What makes a great gardener's soap?

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Tara_H

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Now that gardening season is ramping up again I was thinking it would be nice to make a great basic gardener's soap. I found quite a few recipes out there but I'm not sure what their goals are, and if my goals even make sense.

I'm thinking what I want is something relatively low cleansing, since I will likely be washing my hands a lot and they get very dry from being in the soil, but also scrubby to make sure to get rid of any particles. I feel like it should be quite hard to stand up to frequent use and also to help with the scrubbiness. I'm not too fussed about bubbliness but I'd like it to be at least bubbly enough to feel like it's getting my hands clean.

The below is what I've arrived at from a recipe point of view. I've also dried out a bunch of used espresso grind coffee grounds from our coffee machine, to add for scrubbiness. Fragrance-wise I'm thinking rosemary (I found some, @Zing !), a little tea tree and bergamot. Not sure if it needs something stronger in the base notes or if the coffee grounds will contribute to that at all? For colouring I have nothing particular in mind, might see what's growing at the moment that would be suitable for a natural colour test.

Please hit me with your thoughts! I'm currently washing some tallow for the first time to see if it helps remove the beefy smell and hopefully will make the soap late this evening or tomorrow depending on how much energy I have :)

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KimW

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My only thought is on adding "scrubbiness" (perfect term!). Soaps to which I added scrubbies tended to chaff and make raw my hands, especially under my fingernails. What worked best for me was the old fashioned cloth/loofah/brush and making a "gardener's and mechanic's" soap with some mineral oil. Since Mineral oil doesn't saponify I use 3-4% TOW, and drop the recipe SF to zero or 1%. The soap reminds me of a bubbly version of the cream hand cleaner you can get at auto parts stores, and it really cleans up those hands.

Recipe wise, I'm sure you'll be happy with the high tallow and, in my experience, washing (with salt in the water) the rendered tallow does help to neutralize the smell.

I would probably save the shea butter for putting on my hands after washing, but that's just cheapskate me.
 

Tara_H

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Thanks @KimW!

That's good to know on the scrubbies, I've been back and forth on it all day, reading up on the different options. One reason I was keen to try it is that we produce a lot of used coffee grounds in this house 😁 Maybe what I should do is split the batch and only add grounds to half, so I can test and see if I like it better with or without.

By mineral oil, you mean something like baby oil? That's an interesting thought, it hadn't really occurred to me to use it in soaping, guess I should read up on that. We definitely do plenty of things that get our hands black with oil as well, so seems like it would be useful to consider the mechanic angle too.

I would probably save the shea butter for putting on my hands after washing, but that's just cheapskate me.
Haha, I just bought a bucket of it for the first time, so I'm finding an excuse to put it in everything right now, maybe I'm getting a bit carried away!
 

KimW

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Yes! Read up on it - I'm sure there are threads on SMF too. Baby oil does contain mineral oil, though usually not only mineral oil. I don't use a lot, so I get my pure mineral oil from the somewhat local "ma and pa" pharmacy here. Spendy if I were to use more, but a bottle lasts me about a year, so I don't mind it.

I confess I too use my shea in soap sometimes....
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DeeAnna

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I make a two layer gardener's soap -- a thin scrubby layer and a thicker not-scrubby layer. I grind my coffee as finely as possible and then pass it though a sieve to eliminate larger particles. That way I double check that the coffee is going to be scrubby but not scratchy.

Kudos to you for not wanting to make a highly cleansing soap -- one with lots of coconut oil. I think it's better to make a lathery but mild soap that cleanses well without drying the skin too much.

Lanolin is also an option, if mineral oil doesn't suit. I'd use it at 5% of the total oil weight. (TOW -- I like that, @KimW!)

A soothing "working hands" balm is another thing to consider to pair with the soap if you're also into lotions and potions.

I usually scent this type of soap with EOs that would be good for disinfecting small cuts and abrasions. Tea tree and rosemary are two options. I've used thyme EO as well, but I've learned the hard way that it will accelerate trace badly, so use this one at your own risk. ;)

Another ingredient that may offer antiseptic properties is neem oil at about 20% of the total oil weight.

