I have a fabulous colleague who likes soap. She prefers vegetable based soap. Nobody’s perfect. I love tallow soap and think it gets a bad rap. But I can’t argue that palm oil makes some fabulous soap, and it’s fine to use it now and then. Commercial scale use of palm oil is responsible for some pretty serious habitat conservation concerns. Using the occasional ethically-as-possible sourced jar of it for your friends is probably not going to be the thing that kills all the chimpanzees. Check your snack foods and cosmetics, though. It’s used on a pretty huge scale in a way that’s devastating.
Palm oil is in such high demand because there aren’t all that many vegetable fats that are solid at room temperature. It contains a 16-carbon saturated fatty acid called palmitic acid, which makes hard and long lasting soap. It makes a good, stable lather. Coconut oil will do those things, too, but coconut actually cleans so well that it strips all the oil out of the skin, leaving it very dry.
Today’s experiment is going to be adding seaweed powder to the soap to see what color it turns. The internet suggests that if I don’t add too much, I should get a pleasant green. I added two teaspoons to my batch at light trace, but so far, we only have a pleasant beige, that darkened into a rather nice brown, but I’m open to that. In other news, the internet lies and water is wet.
Here’s what it looks like when you use Brambleberry’s lye calculator.
I set out the oils I want to use and measure them out, writing down exactly how much I’ve used as I go. Since I can’t ever seem to pour an even number of anything, this works out better for me than trying to write down a recipe first and then follow it. Even if I’m following a recipe, I’ll weigh everything and recalculate lye to account for the extra or short gram here or there because friends don’t burn friends with improperly calculated soap.
All I had to do was put in the actual grams of oils I used, and Brambleberry produced the excellent result you see above, which tells me how much lye and water to use.
Unknown mineral content can impact your soap outcomes, so I use distilled water in all these soap batches.
At the very end, I added 5 tsp. of coconut milk. It keeps the soap from seizing up as it goes into the molds and lets me cool it down a bit before adding essential oil. This batch is bergamot. The seaweed imparted some scent, but it just wasn’t enough on its own. This should hopefully remind us of citrus groves in coastal San Diego when it has cured.
Here it is in the mold. Tomorrow, we’ll cut it into bars.