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Bamagirl

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Hi everyone, I haven't actually made my first batch of soap yet, but I guess you could say I am in the planning stage. A little about myself first, I decided to try to make soap because I have made laundry detergent for several years now and really like it, and then one day I thought, why not try soap? So, I have kicked around the idea (mainly haven't proceeded due to lye fear and startup cost) and then I got to try some homemade soap a friend of my brother's made and really liked it. I don't know what's in it or anything, I just know that the day after using it, I could scratch my arm and noticed my skin wasn't dry, so that convinced me to research and decide to try to make my own. But, before I delve into this, I had a couple of questions I hope someone can help me with.

1. I live in the south and it is very humid here during the summer, is that going to affect soapmaking to the point it isn't worth it (ie... will my soap go bad due to the humidity, or maybe not set up?)

2. My first purchase will be the book by Anne Watson Smart Soapmaking, any opinions on this book?

3. for supplies, I am thinking I need-stick blender, plastic bowl with spout (one for lye/water and one for oils), silicone spatulas, scale and molds-- am I missing anything? Also, on a tight budget, so what is your opinion of the best cheap scale?

4.What is the shelf life of soap? I don't want to get into it (I already plan on being addicted :-o) and then have too much and it go bad.

5. ANY and I mean ANY tips, ticks or advice you may have to offer a newbie just starting out.

6. I just found these forums yesterday, and have been browsing a little bit, but haven't had a lot of time to really read through yet, any suggestions for anything that would be particularly helpful?

Thanks so much for any help you can give me.
 

rparrny

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Welcome!
Humidity will affect drying times and you have to be careful not to leave your lye uncovered as it will soak up the humidity and cause issues, but lots of people in humid areas make soap just fine...I'm on Long Island 250 feet away from the bay so I speak from experience...
I don't see safety equipment on your list...goggles and gloves are a must.
Anne Watson's book is awesome and a great start for any soaper!
Start slow, keep it simple until you get your comfort level and most of all...have fun!

As far as your budget...the dollar store is your best friend! Bowls, measuring cups and spatulas can all be found there and as you get comfortable and decide to get fancier with your technique, they are a great source for boxes and baskets for gift giving.
Over time, a soap may lose it's fragrance but I'm unaware of soap ever going bad...we have our resident science geeks around here that will correct me if I'm wrong.
You will be tempting to try all kinds of colors and techniques at first, my best advice is to start really simple with a recipe with no more than 3 oils or fats and either skip the colorants or limit it to one for your first try. A cigar box lined with freezer paper can be a first mold, or you can get a silicone baking dish (just don't use it for baking after that) are reasonable in price. If you can afford some simple soap molds or loaf molds, they will be used constantly and are always a good investment. Amazon has a great variety and if you're a prime member the shipping is free, although the prices are not usually the cheapest. My vote is to go to walmart and get some sort of a baking dish there, they might even have molds...if not in the store, online can ship for free if you pick up at the store.

I thought this was a GREAT price at Walmart:
http://www.walmart.com/ip/Heavy-Duty-Loaf-Mold-Holds-3-Pounds/32753

Be careful about the clear plastic soap molds, they are made for melt and pour and some of them will melt with lye soaps.
 

OliveOil2

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Don't forget to get goggles, and gloves, you can get a cheap digital scale for $20 or a great digital scale for about $30 Amazon has the KD7000 scale for a great price. You will have your scale for years, and I think it is worth a little more. I have a collection of stick blenders and I love my cheap $14 one from Amazon, two speeds, and not too strong. I usually grab it instead of the kitchen aid.
I haven't looked at Ann Watson's book in a long time, but think much of the information is dated by now. Today there is so much information on the internet and forums that I would just check the book out of the library.
Also when I first started making soap I purchased two thermometers which everyone said were needed, and I don't use them, instead soap at room temp or just a tad higher.
As suggested I would wait on colors and fragrance until you are happy with your recipe. In regard to how long soap lasts, I have soap that is 3 to 4 years old without any DOS. For the most part I don't keep it around that long though.
 

