Natural Soap Makes A Difference

Natural soap is quite a different product than most of the commercial “soaps” you would find on store-shelves these days. In fact, that bottle of colorful, foaming liquid you use all over you body on a daily basis is more accurately classified as a strong detergent. One that contains numerous petrochemicals and sometimes even known toxins.

natural soapThis is not good for you, the environment and also completely unnecessary.

However, few people are not clear on what natural soap is. Just because it says so on the packaging doesn’t necessarily mean it is true. And to complicate things even further natural isn’t always synonymous with “good” either.

That is where this site comes in. Here you will find articles related to soap of all kinds, what it is, what the ingredients are, where to buy it or even how to make it yourself. On the way we may also publish content on related topics such as shampoo, various household detergents etc.

Defining natural soap

I won’t go deeply into the topic right of the bat. But let’s establish a basic definition first: all natural soap should be exactly that – all natural. It (as in the finalized product) shouldn’t contain harsh, synthetic chemicals that you know aren’t good for you. Have a look at the ingredient list found on the detergent bars in your local store – it is likely to be a long list of things that you have no idea what they actually are. Various parabens for example are used in a plethora of commercial products, where they act as a preservative. The problem is that these substances have been linked with cancer.

And did you know that one of the main ingredients in many liquid soaps, SLES or SLS, was originally used to clean grimy garage floors. Hardly what you would want to soak your child’s tender skin in, is it?

The best pure natural soap is free from these harsh ingredients and toxins. This will help revitalizing your skin and may even delay some of the effects of the inevitable aging process.

Particularly if you make your own soap, you have full control over what ingredients are added and are free to choose whatever scent pleases you – or entirely scent-free if that is what you prefer. Soaps that are all natural doesn’t contain any dangerous chemicals to harm you or your family.

Posted in Homemade Soap | 3 Comments

Natural Soap Isn’t Really Natural?

As defined at the starting page of this site, what I mean by “natural soap” is that it has been made from natural ingredients such as olive oil, goat milk etc. But the word “natural” can be used with many different meanings. As I frequently point out in this blog many commercial manufacturers use it purely as a buzzword, rather than having a whole lot to do with the actual ingredients in their products.

You don't get soap directly from flowersThat said, even what I mean when I say natural soap does in some regards not fulfill the criteria some people might associate this word with either. Because of course there’s no such thing like trees or plants that grow little bars of soap out in the wild – arguably another possible definition of the word natural.

It may be that soap actually is generated by itself in nature every now and then, whenever ash and fat happen to get combined with each other. And if someone was to collect this soap I guess you could really refer to it as a product of nature. Although personally I am not so sure I would dare use soap that has been created under such spontaneous conditions.

What I am getting at here though is that homemade soap – even if created from purely natural ingredients – is as much a result of a chemical process as commercial soap is. Saponification is a chemical process, there’s simply no getting around that.

So are small soap manufacturers who are marketing their products as natural thus deceiving you? Or even worse, are you deceiving yourself?

Personally I don’t think so. Because, as I noted to begin with, even though we induce the chemical process of saponification in an artificial way, the natural ingredients used in the process are still natural – and that is really all we are claiming.

By making your own soap you do have more control over the quantity and quality of the chemicals that go into your soap. For example, someone who is a vegan can be sure that their soap really is 100% free from animal fats. In commercial bars of soap on the other hand sodium tallowate, saponified beef fat, is one of the most common ingredients.

If you have sensitive skin you can make fragrance and color free, superfatted soaps that are very gentle on your skin. You could further add natural products such as goat milk or honey, that could perhaps even be produced on farms geographically near you. A soap that is any closer to nature than that would be hard to imagine.

Treat the word natural as you wish, the long and the short if it is that anyone can quite easily create homemade soap to their own specifications. All you need to get started is a little bit of curiosity.

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Baking soda shampoo transition to no poo

Have you wondered what the heck baking soda shampoo is? Isn’t baking soda something you use in cakes and things like that? Yes, but it is actually also a very multi purpose cleaner that you can use as such for washing your hair.

baking soda shampoo transition imageOn the page about sulfate free shampoo I explained the basics why more and more people are making the switch to such hair care products. And I have also mentioned that there are those who take it even further by using baking soda as a intermittent “product” towards their goal of using no shampoo at all. The final stage often being called the no poo or poo-free method.

The Simple Mom blog has an interesting post about a mom describing how she made the change. It covers why the decision was made in the first place, how she uses baking soda and apple cider vinegar instead of shampoo and various tips and experiences about the method in general.

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Getting started with homemade soap

Getting started with making your own homemade soap is often somewhat of a big hurdle to get over  for a lot of people. You think it sounds complicated, fret about finding the “perfect” recipe and ingredients to start with, are afraid of making mistakes and so on.

But like with many other things in life, a big part of becoming successful with soap making is just showing up. Or as Carmen from the blog Old House Kitchen puts it:

“Making soap for the first time can be a bit scary.  I know…I’ve been there!  But once you have a batch or two under your belt it’s no big deal.  Really!  Especially if you have a partner in crime BFF to help you!”

She has posted a really nice pictorial about making homemade soap, along with a very basic recipe to get you started.

If you have though about making your own soap from scratch (with lye), but have gotten stuck in the procrastination stage I think you will find Carmen’s report very encouraging.

It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than this.

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How to make rebatch soap video tutorial

Making rebatch soap is, as the name implies, re-using cold process soap in order to create entirely new bars of soap. The method is also referred to as double, triple or French milled. If you want to make soap without lye it is also the method of choice.

In this video tutorial Anne-Marie Faiola, aka the Soap Queen, walks us through the entire process:

Although this video demonstration will make rebatch soap using soap specifically created and pre-grated for the purpose, an added benefit is that you can take all the little bits and pieces – you know those that only go “slip-swoosh” and end up on the floor when you try to use them – and reuse them for an entirely new bar of natural soap.

