The Science and Art of Soap

Updated: Jul 30, 2019

Making soap is science. It is created in precise ratios, born out of the chemical reactions of the ingredients to one another in the presence of heat.


But soap is also art. You learn to identify "trace," the way soap appears when the chemical process has completed and it is ready to be poured into the mold. Trace is not precise in either time or appearance, but you learn to know it when you see it. More than that, the mixing of scents that speak to the senses is a true art form, a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. It takes a special knack to know what smells good in what ratios. This is not my area of expertise, I'll freely admit, so I defer to my partner as far as what smells good.


If the science and the art come together, you create a thing of functional beauty.


If it doesn't come together, you get what we had last weekend - something that resembled a low-budget disaster movie!


For those who might not know, lye is a base component of soap making. By itself, it is a caustic substance that requires careful handling for safety. Once mixed with the fats of the oils, the chemical reaction neutralizes its caustic nature. However, lye is also exothermic: as it undergoes the chemical process, it gives off heat. Picking up a bowl of activated lye is best done with oven mitts. And if you don't account for that additional heat in your soap making process, it throws everything off in a big way.


We were having one of THOSE days last Sunday. Not factoring in the heat of the lye was just the last in a series of "unfortunate events" that culminated in multiple lost batches and a sink full of gooey honey and oatmeal pseudo soap.


On the bright side no one was injured in our chain of mishaps, the floor and the sink were extra clean, we applied a little humor to get through the day - and we now have a new catch phrase: Did you remember the milk?


Back to the kitchen we go with our educational experience behind us. Hopefully, our next batches will not be as big of a challenge!


We'll be back at the markets, new products ready to go, stating mid-September with a craft fair. As soon as the weather permits, we'll set up at the Brazos Valley Farmer's Market. We also plan to start selling at The Local at the Stella Hotel when they open on September 25th.


Here's to successful soap making...from our cottage to yours.


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