IrishLass

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Welcome Bamagirl! :)

Bamagirl said:
(I already plan on being addicted
)
That's good......because you will be, and it's always good to be prepared! lol

Some answers to your questions:

1) I myself live in a bone-dry part of the country, so I'm no help there, but good news- we have several members on the forum who live in the humid south who haven't given up their soaping addiction, so it's definitely worth it. Hopefully more of them will chime in soon to give you tips on making it work.

2) I don't have Ann's book myself, but I've heard lots of good things about it from several of our members here.

3) Goggles and gloves are essential. Gotta protect those eyes and hands. As far as scales go, you definitely want to invest in a good one that can measure in grams as well as ounces, has a tare feature, won't shut off in mid-weigh. I'm partial to my MY Weigh brand KD7000. It's on sale right now for $30.00 here: http://www.oldwillknottscales.com/my-weigh-kd7000-silver.html If you buy it, make sure to get the adapter for it (it's about $6.00). I've had mine for over 3 years and it still works like a champ. I use it for everything- soaping, bread-making, cooking, etc... I can't say enough good things about it.

4) If properly made, it will last forever. At least mine seem to. I've been making soap 10 years now and I still have sample bars that I've held back for observational purposes, and they are all still great. The scent has faded of course, but otherwise they are perfectly good- no off-smells, no rancidity, ect..

5) My best piece of advice is this: Respect the lye and use the proper precautions, but don't be petrified of it. Make sure you have proper ventilation when mixing your lye solution so that you don't breathe in any of the lye fumes. Mixing lye and water sets off a heat reaction that kicks up a cloud of fumes, so make sure you wear the proper protection to protect your lungs, as well as your eyes and hands. Once the lye solution has cooled down, there are no more fumes, even when soaping, but your eyes and skin still need to be protected during soaping from accidental splashes and spills since the soap batter is pretty caustic.

Also- don't use glass to mix your lye solution, not even Pyrex. We've had several incidences of exploding Pyrex happen to some soapers when mixing up their lye solutions in it. Best to use plastic made of PP#5 (recycle code on bottom of container), Nalgene, or quality stainless steel. instead. Oh, and keep lye away from aluminum bowls/utensils. Lye and aluminum are mortal enemies and should never come into contact with each other. Never.

5) Here is a really good thread with lots of tips that you will find useful (it's one of several such threads on the forum): http://www.soapmakingforum.com/showthread.php?p=298463



IrishLass :)
 
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The Efficacious Gentleman

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Welcome.

If you have time, I would read back through at least 10 pages of the beginner section, co section and the recipe sections - that will give you so many diverse views but such a great foundation. Soaping books generally just give the 'what' but not the 'why', and it is the why that allows you to really learn. Loads of recipe ideas are one thing, but the adage "give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him forever" comes to mind.

If you're looking for techniques for swirls and so on, YouTube is a great resource
 

rparrny

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Found this 3 pound loaf mold at Michaels, with the 40% off coupon code (FALL4015) it was $27.09 with shipping. I felt that was a really good value. Be aware a lot of the colors and fragrances they sell at Michaels can't be used in lye soap, they are made for melt and pour.




artminds™ soap making, loaf mold

  • In Stock
Item Number: 10215699

Edit Detai
 

Bamagirl

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Wow, thanks so much for all the wonderful replies!! I do have goggles and gloves on my list, but failed to type them out for some reason.

That makes me so happy to hear that the humidity won't affect the soapmaking as bad as I was thinking. Also happy to hear that soap doesn't really go bad (in my mind, I see me getting addicted quickly and wanting to try out so much).

Since there is only a $10 difference in the scales, I think I will go with the better one and I have Amazon Prime, so it won't take long to get here either. I may also pick up the stick blender there as well, especially if I can't find one at a thrift store soon.

