Fruit Soap Cont.

I wanted to add a couple of things about making fruit soap that I didn’t mention yesterday:

-Make sure not to add too much fruit to your soap or it WILL mold.  If you’re worried, stick your soap in the fridge and use it quickly.

-Don’t over-superfat your soap or the oils will go rancid.

-Always examine your soap and let it age to determine how it will act before you sell it.  You don’t want to sell a soap that goes rancid a year later!

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Adding Fruit to Soap

Fresh Guavas Flavio Massari/Flickr

Yesterday I had the fortune to successfully attempt a soap I infused with fresh papaya, guava and kiwi in a base of mango nectar.  I know there’s not a lot of information out there about how to successfully make fruit soaps, so I thought I’d share my experience in the hopes that it might help a fellow soapmaker!  Fresh fruit is a great additive to soap as it adds a ton of beneficial vitamins, antioxidants and moisturizers.  It also adds a touch of the exotic, and can add to the complexity of the fragrance of the soap.

First thing: choose the fruits you want to use, making sure to think about water and sugar content.  Kiwi for instance is very watery, and juices very easily.  Guava and papaya are more fleshy.  You don’t want to add too much watery fruit without considering adjusting the amount of overall water content in your soap.  The sugar is important too, as the heat from the reacting soap can cause the sugar in the fruit to caramelize or even burn—a process which can make your soap seize or cause an unpleasant odor or color.

With a fruit soap I recommend a much higher liquid content than normal.  I used ~38% liquid content, which was a combination of water and mango nectar.  You should always dilute your liquid somewhat with water if its high in sugars to help buffer against the effects of lye.  The sugars can burn very easily, so as always make sure you prepare everything slowly and at cold temperatures.

I also recommend the addition of a little bit of stearic acid (~5%) to help firm the soap once its done.  With the high water content and additives you’re going to want to make sure that it doesn’t take a billion days to cure and will cut easily.

Second thing:  Prepare your fruit mixture.  The one thing you don’t want is chunks of fruit in your soap.  Chop and deskin your desired fruit into small chunks then use a blender or food processor to pulverize it until it is exceedingly fine.  You want to make sure there are no chunks, membranes or stringy pieces (ehem, mango, I’m looking at you!).  You can either remove anything like this you find or continue to blend it.  I used a Blendtec blender set on ‘Fruit Juices’ to make sure my fruit blend was extra smooth.  I also added about 100g of mango nectar to make sure it blended properly.  It should have a semi-solid, watery consistency like baby food.  Stick your mixture in the fridge.  You’re going to want it nice and cold when you add it to your soap!

Fresh Mangos dihlie/Flickr

Third thing:  Prepare your oils and your lye mixture like normal.  If you’re adding juice to your lye, make sure it is very cold.  You’re also going to want to add it much slower than usual with a much colder ice bath.  Don’t let the temperature in your lye mixture exceed 120F.  This will take some patience, I realize, but it will mean the sugars in your juice/lye mixture don’t burn and your mixture doesn’t solidify on you.

At this step make absolutely sure that all your additives including fragrance, colorants, exfoliants, etc. are ready to go as soon as you need them.  You’re going to want to make sure you can immediately start pouring in what you want without waiting around and measuring things out because this kind of soap will trace quickly.

Let your oil mixture and your lye mixture cool to 85-90F.  It will heat up quickly as you add the lye mixture to your oils.  Mine went through false trace and seized briefly before becoming more liquid again.  (Note: Do this if you’ve added juice to your lye mixture, otherwise a temperature range of 95-100F should suffice).  Just keep stirring and slowly adding your lye mixture until its fully incorporated.  It would also be a good idea to check the temperature occasionally just to make sure its not getting too hot.  If you’ve added your ingredients at a low enough temperature it shouldn’t be a problem.

Fourth thing: After you’ve mixed your lye and oils, add your fragrance and additives (remember to reserve some of your oils to add your fragrance to before you pour it into your soap mixture—this will keep your essential oils from volatilizing too quickly and allows you to control the superfat oil somewhat, as well as keep the soap from seizing upon the addition of reactive oils like orange).  Then slowly add your cold refrigerated fruit mixture to the soap mixture.  I recommend hand stirring at this point to keep the soap from thickening prematurely.

