before you run out of tires. If you only have two bike frames, it doesn’t matter if you have one hundred bike tires because you can’t build any more bikes.

My first batch of soap had zero measuring or math involved. I put some oil in a Pyrex measuring cup, mixed up some lye (meaning I just eyeballed it), and dumped the two together. What resulted was soap, and I was really excited, but then things didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped. I poured the liquid mixture into some molds and let them sit. According to everything I’d read, the soap should harden over a few days and then you can remove the bars from the molds. Even after a week and a half I couldn’t remove the soap. It was hard on top but still liquid underneath. It was like each soap bar was a model for the Earth’s plate tectonics. The top layer would slide and drift over the liquid layer and any cracks would leave a volcano of beige-white soap-lava oozing out of the soap fault line. They’d eventually solidify into a soap mountain range until I messed with the bars again. New fault lines, new soap volcanoes, and the soap-mantle remained ever so fluid.

Eventually I just grabbed the whole glob, liquid and solid, of each bar and smashed them into balls. They were very oily when I hand-molded them, and it was pretty obvious what the problem was: I used way too much oil/not enough lye. Back to the shitty bike analogy, the lye I used was the bike frames and the oil was the tires. Way too many tires to make bikes out of. So the tires (oil) just kinda hung out in the garage in a massive pile along with relatively few finished bikes (soap).

This did have the nice side effect of the soap being very gentle. It didn’t dry my skin out and left my hair feeling amazing after washing with it. It also lathered really well. It felt nice to use. As for texture and consistency, no bueno, the soap would crumple with the smallest force applied to it. It’s just not a very durable soap.

So how do you know how much oil and lye to add together to make as many bikes as possible? Luckily people have already figured that out. You just have to do a little math.

Saponification Value

I stumbled upon a Wikipedia article about this thing called saponification value and it was exactly what I needed to find even if I didn’t know I needed to find it. It basically gives the value of lye you must add to oil to completely saponify it. You just measure your oil, do a little math, and the resulting number is the amount of lye you need to add. Easy!

Can you imagine making soap out of fish oil?!

The values given in the Wikipedia table are labeled as milligrams per gram. They’re also the values for using potassium hydroxide (caustic potash) and not sodium hydroxide! Oil requires less lye to saponify than KOH (due to a lower molecular mass…I think…) and luckily the page notes the conversion factor: 1.4. Divide these values by 1.4 and that’s your number for using NaOH instead of KOH.

Obviously you should use a scale if you’re really going to get into soap-making, even occasionally. I’d recommend everyone have a nice kitchen scale because, well, they’re handy. Even if you don’t have a use for it now it’s one of those things that is periodically needed. They’re like $20 so just go buy one!

A Cheap, Quick, and Easy Recipe Revisited

Referencing my last post with the cheap, simple, easy-mode soap recipe: I used 300 g of canola oil. Why? Because canola oil is cheap and you might already have a bunch in your kitchen. Why faff around using fancy, expensive, and unique oils when you can just use the trash you already have on hand? Using canola oil isn’t a rule, and once again feel free to experiment. You can use any oil you want (almost. note that mineral oil can’t be saponified; it’s a different oil altogether and won’t work), just check the saponification value and do the math.

As for the amount of lye we’re going to use the saponification value for canola oil: 190 mg/g. Firstly, divide by 1.4 because we’re using NaOH and not KOH, and this gives a value of 135 mg/g. We’re using 300 g of oil, so 300*135 is 40,500 mg of lye. Since there are 1,000 mg in a g, just move that decimal over and realize you need about 40 g of lye. I’m rounding these numbers down because of reasons…

You want all the lye to react with the oil. Lye isn’t really nice to wash your hands with (all of that stuff about it being caustic and eating flesh/metal), and as stated before an oil-heavy soap lathers better and is gentler on your skin. In short you do not want to use all the lye you need, because a little unreacted oil is good to have. Apparently pro soap makers call this ‘superfatting’ and this is another tweakable you can do with your soaps.