Caveat --I do not make any medicinal claims, even mild hints, for my soap. I just list the EOs (and neem if I use it) and let the consumer decide.
 
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Tara_H

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Awesome, sounds like I'm definitely on the right track then! It's such a relief to get expert opinions to back up my theory :)

I grind my coffee as finely as possible and then pass it though a sieve to eliminate larger particles.
Great tip, and well timed! I've just started melting the oils, so I still have time to do this 😁

Lanolin would be fantastic, I wish I had some to hand. I should definitely source some, I've also dabbled a little in making salves so it would come in useful for that also. For this batch I think I'm going to go with what I have in the house but I'll be reading up and ordering some more interesting things to experiment with to dial in on the exact soap I want.

I usually scent this type of soap with EOs that would be good for disinfecting small cuts and abrasions. Tea tree and rosemary are two options.
Great, that's exactly what I was going for. I'm hoping for a nice 'gardeny' smell also but I added the tea tree in particular for the little mystery scratches that I always seem to acquire in the garden.
 

DeeAnna

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"...the little mystery scratches that I always seem to acquire in the garden ..."

Too true. Oh, and rose thorns. Just hate getting stuck by them because they always seem to fester -- nasty little things. ;)
 

Tara_H

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Since dirty hands are usually stinky hands, I use strong brewed coffee in my lye water along with coffee grounds. Coffee is great for removing odors.
Ooh that's an interesting thought! I'll make a note of that for the next batch :)
 

Peachy Clean Soap

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Yes! Read up on it - I'm sure there are threads on SMF too. Baby oil does contain mineral oil, though usually not only mineral oil. I don't use a lot, so I get my pure mineral oil from the somewhat local "ma and pa" pharmacy here. Spendy if I were to use more, but a bottle lasts me about a year, so I don't mind it.

I confess I too use my shea in soap sometimes....
View attachment 54638
I do too. :computerbath:

Now that gardening season is ramping up again I was thinking it would be nice to make a great basic gardener's soap. I found quite a few recipes out there but I'm not sure what their goals are, and if my goals even make sense.

I'm thinking what I want is something relatively low cleansing, since I will likely be washing my hands a lot and they get very dry from being in the soil, but also scrubby to make sure to get rid of any particles. I feel like it should be quite hard to stand up to frequent use and also to help with the scrubbiness. I'm not too fussed about bubbliness but I'd like it to be at least bubbly enough to feel like it's getting my hands clean.

The below is what I've arrived at from a recipe point of view. I've also dried out a bunch of used espresso grind coffee grounds from our coffee machine, to add for scrubbiness. Fragrance-wise I'm thinking rosemary (I found some, @Zing !), a little tea tree and bergamot. Not sure if it needs something stronger in the base notes or if the coffee grounds will contribute to that at all? For colouring I have nothing particular in mind, might see what's growing at the moment that would be suitable for a natural colour test.

Please hit me with your thoughts! I'm currently washing some tallow for the first time to see if it helps remove the beefy smell and hopefully will make the soap late this evening or tomorrow depending on how much energy I have :)

View attachment 54635
Looks like a well balanced Recipe. 👍🏼🧼💫
I make a two layer gardener's soap -- a thin scrubby layer and a thicker not-scrubby layer. I grind my coffee as finely as possible and then pass it though a sieve to eliminate larger particles. That way I double check that the coffee is going to be scrubby but not scratchy.

Kudos to you for not wanting to make a highly cleansing soap -- one with lots of coconut oil. I think it's better to make a lathery but mild soap that cleanses well without drying the skin too much.

Lanolin is also an option, if mineral oil doesn't suit. I'd use it at 5% of the total oil weight. (TOW -- I like that, @KimW!)

A soothing "working hands" balm is another thing to consider to pair with the soap if you're also into lotions and potions.

I usually scent this type of soap with EOs that would be good for disinfecting small cuts and abrasions. Tea tree and rosemary are two options. I've used thyme EO as well, but I've learned the hard way that it will accelerate trace badly, so use this one at your own risk. ;)

Another ingredient that may offer antiseptic properties is neem oil at about 20% of the total oil weight.

