Borax Hand Soap for Blacksmith or other dirty work

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earlene

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Update on the soap my brother chose as his favorite for cleaning his hands after long sessions of BlackSmithing.

He chose the combo soap: I used the trimming/scraps of pumice soap and the trimmings/scraps of Borax soap to rebatch together into a combo BlackSmith soap. So that's my next project as he has almost run out of them. I actually have some left here at home, so I'll send him those while the newer ones cure.
 

earlene

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So for my brother, I made 3 bars using lard as one of the oils (I had never used lard in soap before this, but brother is not vegetarian):

1. Pumice bar
2. Borax bar (pictured here)
3. combination of Pumice and Borax
That link above for Borax Soap is WRONG. I cannot edit anymore to show the correct link, so will have to fix it here.

Borax bar photo:


Pumice bar photo:


Oops, no photo of the Combination of Pumice and Borax bars. It seems I gave the last one to Hubby and it's still sink-side in the bathroom. So I just washed my hands with it. Boy does it bubble up nicely! It looks a lot like the Pumice Soap in the above photo, but I did shoot a pic just now for posterity and here it is:
 

Soapmaker145

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Last year I made Borax soap for my son to use after gardening. This year I made some for my brother who requested some 'Lava type soap' because that's what he uses after blacksmithing.
I'm not sure how you're making the borax soaps. I'm not a chemist but from the information I could find online, sodium metaborate is the primary product formed when mixing borax with NaOH. I edited this post to remove the information about carcinogenicity. See the info in my other post upstream.

My recommendation is to add borax to HP soap or during rebatching when most of the lye has been used up to minimize the formation of sodium metaborate. You could probably come up with an HP recipe that allows you to add pumice and borax at the end of the cook.

If I were to try it, I would also add some PG and sugar syrup to make the batter more fluid and make the soaps harder and last longer.
 
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DeeAnna

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Can you cite your sources, Soapmaker? Because I'm not finding anything like what you're seeing about sodium metaborate.

It's an irritant to the skin and mucous membranes, can be absorbed into the body through the mucous membranes and open cuts, and it can cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested. Animal data show there might be reproductive problems if absorbed into the body in high doses, but human studies have not confirmed this. But in the references I'm reading, it is not listed as a carcinogen and the hazard of toxicity would be relatively low.

Sources:
https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@[email protected]+5045
https://micaphoto.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/msds_sodium_metaborate_4_mol-1.pdf
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02783147?LI=true
 

makemineirish

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I cannot contribute much to recipe collaboration as I have not attempted Borax soap. However, I live a very dirty life and have some habit tips that are helpful (assuming your brother has any interest in listening to me when mine doesn't:)).

1. Fill nail overhangs. A mechanic friend introduced me to this nifty trick. Before employing your hands in filthy endeavors, dig your nails into a bar of soap. The soap fills the cavities and blocks anything else from doing so while you work. Minimal scrubbing is required when you clean your hands later. Even better, if you are in a hurry and overlook some soap, the "discoloration" under your nails is white (thus not perceived as "dirty")

2. Moisturize consistently. One of the reasons that mechanical work and blacksmithing are so soiling is because the hands doing it tend to become dry and cracked. The grease and soot are reasonably staining on the surface, but even more stubborn once they have managed to burrow into every crevice and fissure. O'Keeffe's Working Hands is a favored option with mechanics I know (even while I am not a fan of the ingredient's list) if you don't want to craft a "mechanic's lotion" as well:). This can be applied at night before bed and washed in the morning before work if there is any concern about the oils and butters touching the surfaces of the metal being worked.

3) Create an barrier (not sure if this is an option). When cooking, I rub a bit of olive oil into my hands before dicing hot peppers to keep the capsaicin from settling into my pores. It can then be more thoroughly removed by washing my hands so that I do not end up in pain if I thoughtlessly touch a mucus membrane later. I do not have an arsenal of knowledge on what skin safe oils/lubricants are utilized and/or innocuous to the process of blacksmithing. I also assume that flammability might be a consideration at certain points in the process. It just seemed like there might be a medium that correlated to my use of the olive oil. ETA: I found a reference on Reddit to using pine tar to help prevent blisters and create a dirt barrier during blacksmithing.

I hope that this helps and will be eagerly watching the thread for the contributions, evolution, and reviews of Borax soap.
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DeeAnna

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I haven't weighed into this discussion until now, because I don't have good answers about how borax and soap play together. The problem is not as simple as what happens when you add something simple like citric acid or vinegar (acetic acid). ;)

In a liquid solution, borax is a buffer. What a buffer does is try to control the pH of a solution to a given range. Borax "likes" the pH to be somewhere between 8 and 10. Soap itself is a buffer too, but its "preferred" pH range is a bit higher -- it likes the pH to be around 10 to 11, give or take a bit.