I’ve been using 90% lye based on the numbers and this seems to work nicely even if the soap is still a bit harsh. 40 g is the upmost limit you should use, and you can go much lower than 90% if you want. The soap will become softer and gentler to use, but this is a tradeoff that probably becomes undoable past a certain point because the soap will become soft and brittle. I haven’t found this point yet (I’m still experimenting…) so I’m going with 90% lye for a ‘safe’ soap.

The experiment. The bottom row has extra lye, the next row up has the exact amount of required lye, then 75% lye, then 55%. It’s pretty obvious that the 55% batch is way too liquidy even if it has been curing for three weeks. Surprisingly, the 75% batch is solid. So apparently the lowest you can go on the lye is somewhere between 75% and 55%.

So 90%*40g is 36g. That’s the amount of lye you’ll use. The best thing about saponification values and knowing how they work is that they allow you to really make your own batches instead of blindly relying on a recipe. Sure recipes work but what if you don’t want to make a ton of soap? What if you just want to give it a try before you make five pounds of soap and screw it all up? Or what if you do want to make a ton of soap? Saponification values and somewhat knowing the math and science behind the process lets you scale up or down your recipe and tweak whatever you want. You can play around with the formula, make some 60% lye soap and see what happens! It might be a failure, oh well, and then you can tweak in the other direction next time.

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A Homemade Soap Recipe

Part four of a Series on Soap. Part One, On the Quest for Soap. Part Two, What is Soap? Part Three, On the Quest for Lye are linked if you’re interested.

I hate searching for a new recipe, finding something that looks nice, and getting a 2,000-word-count blog about the meaning behind the recipe, how the meal tastes, or the detailed cooking process. No, I don’t need to hear how much better a Dutch oven is (what even is that?) and why I shouldn’t just use a glass baking dish. That’s all we have and that’s what I’m going to use! I know why they do this — word count, keywords, photographs, etc. — but I’m still a guy looking for a recipe and only a recipe. Where is it? Usually at the bottom of the page past all the paragraphs, photographs, and advertisements. Ignore the text, scrollscrollscroll until I see the list, screencap that shit and scurry back to Reddit for a few days before I actually try to cook the recipe.

So I won’t do that here and here’s a quick and basic soap recipe. It’s nothing fancy, nothing that’ll make your mother-in-law finally impressed with you, nothing to quit your job over, nothing to justify your lack of a real career over, but it’s soap. I’m keeping it simple and basic for a few reasons: I don’t know what I’m doing anyways, trying something new should be kept simple (and cheap), and to give anyone trying this ample room to get creative. Add your own scents! Try to mold it into animals or Christmas trees! Add color. Make it look like a cheesecake. Whatever. The fun with these projects is experimenting.

So finally, my Very Basic Soap Ver. 2.2.1 Recipe:

300 grams (about 1.5ish cups) of canola oil

36 grams of lye (sodium hydroxide, NaOH, drain cleaner from the hardware store, check the label)

3/8 cups of cold water

It’s all pretty easy to do. Dissolve the lye in some cold water (The water will heat up when adding lye so make sure you start with cold water and add the lye slowly!) and add that to your oil. Grab a blender and blend the shit out of it. It should cloud up quickly and you want to mix long enough until the oil/soap/lye doesn’t separate. This mix usually does it pretty quickly, after a few minutes. It’ll still be fairly liquid and won’t look at all like a solid bar of soap, but will have a slight ‘soapy’ smell. I’ve been letting it sit for about ten or twenty minutes to make sure it’s mixed well and doesn’t separate, and if this doesn’t happen you’re basically done.

(Note about lye: Lye is corrosive. Lye will eat your skin. Lye reacts with a bunch of stuff. Be safe with it. It won’t kill you and it’s not really dangerous as long as you’re careful. If you get some on you, just wash it off. If you don’t you’ll notice a red mark and it’ll itch. No big deal, just be aware that it’s called ‘caustic soda’ for a reason.

Also, do not use metal for your mixing bowl or mold! Lye reacts with aluminum to form hydrogen gas, and while flammable probably won’t be a fire risk, but if the lye in your soap starts reacting furiously with your container it will certainly fuck your soap up. You want all the lye to react with the oil and reacting a bunch of it with aluminum will ruin everything.

