We begin our soap making process with a completely natural base of olive oil, coconut oil and palm oil, melted over low heat in a stainless steel pot. At the same time sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is dissolved into distilled water, the result of which is lye. Great care is taken, as lye is very alkaline and can burn the skin. Thermometers are added to the two pots and the temperatures are monitored as they cool naturally.
All soap is made with lye, and in the old days soap makers used to collect it by filtering rainwater through a barrel of wood ashes. Now, we can precisely add just enough lye to cause the soap reaction to take place, and leave in the past the overly alkaline bars that Granny used to make. They were great for washing clothes, but a little harsh for the skin! Our soaps are very different, as they are extremely mild and gentle.
After the two pots of our base have cooled to 95 degrees, they are carefully mixed together and the soap reaction starts to take place. As the next hour passes, and we keep stirring the soap pot, the soap will become thicker and more opaque. When the soap starts to ‘trace’, which means that a small amount of soap dribbled off the spoon rests on the surface instead of amalgamating back into the pot, then we are ready to add all of our other ingredients.
Because the soap is still thickening, we have to add the pure essential oils, ground spices, botanicals and other embellishments that make each soap unique, very quickly. After everything has been added, the soap is ready to be poured into the molds.
For some soap varieties, there is one last step, done while the soap is in the mold– our swirls. We use a special technique to make sure the swirl is bold, and reaches all parts of the soap. This touch creates beautifully unique bars, and is an extra step that separates us from other soap makers.
The soap molds are covered well for insulation purposes at this stage. In the next 48 hours, the reaction will cause the soap to heat up, and it is this secondary reaction, and the insulation, that is the secret to a perfect batch.
After this important period, the molds are broken open, and the large blocks of soap are allowed to sit for a week and cure.
We have designed special wire cutters, using guitar strings, to cut our large soap blocks. Each block is carefully marked and cut with the cutter into soap ‘stacks’, and these are cut in turn (after being allowed to cure for another week) into eight 90 gram bars. Each block cuts into 144 bars in total.
To make sure that these bars last an incredibly long time, the curing process continues for another 2 months, at least, as each bar sits in ventilated soap racks. As they get harder and harder they do a great job of scenting our studio with wonderful natural aromas.
The final step in this laborious process is to hand wrap each bar in a paper label. The soap is now ready to be used, and enjoyed!