After that go ahead and pour the soap mixture into your mold and you’re done!  Don’t insulate this soap since it will get hotter than most.  You want to give it every opportunity to cool off to prevent it from cracking or boiling from the heat.

I hope this helps any future fruit soapmakers out there.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment!

Finished Fruit Soap

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Website Launched!

 

 

I’m so glad to say that our website has finally launched!  There was a lot of effort involved (whew) and there’s definitely a lot of kinks that I need to work out of it.  If you happen to be looking through it and find something glaringly wrong (A missing product image doesn’t count, I’m well aware of those!) please don’t hesitate to contact me through this blog as a comment or through the website itself.

So now that I’ve rambled for a bit, go take a look:

www.blueorchidbc.com

I’m hoping to eventually add Visa and Mastercard services at checkout, but for now you have the option of PayPal or Google Checkout.

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Soap Fail #1

Wow.

Had my first bad soap fail this weekend!

Hopefully this will be a lesson to new or potential soapmakers out there who haven’t encountered this problem yet.  I got some really wonderful silicone tube molds in the shape of hearts in last week and I wanted to try them out.  I was planning on putting four hearts together to form a

It took two days to get it looking like this, and there's still soap stuck in there!

shamrock for St. Patty’s Day.  They were going to be green, smell like mint and lemon, and be embedded into a white soap loaf.

The soap should be hard right?  That’ll mean  it’ll slip right out of the mold with no problems.  I thought to myself, so I upped the amount of stearic acid to a much higher proportion.  (Stearic Acid, by the way, is a wonderful fatty acid extracted from palm.  It’s used to thicken lotions and harden soaps.)  When I added the lye water to the oils it instantly curdled into a nasty mix of…something.  It looked like hot wax that had been dipped in water.  My stick blender hated it.  The water wouldn’t fully mix with the oils, but after much determined hand stirring I made something that kind of resembled clumpy soap.

I went along with it, poured it into the molds, and came back the next morning to an absolutely nasty and gooey concoction that broke my hard plastic creepy face mold and left me impatiently scooping soap out of the tube mold.

They're mocking me

The moral of this story is that you should use a soap recipe that you know will work when you decide to attempt to use tube molds.

For reference, I made a bunch of Sowin’ Oats soap (oatmeal and honey) which turned out great.  Since I had some leftover, I went ahead and filled the stars tube mold I had laying around and was able to pop the soap out of them the very next day!

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The Importance of Branding

I thought I’d write up a quick blog post about something I’ve come to discover as a new business owner.  And that is:

Brand.

Your.

Stuff.

This may not seem very important if you’re just starting out.  You might think your products are good enough to stand on their own, and why should there be an cohesion between things if they’re all good?  Or it might be something you want to put off until later and not think about until you get started.  “Oh that’ll be expensive.”  “That’ll take too much time.”  “If I worry about that first, I’ll never get anything made!”

The problem is that before you go into a business you should know what you want to do.  You want to know what you’re making, how it ties into your business and how you’re going to show people that what you make is awesome.  You can’t do any of that unless you have some overarching theme that draws it all together in a neatly tied package that a potential customer can look at for the briefest of seconds and get.  You want people to completely understand what you’re about immediately, and this is important because people are casual browsers.  If you have a booth at a craftshow you want someone who’s never seen your work before to lay eyes on it and immediately understand what’s going on.  Maybe its an Etsy store, an online business, whatever!

The point is that you have to show people what you’re about in a snapshot, and the easiest way to do that is to create a brand.  Not only will a good brand provide an immediate idea of what your products are about, but it will create recognition down the line when that person happens to see your product line again.

Your brand doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be cohesive and something that brings all your products together.  And it should represent who you are and what your mission is.

For instance with Blue Orchid I really want to highlight the juxtaposition of natural ingredients and handmade.  Handmade, by definition, is something human made and therefore unnatural.  But it doesn’t have to be bad.  Hence the idea of the “Blue Orchid”, a phalaenopsis flower that is normally white but dyed a beautiful blue.  The flower is still natural, but it has been altered by man to create something new and unique.  I want that to represent my products which are derived from natural ingredients to create something new and beneficial.

Now imagine trying to convey all that in a single cohesive look!  And that’s what I’m currently struggling with.  Hopefully, down the road, I’ll be able to show all this amongst my product lines, but I’m satisfied just working on it for now.