I found this out by buying those single-use aluminum baking dishes to use as cheap soap mold. I knew Al and NaOH reacted but somehow forgot about this until I poured the soap into them. It started bubbling. Instantly I recalled the Al + NaOH reaction and dumped the soap into a ceramic dish/mold. I put the aluminum, along with the soap residue, outside for the night. Most of it was gone the next day.)

Add scents or coloring if you want, mix that all together, and pour it into a mold or whatever you have laying around. Hell, just leave it in the container you mixed it in if you like. Over the course of a few days it’ll harden up and you can remove it from the mold to further dry.

Apparently this soap needs to sit a long time to properly finish, but can be used a few days after you make it. It’ll be soft and will quickly dissolve once water gets involved, but it will work. Just try to be patient and wait for it to properly cure before you get too excited to use your creation.

As for how I got these numbers, namely the amount of lye required, I’ll make another post about that. I already have it written — it was supposed to be part of this post — but it’s a totally different topic that doesn’t fit. Part Five later on today perhaps?

Check out my YouTube channel about off-grid green energy setups!

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On the Quest for Lye

This is part three in an n-part series about soap. Check out the other parts if you’re interested. Part one: On the Quest for Soap and part two: What is Soap?

Our living room reeks of chlorine. You don’t notice it too much if you sit in the room awhile, but if you leave for just a few minutes your nose adjusts back to smelling normal air so when you return you’re hit with a wall of chlorine. It smells like a swimming pool even though there isn’t a swimming pool within a quarter-mile of us. It smells like someone mopped the floor with bleach but no one did.

The room smells like chlorine because I’m making chlorine gas. That’s not my goal but it’s a side product of my goal: making my own lye.

I said in the bread post how I love getting as close to the source of things as I can. Baking bread means I don’t have to pay some guy at the bread factory to make it for me but you can only go so far back before you hit another wall. In bread’s case I still need to buy the raw ingredients. Flour, oil, salt, yeast. And none of these products are within my reach. I don’t know how to grow or harvest wheat, where are you supposed to get salt from besides the store?, and oil I could make but it would be messy and a pain in the ass. (The idea would be to buy oil sunflower seeds, the black ones, from Farm and Fleet. It’s sold as bird seed but you could smash them up and harvest the oil. Maybe I’ll actually try that…HMMMMMMM!)

Soap is oil and lye (sodium hydroxide, which sounds a lot cooler than ‘lye’). I mentioned how getting oil would be a pain in the ass, but what about lye? You wouldn’t think so — it’s a harsh industrial product — but it’s apparently really easy to make with only three ingredients: salt, water, and electricity.

If you read the sodium hydroxide Wikipedia page it tells you it’s created by something called the chloralkali process. To sum it up: get salt water, pass electricity through it, and you’re done. Sodium hydroxide. Lye. One of the two things you need to make soap.

The details are a bit tricky though. You can’t just toss a battery in a cup of salt water and get a glass of lye. As the reaction proceeds (its called “electrolysis”) it forms a bunch of nasty stuff that eats most metals. The actual wires (electrodes) you use need to be non-reactive. Good metals are crap like gold and platinum; these are way out of my cost range! I tried this with aluminum foil (it’s cheap and easy to find) and it just deteriorates after a half-hour. The aluminum doesn’t just disappear though, it reacts to form other compounds. Instead of lye you’d get something like sodium aluminate or aluminum chloride or whatever. I don’t even know. But using aluminum means there is a contaminate in the water and that’s not going to be helpful.

The two electrodes also give off hydrogen and chlorine gas. Hydrogen is cool because it’s hydrogen. Rocket fuel. Flammable balloon gas ala Hindenburg. Etc. Chlorine gas is toxic, but in the small amounts I’m making it shouldn’t (???) be a problem.

And that’s why the room smells like chlorine.