People use borax to thicken liquid soaps and to lower the pH of the soap. If too much borax solution is added, the soap will "break" into fatty acids that float on the surface of the diluted soap. Borax essentially does this by pushing the pH lower than what the soap can accept. The response of soap to a pH that is too low is to chemically separate to some degree, depending on the particular chemical situation. If I can observe this response to borax in liquid soap, then I know it happens to bar soap as well -- just because the effect is not visible to the eye in a bar of soap doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Fatty acids are usually white in color, so this might explain why bar soap with borax is so very white. (Just a guess on my part -- I don't know this to be true.)

I suspect, because the preferred pH's of soap and borax are fairly close, that there comes a point where no more soap breaks down, so the ending composition of a borax soap is a mixture of soap, fatty acids, and borax. Any borax remaining in the soap in solid form will act as an exfoliant, something like pumice, but it's going to dissolve (unlike pumice) as water is added while you wash your hands. Borax also acts as a weak water softener, so the soap will work better at cleaning the skin. Borax, like soap, also acts as an emulsifier so it aids in dissolving greasy dirt.

So you ask -- how much borax reacts with the soap or with the sodium hydroxide? I'm really not quite sure.
 

earlene

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Soapmaker145, What is PG? I did add sugar to increase the bubbles in the combo soap and it certainly does that, but then that soap was also a rebatch of scraps from the Borax Soap and the Pumice Soap.

Regarding Sodium Metaborate, I found this and this. After reading those it seems to indicate that it is not something I need to be particularly worried about, although maybe you apparently found something different that I did not find. In addition to that, my Dad used to use it in his darkroom for decades when developing his photographs. Of course he didn't wash his hands in it and used tongs rather than dip his hands directly into it. But I simply cannot find anything about metaborate absorbing into tunbroken skin (for handwashing or otherwise). There does seem to be some concern about Borax crossing the placental barrier, but that is not an issue in this case. (My brother, my husband, nor I will ever get pregnant.)

As for how I make the soap, I have only done this as a CP method. The small amount of Borax is dissolved in boiling water, then set aside to cool. The soap is made as usual CP soap is made, then the cooled Borax solution can be added at emulsion or trace, depending if intricate swirls are desired. I tried it at emulsion for the soap I made in June because I wanted to do a Ribbon Pour. It didn't work so well in the ribbon pour, but it was my very first attempt and I had to practice a lot to get that technique down. After mixing in the Borax solution and separating the batter, I then added colorants before attempting the Ribbon Pour.

When I made it 2 years ago, I added the cooled Borax solution at medium to heavy trace just before pouring into the mold. That was with uncolored soap I made to use as a gardener's soap.

In the soap for my brother I used about 62 grams of Borax in a total batch size of about 1400 grams where the amount of NaOH was 128.5 grams (the second recipe). The first recipe total batch size was about 1000 grams with the NaOH at 92. grams and the Borax at 34 grams. I decided to use a higher percentage of Borax for the second soap because I had read that many Blacksmiths prefer to use straight Borax powder for hand cleaning and chose to use a bit more than the first soap I made the year before (which was not for my brother, but to be used as a gardening soap.) So that is why it was more the second time I made Borax soap.

On another note, I know some people are adamant that Borax is bad and that we should stop using it, but as many BlackSmiths all over the country (and elsewhere?), my brother uses it all the time, as it is a commonly used Flux in forge welding.

I haven't weighed into this discussion until now, because I don't have good answers about how borax and soap play together. The problem is not as simple as what happens when you add something simple like citric acid or vinegar (acetic acid). ;)
<snip>
So you ask -- how much borax reacts with the soap or with the sodium hydroxide? I'm really not quite sure.
The only thing I've found so far that tells me anything about amounts of NaOH to add to Borax relates to making your own DIY Kodalk (metaborate) for darkroom developing purposes. But the formula is for a 10% solution and that means nothing to me in terms of neutralizing NaOH. But here is the formula if it somehow can be used for a rough correlation. It comes via a thread on APUG (Anolog Photography Users Group):

"The formula I have that I trust, to make a 10% metaborate solution, is:

14.5 grams sodium hydroxide
69 grams borax
Water to make a liter."​
 
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Soapmaker145

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I did a search for borax and lye and this is one of the first things that came up: http://www.apug.org/forum/index.php?threads/sodium-metaborate-from-borax-sodium-hydroxide.44226/. It's a chemical used in the photo industry that many amateur photographers seem to make on their own instead of buying. I wonder how many of them dispose of it properly.

I looked up the MSDS sheet for sodium metaborate on Sigma and the MSDS sheet I got had it classified as a carcinogen. I just redid the search and I'm getting a different MSDS sheet that doesn't classify it as a carcinogen. I must have gotten the wrong MSDS sheet even though that rarely happens. The new sheet has all "No data available" under toxicology except for the carcinogenicity field. This alone makes me more uneasy about this chemical than before.