Thanks for the link to the reading, I will definitely be checking it out soon. I tend to have this problem where once I set my mind to something, I can't stop researching, so I have a feeling I will be reading through many of the Beginner forums this weekend.

For the molds, I plan on convincing my husband to make me some out of wood, since he loves messing around in his shop anyway. Although I do really like the idea of the silicone, especially if I understand correctly that the silicone don't have to be lined with anything? But due to budget issues, I think I will maybe try to pick those up at yard sales and thrift stores (or at least that's the plan, once I start my first batch that plan may change:-o)

Again, thanks so much for all the replies. I really appreciate all of you taking the time to respond to my questions.
 

Dharlee

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I personally like the 10" silicone loaf mold at Bramble Berry that is 21.00. I know they sell it other places too, but for me this is a great mold. Also be sure and wash silicone molds asap because they seem to absorb fragrances. I would read the stickies here as well as they sure give a lot of helpful information.
 

MrsSpaceship

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Welcome.

I haven't been soaping for long but thought I'd put in a couple of things that stand out in my mind.

When working with the small bead lye, well ventilated doesn't mean have the fan blowing directly on you. I did this the first time and between the static and the breeze, ended up with a counter full of tiny lye beads.
Also, the bead style lye has crazy static and will cling like mad to your measuring cups. I counteract this by wiping it out with a dryer sheet first, this makes it so your lye all pours into your water and doesn't stick to the sides of your cup.

Because I'm just doing soap for my family of three, it doesn't make sense for me make large batches, so my batches are 1 lb finished. It's much easier on my supplies/pocketbook that way. Bramble Berry and Wholesale Supplies Plus have small molds that are less than $20 usd, but I started out with containers that I purchased at Walmart. Look for storage trays, silverware trays etc. that have straight sides. They will have to be lined with freezer paper so make sure you have that on hand and line the mold before you get started soaping, it's not something you want to be doing when you're ready to pour (ask me why I know this).

I think that's it for now, but I may add to it if anything comes to mind.
 

Susie

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I used the Rubbermaid drawer dividers for molds for a long time. They cost $1 each and require no lining.

Do go ahead and get a good scale. I use mine for far more than soaping, and it is worth the extra money.

I lived in Louisiana, now live in east Texas, and humidity is 24/7/365. I keep right on soaping. I do allow a couple of extra weeks cure time just because of the humidity, and the fact that I like my soap well cured.

Once you start soaping, you can bribe *ahem, I mean foster good relations* your local thrift stores with home made soap to call you when they get in stick blenders and crock pots. It is always good to have a spare SB, and you will need the crock pot to rebatch or make liquid soap or something.
 

penelopejane

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Bamagirl

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I am looking at asking for my soap making equipment for Christmas from my hubby. I have Amazon Prime, so will probably be ordering from there. I have looked through the forums and my ideas for the equipment I am leaning toward is as follows:

kd7000, kd8000, but I really like the postal type scales as I don't have much counter space and feel like I could store it in a drawer, so any suggestions for a good one of those would be great. (Also, how do you make sure you don't get anything on it so that it can still be used for weighing food?)

Immersion blender-I don't really have an idea on this one as I am not sure what I need. Do I have to get Stainless Steel? Any suggestions?

Thermometer-my husband has a point and read thermometer that he got from harbor freight, I am thinking this would be ok, but am really leaning towards making soap at room temp? and thus a thermometer would not be needed if I understand that correctly?

Molds-I don't plan to go overboard yet, I may pick up a silicone bread loaf type mold since I plan to start with super simple recipes and 16 oz batches. However, I have asked my husband to make me a mold as well.

cutter- I have a kitchen chopper/scooper that is basically a thin piece of metal that I plan on sacrificing to soapmaking (I never use it in the kitchen anyway). I also looked up some soap cutters and decided to ask the hubby if he could build me one that would hold the soap bar and has one section of notched sides that I could slide the chopper through to cut it. (He's pretty awesome, so I know he can make it).

