Wednesday, January 13, 2010
What is soap?
I wanted to talk about natural and cold process soaps in particular, since I started this blog. But because it seemed like such a massive subject I have been putting it off and putting it off untill today. So get yourself a hot cup of cocoa and read on...
According to various legends, modern soap has its origins at mount Sapo where sacrifices were often cremated and hardwood ashes would accumulate (an early source of alkali). These ashes mixed with the tallow of the sacrificed animals. It is said that after a heavy rain a yellow runoff from the fire pit made its way downhill from the temple. The local women washing their clothes in the river noticed that their clothes were cleaner when the river ran yellow. Over time it was learned that adding salt water to the mixture would precipitate the removal of glycerin and excess water, thus making the soap harder, and not subject to the month long curing process required of true handmade soap. This old-fashioned "yellow soap" was used for laundry, dishes, and the occasional bath. But don't forget, it is just a legend. I am not sure whether anybody really knows the true story.
Well then, what is soap? Soap is a result of chemical reaction between oils and alkiline solution (the base, popularly referred to as lye) this process is also known as saponification. Soap cannot be made without lye. But be sure that because of our precise formulation and a curing period of six weeks, there is absolutely no trace of lye left in Marmalade Hills' natural soap. So how does soap work? Soap molecules can dissolve in water and at the same time they can dissolve grease molecules. While normally oil and water do not mix, the addition of soap allows oils to dissolve in water, allowing them to be rinsed away easily as water strings down your body and into the drain. Brilliantly simple! Nature has her ways of taking care of everything, doesn't she?
What is so special about handcrafted, cold process soap? All soaps are not created equaly. Today's soaps are often made from cleaning agents, such as synthetic detergents and are designed to look like a "beauty bar" or "body bar". The truth is that they are made with the same chemicals you use to wash your dishes or your car. Marmalade Hills' natural cold process soaps are completely different from mass produced soap or even glycerin soaps (these are sold as melt and pour bases). Our handcrafted soaps are made from skin loving, vegetable ingredients and other nature derrived ingredients like earth pigments, clays, herbs and essential oils. Our soaps will not over-dry your skin, as many tend to believe. The cold process soap is the best thing for your skin! In fact I recommend it even over our natural shower gels - those are not as gentle, because even though they are both technically natural, they are not made the same way...but that's another story. All our cold process soaps are made with high-quality, natural ingredients carefully chosen for their healing and beneficial abilities. Food grade Olive Oil is used as a base oil (about 50% of all oils), we also add coconut oil and palm oil for hardness. No vegetable shortenings or canola oil here. In addition I love to play with herbal infusions, prescious oils and butters by adding them at the end of the saponification process. It is called superfatting. This way additional oils do not go through full saponification process, they retain their nutrients and hang around to make our soaps extra moisturizing and gentle. All Marmalade Hills' soaps are made from scratch, using time tested "cold process" method. We mix warm oils, lye and water together. We pour raw soap in small 10 lb molds, let it sit wrapped in blankets for 48 hours. We unmold, cut, weigh and package soaps by hand. So you are getting the most unique yet very functional treat you can get!
Finally, how to take care of your cold process soap? Cold process soap will last you for a very long time if stored properly. Do not leave your soap under a running water, store it away in a dry spot of your shower on a soap dish with drainage holes on the bottom. You can use a regular soap dish, but you must use simple soap saver in this case.