I'll edit my other post to correct the information.
 

earlene

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I did a search for borax and lye and this is one of the first things that came up: http://www.apug.org/forum/index.php?threads/sodium-metaborate-from-borax-sodium-hydroxide.44226/. It's a chemical used in the photo industry that many amateur photographers seem to make on their own instead of buying. I wonder how many of them dispose of it properly.

I looked up the MSDS sheet for sodium metaborate on Sigma and the MSDS sheet I got had it classified as a carcinogen. I just redid the search and I'm getting a different MSDS sheet that doesn't classify it as a carcinogen. I must have gotten the wrong MSDS sheet even though that rarely happens. The new sheet has all "No data available" under toxicology except for the carcinogenicity field. This alone makes me more uneasy about this chemical than before.

I'll edit my other post to correct the information.
Professional Photographers who still use old fashioned film (rather than digital photographty) use 10% metaborate also. My Dad used it for decades, but then digital photography had not yet been invented. In some cases purchasing Kodalk (metaborate) solution is more difficult now that so few traditional darkrooms exist anymore. The law of supply and demand in effect.

I don't remember exactly how my dad disposed of the darkroom chemicals, but I do remember him pouring them back into dark brown gallon glass jugs. I believe he took them to work with him and disposed of them legally in whatever method was required by law and the newspaper where he worked had the where-with-all to do as was the industry standard at the time.

Now-a-days, I do certainly hope the rest of them take just as much care as we do with motor oil and dispose of it properly given today's laws and industry standards.
 

Soapmaker145

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Soapmaker145, What is PG? I did add sugar to increase the bubbles in the combo soap and it certainly does that, but then that soap was also a rebatch of scraps from the Borax Soap and the Pumice Soap.

Regarding Sodium Metaborate, I found this and this. After reading those it seems to indicate that it is not something I need to be particularly worried about, although maybe you apparently found something different that I did not find. In addition to that, my Dad used to use it in his darkroom for decades when developing his photographs. Of course he didn't wash his hands in it and used tongs rather than dip his hands directly into it. But I simply cannot find anything about metaborate absorbing into tunbroken skin (for handwashing or otherwise). There does seem to be some concern about Borax crossing the placental barrier, but that is not an issue in this case. (My brother, my husband, nor I will ever get pregnant.)

As for how I make the soap, I have only done this as a CP method. The small amount of Borax is dissolved in boiling water, then set aside to cool. The soap is made as usual CP soap is made, then the cooled Borax solution can be added at emulsion or trace, depending if intricate swirls are desired. I tried it at emulsion for the soap I made in June because I wanted to do a Ribbon Pour. It didn't work so well in the ribbon pour, but it was my very first attempt and I had to practice a lot to get that technique down. After mixing in the Borax solution and separating the batter, I then added colorants before attempting the Ribbon Pour.

When I made it 2 years ago, I added the cooled Borax solution at medium to heavy trace just before pouring into the mold. That was with uncolored soap I made to use as a gardener's soap.

In the soap for my brother I used about 62 grams of Borax in a total batch size of about 1400 grams where the amount of NaOH was 128.5 grams (the second recipe). The first recipe total batch size was about 1000 grams with the NaOH at 92. grams and the Borax at 34 grams. I decided to use a higher percentage of Borax for the second soap because I had read that many Blacksmiths prefer to use straight Borax powder for hand cleaning and chose to use a bit more than the first soap I made the year before (which was not for my brother, but to be used as a gardening soap.) So that is why it was more the second time I made Borax soap.

On another note, I know some people are adamant that Borax is bad and that we should stop using it, but as many BlackSmiths all over the country (and elsewhere?), my brother uses it all the time, as it is a commonly used Flux in forge welding.
I have mixed feeling about borax. Before insecticides, it was used in many countries to kill ants and roaches. I know it's been used for ever in soap and other products. I used to use it with beeswax to make face cream. At one point I switched to synthetic emulsifiers because of safety concerns. I never had a bad reaction to it and I still use it for washing clothes (double rinse). I just chose to minimize exposure giving everything else we're exposed to.

PG is propylene glycol which is use for making transparent soap. I'm not suggesting making transparent soap but adding enough to make the batter more fluid so you can add pumice and borax to it. I've use PG and sugar syrup to make rebatched soaps look better.

I think if the borax is added after the saponification reaction is complete, there won't be a significant amount of lye left to react with borax. You end up with borax in your end product and you won't have to worry about secondary reactions. I don't know if it will change the effectiveness of the final product.
 