(Fun fact #1: chlorine gas is the reason cleaning products instruct you to never ever mix them with anything else! Most of them will make chlorine which isn’t good to breathe in. Go give it a shot if you’re curious. Mix some bleach with ammonia/glass cleaner/toilet bowl cleaner and take a teeny tiny smell of it. It’ll choke you, it’ll burn your nose, and it’ll make make you feel like you’re having an asthma attack. I recommend you do this outside unless you want to piss your family/roommates off.)

(On second thought, do not do this. I’m not taking the blame for your stupidity.)

If you have the two electrodes in the same glass, the chlorine and hydroxide react to form sodium hypochlorite — bleach — simple household bleach. Fun huh? If you need bleach try making some yourself. I might try to conjure some up just to try it, but bleach isn’t important enough to worry about when soap is the goal.

Here’s my setup. Two glasses of salt water. There’s a paper towel between them acting as a bullshit cheap “ion channel” so the current can flow between the glasses. For electrodes I bought some carbon ones off Amazon. Carbon, yes. It’s basically really fancy and thick charcoal. (Fun fact #2: before I ordered those I tried a few bits of charcoal from our bonfire pit. It sort of worked but the charcoal fell apart at the slightest disturbance.) The positive electrode makes chlorine gas while the negative makes hydrogen. (Another fun fact #3: if you bottle up the H and the Cl and burn them together you get hydrogen chloride gas, a toxic and acidic gas! If you bubble this through water you get hydrochloric acid! Capturing gasses is difficult though, so I’m not worrying about it.) 

How does it work? The ions in the water, the sodium and the chloride, wander near to the opposing electrode. The chlorine goes bye-bye (it’s a gas) and the sodium can’t evaporate so a hydrogen from the water goes bye-bye. This leave a lonely OH- that used to be water hanging around. The negative electrode ends up with a bunch of these hydroxide ions (OH-) hanging out around it, a sodium strolls on over, buddies up with it, and makes sodium hydroxide.

I guess the big question is “Well, does it work?” Maybe. It sure makes a ton of hydrogen and stinky, yellow-green, pungent chlorine so it’s doing something. I also bought some pH papers to measure the acidity/alkalinity of the water, and the positive one is sitting at 3 (a mild acid) while the negative glass is somewhere between 12 and 14 (a strong base). So once again something is there, but I have no clue how to get the lye out of the water or anything.

Don’t do this (obviously) but I tasted the lye-water and it doesn’t burn or anything. The pH papers say it’s basic as hell, but it does nothing to my tongue.

After letting it run on my solar power for about four days there is some cloudy white stuff at the bottom, about a half-teaspoons worth. Maybe it made so much lye it’s starting to precipitate out of the water? I think that’s what’s happening. Drain the water off and boil the solid dry I guess. Maybe find a solvent that dissolves either salt or NaOH but not the other? But is that all I have to show for the past four days? Apparently so. I put maybe a tablespoon of salt in each glass so the amount of lye created should be somewhat similar; I won’t end up with ten pounds of the stuff using a tablespoon of salt.

I’m going to replenish the water and salt and keep it running until I get a sizeable amount of lye. Is it worth it? Hell no, and I don’t know what I was hoping to accomplish. Maybe if I ever sold my soap I could slap the “totally homemade at home using solar power and range-free lye!” label on it. Someone would love to buy something as green as my soap. But I probably just wanted to try it to see if it’d work. Make some homemade soap from some homemade lye (and maybe homemade oil…); it’s about as homemade as you can get. No lye from drain cleaner and big industrial factories. Sadly that lye is a whole lot easier to acquire and a hell of a lot cheaper.

Closing Note: I moved my ‘production apparatus’ outside to our driveway. This way I don’t have to worry about filling the house of with fucking chlorine gas and having DCFS called on me.

Check out my YouTube channel about off-grid green energy setups!

Or my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics and shitty poems every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

Vacation Sucks (2021 Edition)

It’s that time of year once again: vacation. I couldn’t take all four weeks in a row this year and had to settle for three. My job is a union job so everyone with higher seniority gets to pick their vacations first. Even if I’m about middle-of-the-pack with my time there, the full-timers above me all have like five or six weeks of vacation meaning they shit up the vacation calendar pretty quickly.