Caveat --I do not make any medicinal claims, even mild hints, for my soap. I just list the EOs (and neem if I use it) and let the consumer decide.
As alway' wonderful Soap Tip's' I'll use as-well.. 👍🏼🧼💫🤗
 

earlene

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Depending on how dirty one's hands get while gardening (gloves used or not used, etc.), and the delicacy of the gardener's skin (say an elderly gardener, for example), the use of abrasive ingredients (aka exfoliants) may need to be evaluated per user.

If I was to give a soap for after-gardening washing-up to my elderly Auntie, whose hands are frail, it would not include an exfoliant.

Even for my own hands, which are not as frail, but my skin may get there one day in the not-too-distant future, I use a nail brush every time I wash my hands at home. When I garden I always wear leather gloves, but still dirt gets inside & under my nails, however, I don't get heavy grime or stains on my hands, so I don't need to exfoliate much.

For my brother, who is a blacksmith, I add two ingredients that help exfoliate and to remove the stains of working with molten metals (even with heavy gloves, his fingers still get stained). These two ingredients combined work well for him for this purpose, and my husband also likes them when he works on our cars, as a mechanics soap. The two ingredients are: Borax (about 0.7% of oil weight & pre-dissolved in hot water) and FINE or VERY FINE pumice. For 32 ounces of oil, that equals about 2.2 ounces of Borax and about 3 Tablespoons (or 33 grams of very fine pumice) per batch. IMO, any soap formula you like will be fine with these additions. Some would suggest higher amounts of CO as it is very cleansing, but I find it to drying on my skin, so avoid high CO content in my soap formulas.

My husband uses the same soap after working in the yard, as he tends to avoid wearing gloves while gardening. I am not saying you need both for a gardener's soap, only that it's what my brother, the blacksmith prefers as does my husband. But I don't make it primarily for a gardener's soap, so take what you like and leave the rest.
 

Tara_H

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Great info @earlene, thanks!

I'm making this basically for myself and my husband so I'm not too worried about frail skin, but it's a good thing to be aware of, definitely. Mostly I (try to) remember to wear gloves when I'm gardening but often I spot something quick that needs doing and before I know it I'm digging holes with my bare hands... so I tend to get a lot of ingrained dirt under my nails and on my knuckles :rolleyes:

It's very interesting to hear your experience, and also about the blacksmithing (fascinating!) If I find the coffee grounds are too scrubby I think pumice would be a great follow-on experiment.
 

DeeAnna

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I have to say even though I do use coffee in my gardener's bar soap, I do it as much for the challenge and appearance as anything. I personally think a nail brush does a better job, like Earlene mentioned. Most of my gardening grime is dirt ground into the crevices around my nails and on my finger tips. A brush gets into those areas better than a solid bar of soap. Now if I made a "goop" style of soft cleanser, then I'd think pumice or coffee mixed into the "goop" would be effective. But probably not as pretty. ;)
 

Tara_H

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I have to say even though I do use coffee in my gardener's bar soap, I do it as much for the challenge and appearance as anything. I personally think a nail brush does a better job, like Earlene mentioned. Most of my gardening grime is dirt ground into the crevices around my nails and on my finger tips. A brush gets into those areas better than a solid bar of soap. Now if I made a "goop" style of soft cleanser, then I'd think pumice or coffee mixed into the "goop" would be effective. But probably not as pretty. ;)
Haha, good point, I don't imagine I'll be able to throw my nail brush in the bin at any stage. But somehow there's just something a bit more romantic about a good scrubby soap that does double duty!
 

Zany_in_CO

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I'm currently washing some tallow for the first time to see if it helps remove the beefy smell :)
I made a lot of lard & tallow soaps at the beginning of my soapmaking journey. It was then that I learned to use OAKMOSS to neutralize the odor of animal fats. I keep it on hand in my soapmaking crate. It's an excellent "anchor" for EO blends.

I like the look of your recipe. Well done! I think you have accomplished what you set out to do. Like @earlene, I prefer fine pumice as a "not-scratchy" scrubby.
 
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