DeeAnna

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I have to point out that if you add borax after the saponification is over, that doesn't mean the borax would be chemically inert. The old timers used to make a soft mixed sodium and potassium soap from lye made from ashes. The way to firm up this soap somewhat was to add salt (sodium chloride, table salt) after the soap had been made. The sodium from the salt is able to replace some of the potassium on the soap molecules. Borax, also being a salt, would have the ability to alter soap molecules even if added to an HP soap after the cook. It might not do the same things that it might when added while the lye is active, but it would have some effect.
 

Soapmaker145

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Borax will still be reactive when added to rebatched or HP soap but it won't have much lye to react with since most of it has been neutralized. There won't be much of a reaction to generate metaborate since it is dependent on having both chemicals in enough concentration to drive the reaction. This is a case of minimize a potentially undesirable reaction as much as possible. I haven't had time to dig up some of the literature on sodium metaborate. I want to know why they don't want it dumped down the drain or in regular garbage.

I was thinking about making a "borax soap" which is why I ended up in this thread. I'll post again if I find anything out.
 

SheLion

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Borax will still be reactive when added to rebatched or HP soap but it won't have much lye to react with since most of it has been neutralized. There won't be much of a reaction to generate metaborate since it is dependent on having both chemicals in enough concentration to drive the reaction. This is a case of minimize a potentially undesirable reaction as much as possible. I haven't had time to dig up some of the literature on sodium metaborate. I want to know why they don't want it dumped down the drain or in regular garbage.

I was thinking about making a "borax soap" which is why I ended up in this thread. I'll post again if I find anything out.
My guess would be because it's considered a herbicide.

Source: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/145326#section=Formulations-Preparations
 

DeeAnna

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Well, SOME borax is fine in the soil, in fact it's a micronutrient for plants and many other critters, but more borax than micronutrient amounts becomes toxic. Rather than try to educate people to understand the nuances of safe sensible disposal, which many people won't follow properly, the safest advice is to avoid disposing the chemical in any means that eventually will end up in the open environment (sewer system, storm sewer, household garbage, etc).

The same thing goes for table salt (NaCl, sodium chloride). You can use a little on soil, but you can't use a lot. Too much salt, just like too much boron, is toxic to soil microbes and plants. Salt also radically changes the soil chemistry, sometimes permanently.
 

cmzaha

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Well, SOME borax is fine in the soil, in fact it's a micronutrient for plants and many other critters, but more borax than micronutrient amounts becomes toxic. Rather than try to educate people to understand the nuances of safe sensible disposal, which many people won't follow properly, the safest advice is to avoid disposing the chemical in any means that eventually will end up in the open environment (sewer system, storm sewer, household garbage, etc).

The same thing goes for table salt (NaCl, sodium chloride). You can use a little on soil, but you can't use a lot. Too much salt, just like too much boron, is toxic to soil microbes and plants. Salt also radically changes the soil chemistry, sometimes permanently.
Just take a trip through Boron California and it looks like one huge barren salt flat but is actually where they mine borax. No plants grow but a little sagebrush on the edge of the road
 

earlene

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Yes, we went there last October ourselves. It was really fun for me even though not much of the operation is still there to look at. Still I'd say we spent at least an hour or two walking around and looking at what was left of Harmony Borax Works, some plagues and signs telling about how it was harvested, refined, transported and such. Here are some photos from that day:





 

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The 20-mule teams used to transport the borax were amazing. I understand the teamster (driver) used a "jerk line" which was one single line (rein) attached to the lead mule waaaaaay out front -- this mule might be 75 feet or more from the wagon. All the other mules were harnessed together in such a way that where the lead mule went, the others had to follow.

What's amazing is that these mules were smart enough to do tight turns correctly. The front mules start the turn but the middle and back mules have to know enough to walk straight ahead, even though their leaders are turning. The front mules might be entirely out of sight from the back mules (and the teamster) as the leaders began the turn around a hill.
 

earlene

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Update to include photos, using links from my media folder here at SMF. Hopefully those links won't stop working like the others have.

Original soaps used for the testing process are listed first. Brother had 3 types from which to choose and all are pictured in this collage:



The two more recent Blacksmith soaps I made for him are pictured below. I have also given some to my nephew, the welder and to my husband's co-worker who also dabbles in blacksmithing. The Dragon's Blood is such a hit, that my husband's co-worker wants more because he doesn't want the wonderful fragrance to disappear from his bathroom. Maybe I should start making some soap just to use as an air freshener! :rolleyes:

This is the one with DB:


This one was made using re-batch soap mixed with new batter:
 

Traumabrew

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Hi

Earlene would you mind sharing your formula for the combo blacksmithing soap?
 

earlene

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Sure, no problem. I think it's the only one I've actually input on my computer since I lost everything on my old hard drive and had to start re-entering stuff! Oh, no. I'm wrong, I have entered 3 other ones, not this one. And I only had 3 others saved to the cloud. But all is not lost. I have them all in my notebook as well, so I'll find it and post it sometime later tonight or tomorrow.
 

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