Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I bought a new book a few weeks ago on soap making. I'm always interested in reading up on the craft and, well, who doesn't need a new book every now and then anyway?
This book had a page devoted to the water used in making soap. This is the water that's mixed with the lye. In some parts of the world the water is extremely hard containing too much magnesium and calcium ion. These additional minerals will consume part of your lye solution. As a work around to this problem, the authors suggested using rain water from a collection system.
I have rain barrels at my house and have collected rain water for years. I use the rain water to water plants in the summer. After the rain water runs off the roof and down the gutters to the barrel it can be quite dirty, containing particles of anything it came on contact with on the roof. I wouldn't want to use this water in my soap. I have always used tap water to mix my lye solution and have never had a problem. I decided to dig a little deeper into our tap water in Portland, Oregon.
I have a friend who insists he doesn't like water. I always thought that weird. Who wouldn't like water and why? Well, he grew up in North Carolina and, according to him, the water there tasted awful. Portland's water has always been excellent and drinking it straight from the tap is common. In fact, most of the tap water in Portland is collected rain water in what's called the Bull Run Watershed on Mt Hood.
"Water runs off in the watershed through streams and rivers into the Bull Run River or Bull Run's reservoirs. From there it goes into the treatment facility in Bull Run where the "raw" water is treated with chlorine to produce drinking water.
Closer to Portland, ammonia is added to the water. Combined with the chlorine, adding ammonia completes a process called chloramination. This simple treatment process ensures that water throughout the water system meets the disinfection requirements of federal and state drinking water regulations." -- http://www.portlandonline.com/water/index.cfm?c=48904
Portland's water consequently is very soft, naturally. In this case, I guess I've been lucky since I never gave the water much thought in my soap making process.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I received a fairly large order for some soap over the weekend. I've been trying to figure out a better, more efficient method of making my soap. Not changing it in anyway, but increasing production and decreasing labor costs. Last night I had the first opportunity to try out one of many ideas I've toyed with. I tripled my soap recipe. I have read in numerous books and blogs that as long as you can do the math, you can increase or decrease the size of your soap batches. I put that to the test last night and it looks like my math was good! This soap will now cure for a day then I'll need to grate it for hand milling. My normal method of hand grating the soap worked a lot better before I tripled the recipe! I'm now trying to think of a more efficient way to grate it without dumping a lot of money into a machine--which I may do eventually. For now, I think my best bet is to enlist the labor of my teen-age son!