I complain about vacation once every year, sometimes twice, so I’ll just skip all of that here.

The First Goal

I’m terrible at holding clear-cut goals but here’s one of them: get 2,000 blog views this month. I’ve been slacking for awhile but July still has some hope. July 4th gave me over 200 daily views — a new record and the first time I cracked 200 — because of my The 4th of July Sucks post from two years ago. Apparently people Google “july 4 sucks” and they find my page. Cool. It was a good start to the month but I squandered it as time went on. I need about 250 more views in the next three days, so it’ll be close, and I’ll try my best, but I won’t be surprised if I end the month with 1,999 views.

And this is why I’m shoveling out this throw-away post. Better to write some trash than to not write at all.

Sobriety

This vacation is already going better than my last vacation, nearly 110 days ago, because I’m not trying to sober up. I know the exact number thanks to the r/stopdrinking ‘days sober’ feature. (I’ll never stop shilling for r/stopdrinking.) You set a date and then anytime you post it displays how many sober days you’ve accumulated. It’s a great feature because you don’t have to remember a date or go mad trying to count the days yourself.

Last vacation sucked because I stopped drinking. Anyone who has been an alcoholic knows that the first week is a rough one as your body and emotions are all over the place. I chose that week to sober up because I had a terrible habit of drinking my vacation away. Boredom is one of my drinking triggers and during vacations I go crazy. There’s nothing else to do besides get drunk, at least that’s how Jeremy usually thought about vacation. So that week was successful on the sobriety front and I haven’t had a drink since but damn did it suck. At least these three weeks I’m not battling alcoholism. Sure I’m bored and drinking sounds like a great way to spend vacation, but it’s a passing thought I can easily disregard.

Random Projects

I like to keep busy doing bullshit random things that aren’t at all related to each other. Making soap is obviously one of them, as well as a few other sorta related things like trying to make my own lye and washing bonfire ashes in water. Washing ashes in water also means I need to burn wood which also means I need trim some shrubs in the yard to have stuff to burn. Luckily my wife has done that part because my motivation is always near zero. I despise yardwork by the way…

There’s a bunch else I sort of want to do but since my motivation is basically zero it’s hard for me to get around to doing them. It’d be fun to take the family to the river and go swimming. Not legally swimming either, just get in the water and fucking swim. I want to visit my sister in Iowa because why not? Camping sounds like a fun thing, and maybe haul my guitar to a park and play some music. Maybe haul it down to the bike path and play in front of people? I want to get a cabin for my wife and I but still haven’t gotten around to reserving one. Oh, I also want to watch one of the ‘homeless’ bums that are begging for money at the corner of 2nd Street and Jefferson to see if they’re really homeless, but that won’t happen.

Bike rides, running, weight lifting. Maybe. Russia just launched a new module to the ISS and Boeing is shooting up their Starliner on its second test flight on the 30th; maybe I can go outside and try to see those zipping overhead. (I don’t understand how I haven’t written about the shitty Boeing Starliner yet. It’s fucking trash.) There’s always my giant telescope too and I’ve always wanted to haul that to a public place and let people look at Jupiter and Saturn for realzies.

Paint-by-numbers. Artwork. Drawing. Writing a story. Recording some music. Finally writing and singing some lyrics. Sitting in the yard meditating? Watching bugs in the grass and wondering what it would be like to be a dandelion. What sort of bats do we actually have here in Northern Illinois?

And this is how I am, random bullshit things I want to do with no reason or logic behind them. Is this how people are? Is this normal? Being a human being is a fucking mess…

Books

I bought three books from thriftbooks, being inspired by a Reddit thread asking about “the scariest books you’ve ever read.” House of Leaves. It. Gerald’s Game. I’m currently reading Gerald’s Game and in case you weren’t aware Stephen King is fucked up guy. The book is about a lady who get’s handcuffed to her bed by her husband in the woods. Just some good ole sexual fun that she isn’t too fond of. She ends up accidentally killing him by kicking him and giving him a heart attack, and she’s still cuffed to the bed with no way to escape. A stray dog wanders in and eats her husband as his corpse is laying there. There’s also something about an eclipse and how she was sexually molested by her dad when she was ten. I’m halfway through the book and that’s what’s happened so far.