Utensils- A couple of pourable pitchers and silicone spatulas from the dollar tree, and of course gloves and goggles from there as well.

Any advice or suggestions on any of the equipment above or any feedback on any I haven't considered?

Thanks so much for all your help!
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

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Ah, the first purchases are the most fun -

Scale: NOT A POSTAL - you need something that allows you to add more and more as you go, to tare and so on. The first two KDs get a lot of love here and will be fine.

STABMIXER! - the parts that will go in to the batter must be plastic or stainless. In fact, with splashes, it is best if ALL of it is a mix of either stainless and plastic, no aluminium.

Thermometer - not really needed for soaping as such. You can go by feel (carefully!).

Moulds - a bread mould is likely to be slanted on the sides. I would look at something straight sided if at all possible.
 

dixiedragon

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*waves* I am in Birmingham! What part of Bama are you in, if I may ask?

As far as humidity, I cure my soap in the house. Assuming you have a house with AC, that does enough to remove humidity that you'll be fine. I have a dehumidifier in the room where I cure my soap. It's not required, but I do think it's helpful. Not so much for preventing DOS as for speeding up the process a bit. However, don't cure your soap in the basement.

I mostly order my oils online. (Soaper's Choice.) When I buy locally - Walmart for lard, castor (pharmacy section with the laxatives, bottom shelf), coconut. Costco for olive (not extra virgin). Vitamin Shoppe is the best non-internet price for castor. I also occasionally stumble across special oils for a good price at HomeGoods or TG maxx. It's really random. The price is better for a small amount (1 lb) than I find online. I got 1 lb of virgin coconut and 1 lb of virgin pumpkin seed. These are also good sources for things like silicone spatulas, silicone molds and scales.

Bargain Hunt is another good source for scales.

I will politely disagree with The Efficacious Gentleman regarding the thermometer. I personally get impatient and I will very frequently mix my soap at too high a temp because I decide it's "close enough". I have been soaping for 15 years. And the thermometer is crucial if you get into lotion making, b/c some preservatives will get destroyed at certain temps.

I personally like the 10" silicone loaf mold at Bramble Berry that is 21.00. I know they sell it other places too, but for me this is a great mold. Also be sure and wash silicone molds asap because they seem to absorb fragrances. I would read the stickies here as well as they sure give a lot of helpful information.
While the fragrance seems to stick to the silicone mold, it won't come out in the next batch, even when that next batch is unscented. I actually prefer to wash my molds at pots the day after soaping, b/c then the soap is more like soap and less like oil, so it behaves like soap and clean up is easier.
 

kchaystack

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I use this scale:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002SVNEWA/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20

It is very compact. It has a max 3kg (over 6 pounds) so it is great for hobbyists. It weighs to the tenth of a gram, so it also is good if you want to do small batches of lotions or creams. It has a cover that snaps over it and will fit in a drawer. It also has a AC adapter so you can use it and not batteries.

As for protecting it from spills you can always cover it loosely with plastic wrap. or maybe put it into a gallon zip top freezer bag. That way the display is visible but dribbles and drops (which happen all the time) won't get on the plastic.
 
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dixiedragon

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Another option for your first mold is Tupperware, if it has a 2 or a 5 in the arrows on the bottom. Don't go buy something or use good stuff, but if you have something you've lost the lid to, or see something for a quarter at the thrift store, it'll be fine for your first batch. You may not want to use it for food again after that, though, the FO may stick to the plastic and make your food taste weird.

One of my favorite cheap molds is a vinyl gutter downspout from Home Depot. Lowe's doesn't seem to have these. You can get them in two sizes. You want VINYL, not ALUMINUM. grease it with mineral oil (don't use a soaping oil like olive, canola, etc because they will saponify and glue the soap to the downspout), then tape a sandwich bag over one end. Stand the downspout up in a bucket and pour in the soap.
 

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