During a recent visit to the pub a friend raised a question which I didn’t really have an answer for; Where do you get organic soap?, After a fairly exhaustive search through the generic shops of Plymouth I came up with a bit of a blank even the environmentally friendly varieties available in supermarkets are still far from it.
Sanex has recently released its “Zero” range, the promotional material states:” It contains 0% Fragrance, 0% Parabens, 0% Phenoxyethanol, 0% colourants & 0% phthalates”. This is a damn good start and for those who still require a shower gel as apposed to a normal soap, however its second ingredient is Sodium laureth sulphate. I have spoken previously about the cons of SLS and there is increasing evidence of links with skin cancer and cancer in aquatic environments. This fact is made all the more absurd by the fact that it serves no other purpose than to act as a foaming agent. Yes thats right the stuff in soap that may or may not give you cancer is only there to make sure you get a creamy lather.
The truth of the matter is that you don’t actually need a proper foam to get clean, its simply a desire that has been created by decades of advertising. Natural soap doesn’t give quite such a foamy lather on its own but seeing as most people use some sort of sponge or loofah you can make natural foam just the same without the SLS.
So after my failure to find a supply of natural soap on the highstreet I decided that the way forward would be to make my own. This would allow me to make sure that I know what is in it and also give me a chance to muck about doing something crafty, which is always good.
There is a massive amount of information on soap making online as it is a very popular hobby both in Europe and the US. Most of the information does make it sound more complicated than it actually is. I decided that I was going to use what is known as the “cold process” as it gives the most time to correct any mistakes you might make.The basic process of making soap is to saponify fats using Sodium Hydroxide or Lye, the Lye is completely consumed by the reaction to leave saponified fats and a little glycerin.
The cold process; simply combine oils and fats of your choice (a common base is olive oil for example) and blend with a saturated solution of sodium hydroxide, once the mixtures are combined and blended the mixture will resemble custard and at this point it should be poured into a suitable mould. the only downside of the cold process is the maturation times needed: once your soap has solidified in the mould it has to be removed, wrapped and then left to mature for about 28 days. This allows the saponification process to complete, so that the lye is completely consumed.
I used a mixture of organic coconut oil, organic Cocoa butter and organic olive oil. the end result should be a hard natural soap. Hopefully it will keep the natural smell of the cocoa butter as it smells awesome at the moment, but only time will tell.
If you want more info you can find a full series of information and tutorials at: http://www.brambleberry.com.html including a calculator that works out the proportions for you so you can mix your own oils. For those of you who aren’t the crafty type but would like to buy some natural soap you can visit http://www.soorganic.com/organic-bath-products/organic-soap-bars.html or if you want to be particularly good, try visiting craft fairs and markets and support a small business.