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Do soapnuts really work?

I have written about soap nuts as a potential variation on homemade laundry detergent earlier. The most typical question you get about these “nuts” is almost invariably: do they really work?

In short, yes they do. At least on moderately dirty laundry – which is what most modern people are washing most of the time anyway – the results are perfectly adequate.

But don’t take my word for it.

Nadiah from Playing Fair has done an extensive experiment on comparing fair trade soap nuts to regular detergent. Her conclusion is that:

“New Internationalist’s Soapnuts are at least half the price of normal laundry detergent, and they are natural, organic, biodegradeable, compostable, and WFTO recognised Fair Trade. Soapnuts also perform just as well as normal laundry detergent for most stains, and perform only slightly worse for bike chain grease. Consequently, the author recommends the use of soapnuts as an ethical and effective alternative to normal detergent for ordinary laundry washing.”

It should be perhaps be mentioned that the “ordinary” detergent she compares to is an eco friendly, fragrance free alternative so exactly how the nuts compare to some of the more mainstream detergents isn’t evaluated in this test.

But it is nonetheless a very good indication on what can be expected when using soap nuts on a daily basis.

If you want a second opinion (or is it third in this case?), Cityhippyfarmgirl has done a similar test. Answering the question whether soap nuts works like this:

Yep, they do. The clean just as well as any other laundry liquid I was using. There is no lingering soapy smell. There is a tiny and pleasant clean, fresh smell when I first get the washing out of the machine. You have to really stick your nose in the fibres to get it though and nothing residual once the clothing as dried. They also leave everything quite soft. No need for any fabric softners, (if you use it.)

If you want to find someone who has something negative to say about soap nuts I’m sure you’ll be able to find them. But it seems people in general are often quite happy with this eco friendly alternative.

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Antibacterial soap linked with allergies

Part of the reason I took up soap making was that I was a bit concerned not only about the strong detergents in many commercial soaps but due to the “everything should be antibacterial” trend sweeping the country as well.

Last time I checked official sources most of them seemed to claim that, although there might be a link between widespread use of antibacterial soap and creating more resistant bacteria, nothing definitive has to that end has yet been proven.

In the same breath though, it was also stated that antibacterial soap is actually no more effective than plain soap at keeping the harmful bacteria out of our bodies in the first place. In other words: the antibacterial aspect is entirely unnecessary!

As I wrote in an earlier post on why we really use soap, we should take a lot of the marketing thrown at us with a pinch of salt.

Triclosan and allergies

antibacterial soap linked with allergiesAccording to a new article at Seagreen Natural there may be significantly more to this story though, as recent research has linked one of the main ingredients of antibacterial soap – triclosan – with allergies.

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Posted in Organic Health | 2 Comments

Pampering Yourself With Massage Candles

Soap and candle making are two crafts that seemingly have gone hand in hand for a rather long time, no doubt since the manufacturing process and ingredients are somewhat similar.

Although I am very into soap making, I must confess that I haven’t really dabbled in the art of candle making so far. And thus the concept of massage candles was and entirely new concept to me. Apparently it is about combining the powerful scent of a candle with the comfort of an essential oil massage lotion.

Or as Erica from the bath alchemy blog, where I stumbled upon this practise describes it.

Erica wrote:

Massage candles are quite unique and yet so easy to make. They are not simply candles, but a solid form of massage oil that is melted with a burning wick. The wax melts at a temperature slightly higher than body temperature, and is poured off the candle directly onto the skin. The wax is loaded with skin-loving
ingredients like oils and butters and body safe fragrance

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A huge victory for soap nuts

In our page on homemade laundry detergents, I mentioned something called soap nuts as one possible solution. However, some people are a bit suspicious of these “nuts”. Both because they come from foreign countries and as to how effective and safe they really are.

Well, now the soap nuts from Eco nuts have earned the prestigious Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA) Seal of Approval. Which means that they have officially been deemed non toxic and safe to use.

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Cleopatra bathed in goat milk

On our page about goat milk soap, we didn’t write just that it is good for skin with all its moisturizing capabilities. We mentioned, that according to legend, the legendary Egyptian queen Cleopatra reportedly bathed in goat milk in order to make her skin beautiful and radiant.

While I can’t substantiate that fact with 100 percent historical accuracy, we aren’t the only ones to note this. Maayoung Iligan has recently written about the same topic. And besides the Cleopatra legend they also give some insight into why goat milk is so beneficial to your skin:

Centuries later, dermatologists found out that Cleopatra was right,  goat’s milk is loaded with a natural emollient that helps soothe and moisturize the skin. It contains Vitamins A, B6, B12 and E. Goat’s milk has three times more beta-casein than cow’s milk, which is easily absorbed into the skin and allow for quick hydration of dry skin.

And then they also draw the same conclusion we have about what this really means for us in contemporary society.

We may not have the luxury of bathing in goat’s milk these days, but we can still take advantage of its benefits by using goat’s milk soap.

Surely that has to be the next best thing!

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The basic raw materials of soap making

As has been repeatedly stated on this site, the craft of soap making is not exactly a new invention. Nor is the use of natural cleaning products. It has thousands of years of history, so it is only logical that many great resources have been published on the topic ever since we learned how to put ink on paper. Sadly, many of these treasured pieces of knowledge are out of print and have been for quite some time.

So starting today we will regularly republish some of these classic on the site. This first piece is from the intro of a soap making manual by E. G. Thomssen, and discusses the basic ingredients used in soap making. It is, at least partially, from a commercial point of view. But as soap making from back then is more closely related to handmade soap making of today than it is to modern industrial soap making, the information is still relevant to homemade soapers everywhere.

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