Natural Soap Making with WWOOF Bulgaria

Every since my trip to Australia in 2009, I have been infatuated with natural soap. My friend Vanessa had these amazing bars of soap in her kitchen and baths. The aroma was intoxicating and I desperately wanted to get some for my house. The company that makes these amazing soaps is Corrynne’s Natural Soaps. I brought a bunch home in my suitcase, but they have since run out. I hope to get a package from Vanessa soon with a few more bars, but it has been a long time coming and unfortunately Corrynne’s doesn’t sell product to Bulgaria.

This lack of soap left me wanting to learn how to create my own. When the group World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) offered a natural soap making workshop, I couldn’t RSVP quick enough. Catz and Ian led us through both the hot and cold process methods and used some of their earlier creations to show us the differences. Soap making is a kin to baking, it is measured and precise, which is why you can see most of the workshop’s participants wearing snazzy orange gloves and eye goggles to protect ourselves from the chemical reaction of the lye and water.

I won’t be sharing a recipe for the soap because the material and brochures were created by Catz and Ian and it is not mine to share, but I will be working on some of my own experiments in the coming weeks for my readers to peruse.
The basic ingredients of soap making are fat, liquid and lye.  That is it.  No matter what lables and packages say, all soaps need lye, be it chemical (NaOH Sodium Hydroxide) or natural (derived from leeched ashes) the reaction of the fat and lye is what achieves saponification, meaning it makes soap… soap.
During the workshop, we covered the cold process soap making and hot process soap making, plus a melt and pour technique, using already prepared hot processed soap.  
Cold-process soap making – Uses very specific and exact measurements for the fat, lye and water ratio.  Heat is applied, but not to the same extent and length as with the hot-process.  The overall process of reaching “trace” or  complete emulsification can be a arduous process of continuous stirring… sometime up to an hour or more. Cold-process takes longer for the soap to reach the perfect soap level, anywhere from 3 – 6 weeks curing time.  People that favor this method say it produces a higher quality product.
Hot-process soap making – Uses similar measurements of fat, lye and water as the cold, but the process is a bit more forgiving, since you have a lengthy heating period over a double boiler (nearly an hour).  It can be less labor intensive, since the mixture needs to be undisturbed over the heat for two 30 minute intervals and it can be ready for use in less than a few hours.  But, the downside is the lower quality product, so they say.  
Melt and Pour – This process is not a soap making.  You can purchase already made soap, melt it down, and adjust it to suit your particular needs, like adding essential oils, herbs, colorants etc…
Everyone at the workshop got to take home a lovely bar that we collectively decided to add Jasmine and Lemon essential oils.  We used the melt and pour of a hot-processed soap that Catz created earlier in the week.

Since I got back from the workshop, I have already made my first batch of cold-processed soap, which means I won’t know the results for sometime.  I will be sharing photos and tidbits about my odyssey on my Facebook page.  The first set of photos are already up!

A lot of experimentation must be done before I share my recipe.  If you are eager to start your own batch soon, you can purchase lye (сода каустик or натрива основа) at the hardware store (железария) in Bulgaria. Don’t be fooled by a product sold as “sodе za sapoon” (соде за сапун) this is not pure lye (sodium hydroxide) it is a mixture of the following: sodium hydroxide, sodium chloride, sodium carbonate, iron oxides, and nickel.  It will produce soap, but since you don’t know the exact measurements you results will greatly vary and you will waste product in experimentation.

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