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Ready for a 2012 Revamp

I’d like to take a moment to say I’m preparing to revamp my product labels and pictures on my etsy store for a more cohesive and professional look!

Stef over at Umlaut Graphics has been helping me in the graphics department (I don’t pretend to be so inclined, though I did give it my best effort!).

Just look at this awesome banner she designed for me:

Yesterday I was actually moderately productive and went a little lip balm mad.  Ten flavors and one hundred tubes later and I’ve got a decent start to my lip balm line!  I’ve formulated it with meadowfoam oil, grapeseed oil and lanolin butter—these are absolutely amazing ingredients for your lips—with carnauba wax “the queen of waxes” and beeswax.  They pack some pretty heavy moisturizing and protective powers (especially for winter) so I’m excited to be able to finally offer my lip balms to others!

I don’t know about in other states (or countries) but our winter here in Wisconsin has been crazy warm!  All the snow is melting/melted and we’ve have low forties for a week straight.  At the beginning of FEBRUARY!  Normally it’s in the crazy frostbite side of the winter spectrum by now (Negative temperatures, I’m looking at you).

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What’s the Difference in Handmade Soaps?

The world of natural and handmade soaps can be very confusing.  I remember when I was first introduced to the novel idea of making my own soap I had a hard time understand what all  the terminology was about, and felt overwhelmed by all the different choices I came across.  So to help those of you out who might be having just a hard as time as I did, here’s an explanation!

In the handmade soap world, there are three different kinds of hard bar soap you will come across.  Each has their own benefits and weaknesses, and it really depends on what you as a customer (or a soapmaker!) wants in soap.

Glycerin Soap:  Also known as “melt and pour” soap, this is the easiest of all the soap types to work with.  Companies sell premade blocks of soap that can be melted down and poured into molds to create the desired look.  Hence the “melt and pour” terminology!  When the soap is melted down, additives such as extra oils, coloring, and fragrance can be added to create diversity and soap unique to the maker.  This soap derives its name from the high glycerin content that is added during the manufacturing process to give it moisturizing capabilities.  A drawback to glycerin soap is exactly this—its factory made.  While its the easiest of the soap types to work with, its also the most processed and unnatural.  Often times a handmade glycerin soap will have the same type of ingredients that store bought soap has—namely sulfate, stabilizers and hardeners.  Poor quality glycerin soap is little more than a detergent bar, though some glycerin soap bases can be purchased with natural ingredients and without added sulfates.  Glycerin soap is also very versatile, and can be combined with many other ingredients to create products like sugar scrubs and whipped soap creams.

Cold Process Soap:  This is the soap process I use the most!  Cold process soap is one of the more ancient forms of soap making, and takes advantage of the natural reaction between lye and oils.  Water is added to lye to make an extremely basic pH solution.  This is then added to the desired oils.  The lye saponifies the fats, turning it into soap.  Saponification is the process of turning the triglycerides in oils into glycerol and fatty acid salts.  Soapmakers typically use a certain percentage more oils than required in their soaps, a process called “super fatting”, to ensure that all the lye introduced to the oils has been completely used up.  This also allows for extra moisturizing capabilities of the soap as the extra oil will come into contact with skin and be absorbed.  Cold Process Soap derives its name from the temperature the ingredients are mixed at, which is typically 90-110 Fahrenheit.  Cold process soap makers allow the ingredients and time to drive the reaction to completeness.  A downside of cold process soap is the long cure time.  This type of soap must be allowed to cure for several weeks before useable.  This allows moisture to escape the soap to harden and to ensure that the reaction is complete.  However, this type of soap can be completely natural and totally handmade as they entire process is controlled by the soapmaker, unlike in glycerin soap.

Hot Process Soap:  A cousin to cold process soap, and just as ancient, hot process soap is similar in that lye, water and oils are combined to make soap.  They differ, however, in that temperature is increased in hot process soap to drive the reaction to completeness in a much quicker time frame.  This results typically in a harder bar with a faster cure time (if any cure time at all!), but unstable oils, fragrances and colors sometimes have trouble with this method.  It can lead to soap browning due to the high temperatures.  There’s also a higher chance of a lye volcano if you’re not careful!

Yummy Keylime & Tea Tree Oil Cold Process Soap

And that’s pretty much it for soap types!

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