My wife thinks some of the stuff I write is strange and disturbing, and can you imagine what King’s wife thinks of him? Does he write a story and ever once think, “My God, what the hell is wrong with me?” Either way, he apparently doesn’t give a fuck enough to not get it published.

It’s a book, but not really. A sudoku puzzle book from the store. I think it’s a Soap Opera Digest sudoku book, maybe you’ve seen them before as you’re standing in a checkout lane at Walmart. I had an earlier edition literally 9-10 years ago. Same cover design, same amount of puzzles, same difficulty of puzzles. Sure there are plenty of free sudoku apps out there, but something about having 100 puzzles physically in a book is satisfying so I bought it for $5. It’ll be fun to have it completed by the time I go back to work.

Insomnia

For the past two months I’ve been setting my alarm for noon. I wake up groggy and chug coffee and rip on the vape for an hour before I remotely feel functional. Around midnight I’m dead tired but somehow manage to stay up until 4 or 5 a.m. without fail. I get my second wind around 2 a.m. and from then on I’m as awake as I am at 5 p.m.

I thought vacation would help this a bit, maybe I could set the alarm earlier and earlier, but the problem is getting worse! I didn’t go to sleep yesterday (today?) until 6 a.m. The day before that it was 7:30 a.m. I’m pretty chill about this as well. I’m on vacation so if I’m up until the mid-morning hours who cares? No point in being upset about it.

In Conclusion

In conclusion? What the hell is there to conclude? I’m on vacation. I’m not concluding a damn thing.

Check out my YouTube channel about off-grid green energy setups!

Or my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics and shitty poems every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

What is Soap?

Part two of a series on soap. Part one is here if you’re interested.

Soap, in case you weren’t aware, is what you wash your hands with, usually with water. It kills germs like COVID-19 and the flu and the common cold. It’s good at getting oil and dirt off your skin. It’s common practice to wash your hands after taking a piss or a shit, you know, so you’re not interacting with door handles and people with microscopic bits of shit/piss/germs on your hands.

Soap is laughable easy to make which is what I find surprising. All it takes is a bit of motivation and effort, but it’s not hard to do. Nearly anyone can conjure up a rudimentary soap with only a few household ingredients. You take oil and add in some lye, a drain cleaner that you might have laying around in the dark recesses under the sink or in the basement and that’s it: you have soap.

Obviously the details of this are more complicated. How much lye to fat? How long to cure? What scents do you want to add? Like an onion you can always go deeper in understanding.

A fat molecule looks like this. It’s called a triglyceride and the name should tell you a bit about it. ‘Tri-‘, meaning three, and ‘-glyceride’ sounds a lot like glycerin. That comes into play later. A fat molecule is made up of three strings of something called a fatty acid all tied together by this glycerin backbone thingy.

Lye, also known as sodium hydroxide, NaOH, is a strong base. This means when you add it to water it creates a bunch of ANGRY OH- ions that love to rip other molecules apart (it can do this to your cells so don’t get it on you!). When you add the NaOH to fat, the angry OH- molecules rip the fatty acids off the backbone. These fatty acids, floating along ripped from their backbone, pick up the sodium ion (Na+) from the NaOH. The Na is positively charged and the oxygen on the fatty acid has a negative charge and chemistry stuff happens and shit. In short, you get soap.

This Na tied to a fatty acid is what is what gives soap its magical properties. Half the molecules loves polar molecules, like water, while the other half, the fatty acid tail, hates polar molecules. Everyone has seen how fat and oil don’t mix, they’re different molecules and all of that, but soap ties them together in a way. The soap can bind to fat, collect around it, while the other side binds with water. And like that you have the oil-cleaning properties of soap.

Bacteria and germ cells also are contained in a layer of fat. The technical term is “lipid bilayer” and guess what soap can do to this? Collect around it while allowing water to wash it away. And like that you have the antibacterial properties of soap.

It’s no wonder humans eventually stumbled upon this magical substance. Water is nearly a universal solvent and is required for life. Everything almost dissolves in water, except the stuff that doesn’t, like oil. You get some mud on your hands and water will wash it off. You step in some dogshit and water will wash most of it off while leaving some harmful bacteria. You mix some lye with fat to make soap and no more harmful bacteria on your shit-soiled foot. Before vaccinations were a thing good hygiene was our best defense against microbes. Not shitting near your water source. Not having dead bodies near your farms. And washing your hands. Soap, as simple and mundane as it is, gave us a huge leg-up against germs. Hell, even in 2020/2021 one of the most important guidelines regarding COVID is simply to wash your damn hands because soap is in fact magical and it does in fact work.

Check out my YouTube channel about off-grid green energy setups!

Or my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics and shitty poems every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

On the Quest for Soap

Part One of a series about soap. Yes, soap.

If I summed up every hobby I have ever had it would be this: My hobby is doing random crafty shit to see if I can do them. Every specific hobby I’ve ever had is just a subset of this. Solar panels. Guitar playing. Making bread. Making vape juice. Painting. Making rocket engines out of sugar and stump remover. Blogging. Writing stories. And now…soap making.

Yes: soap. Soap is awesome. Haven’t you guys ever seen Fight Club?

It started a week ago and even I didn’t know I was going to get hard into soap making until I was in the kitchen at 3 a.m. with a bottle of lye and Crisco trying to figure out how to magically turn that stuff into soap. It started with a YouTube video of all things.

There’s this chemist dude on there by the name of NileRed. He makes chemistry videos (duh) that are pretty informative but also pretty hilarious in a dry-humor sort of way. (“This chemical is very toxic and even explosive, but it should be okay.”) Even if you’re not into chemistry, check him out. In one video he makes grape flavoring/grape soda out of vinyl gloves and using urea from his own urine in one of the intermediate steps. In another video he carbonates water with CO₂ from diamonds. He apparently made a video on soap four years ago that I wasn’t even aware of. I found it at 2 a.m. on Sunday, really Monday I guess, and I watched it. “Huh,” I thought, “Soap seems pretty easy to make. I have oil. And I have lye. And…I can’t sleep right now…so…maybe I can toss some shit together just to see if it works.”

And here I am a week and a half later checking to see if my soap is dry yet, googling how to make sodium hydroxide, learning the differences between sodium and potassium hydroxide, filtering oil from the bacon skillet and deep fryer, wondering what the hell ‘glycerin’ is and why some people remove it from their soaps. I wonder what would be some good essential oils to put in my soap? I wonder if I can sell my soap? I wonder if I can never buy soap ever again in my life.

Soap making fits right in with my current madness and I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to stumble into it. I probably should’ve stumbled into making soap back when I was distilling my own rum with supplies I purchased from the hardware store, but I didn’t. Remember this post where I ranted about bread and how it was sort of like the foundation of society? I said that I almost felt like I failure homo sapiens because I didn’t know how to bake my own bread. Isn’t that a requirement to be a human? To know how to make your own fire and bake your own bread? Well, put soap making up there because even if it isn’t as key to civilization as fire and bread it sure is up there. Soap making is one of those lost arts and a part of life, a part of being a stinky and dirty human that almost none of us know how to do. As with bread: we buy soap. Other people make it and we don’t worry about where it comes from or how its made. And by making your own soap you take back a tiny bit of your humanity, rediscover one of those old arts that are seemingly forgotten in our modern age.

That all sounds a bit over the top and dramatic but oh well. And I hesitate to write this part but I think I might make a series about soap and how to make it. Not like a guide per-se, there’s plenty of those and I don’t want to tell people how to do something when it’s much more fun to figure it out yourself with a bit of help and curiosity — but like a series on where the seemingly mundane adventure of making soap can take you. If there’s one thing hobbies are good for it’s giving you a deep and complex rabbit hole to crawl down and get lost in. What started as a simple project — making soap — has turned into a mess of nuance and complexity. So yeah, SOAP.

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