OUT OF MY ELEMENT & UP IN THE CLOUDS!
In every way, I felt completely out of my element (literally and figuratively) when it came to this batch of soap! I had flown across the country, from Florida to Arizona, to visit family for the holidays, and although I thought I had come prepared, I’m never prepared for how “off” it feels making soap in someone else’s kitchen! I’m sure my fellow crafters can relate, but when I’m at home, I have a flow and natural rhythm for each and every step of the soapmaking process, so even the slightest difference and deviation just feels wrong to me. In this instance, as with other times, the kitchen layout was different, the size of my workspace was different, heck, even a lot of my tools and equipment were different! I’m always reminded of just how much of a creature for my own comforts and old habits I truly am when it’s time to get crafty in someone else’s crafting space!
Before I left for my trip, I did think ahead (or as far ahead as I could!) and packed as many soapmaking accouterments as I could fit into my luggage (well, the ones TSA would allow me to fly with anyway!). I also had an order from Nurture Soap shipped directly to my mother’s home in Arizona, so that I’d have even more goodies waiting for me when I arrived. Needless to say, I was not the least bit surprised to find a "Notice of Baggage Inspection" card inside my luggage when I arrived at my final destination!
One item in particular in the order I had shipped to Arizona turned out being an absolute lifesaver for me, and another item was simply pure heaven! My proverbial lifesaver was the AMIR Digital Scale Nurture Soap now carries! At home, I use a MyWeigh KD8000 scale, but it’s not a very travel-friendly piece of equipment by any means! On the other hand, the AMIR Digital Scale is perfect for travel! Light, compact, portable, easy to use and easy to clean, this scale makes for a great companion to the traveling soap maker! I was very happy I picked one of these babies up!
My “pure heaven” moment came when I smelled Nurture Soap’s newest fragrance oil sensation, “Seventh Heaven” fragrance oil for the first time (and second, and third, and fourth...)! With notes of lime, bergamot, frankincense and litsea cubeba, this aromatic treat is exactly as described in its product listing! It really is sweet and sultry, all rolled up into one blissful, not-your-typical-citrus scent! To my nose, it’s a solid representation of the aroma it duplicates, but you don’t have to be familiar with the original Avocado Co-Wash scent to fully appreciate this fragrance! It’s a citrusy kiss with a spicy-resinous kick, combined to create pure heaven in a bottle! The original product this celestial celebration of scent represents is chock-full of fresh avocados, so I felt it was only fitting to use fresh avocado puree in this batch of cold process soap! With my avocado in-hand, I got ready to make a heavenly batch of soap... Or at least as ready as I could get when it came to making soap in this strange and foreign land (aka: mom’s kitchen)!
If working in an unfamiliar workspace wasn’t enough, I decided to make things even more challenging for myself by making this a high-top batch, complete with decorative melt & pour embeds. I had brought a pound of Nurture Soap’s Clear, Low Sweat Soap Base with me, as well as some embed molds, and figured if I could make and embellish soap frosting at home, I could make and embellish it anywhere! To give homage to the avocado, which was sacrificed from being made into guacamole to become soap instead, I used Nurture Soap’s Small 9 Ball Silicone Mold and “Copper Penny” mica to make what would represent avocado seeds, which turned out being the perfect color for this task, if I may say so myself!
When I smelled “Seventh Heaven” fragrance oil from the bottle, I could smell the freshness of the citrus notes, but also the rich, warm, almost earthiness of the frankincense too. To represent that bright, citrusy boost, citrus wedges in “Electric Orange” mica made for the perfect touch, and to represent the sweet-earthiness of the fragrance as a whole, leaf embeds made with “Jade Green” mica beautifully completed my vision for this part of the soapy project! With my melt & pour embeds looking happily angelic and bright, it was time to move forward by offering up my avocado to the soap gods... For the greater good, of course!
AVOCA-DO'S AND AVOCA-DON'TS!
When it comes to soapmaking, the sky is truly the limit! I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why I'm so hopelessly addicted to this craft! There are few “rules” when it comes to soapmaking (with most of them pertaining more so to lye and lye-safety), but beyond that, a whole world of endless possibilities awaits! There are general guidelines, suggestions and recommendations, of course, but these can be challenged and tested! Not much is set in stone when it comes to making soap. Curious to know what a recipe with yak’s milk would feel like? If you can get your hands on some, try it! Wondering how a recipe with 20% castor oil would turn out? Give it a shot! Interested in how those chia seeds you put in your morning smoothie would feel in a bar of soap? Add ‘em in there! Soapmaking is as limitless as your imagination! In regards to fresh fruits and vegetables in particular, if you can puree it, most likely you can throw it in a batch of soap! Well, don’t “throw”, but you know what I mean!
As with anything “extra” you’d incorporate into a batch of soap, fruit and veggie purees also come with well-meaning guidelines and recommendations, but beyond these, feel free to experiment as much as your heart desires! As long as your soapy experiments don’t put yourself or others in harm’s way, you’re completely free to become the bona fide Albert Einstein of soapmaking if you’d like!
Here are some great guidelines to remember when making soap with fresh fruits or vegetables... Just as your oils can go rancid within your soaps, so too can fresh fruit and vegetable purees. However, the PH level of soap will inhibit the growth of bacteria and mold (thanks lye!). That’s why it’s important to understand the properties of the fruit or vegetable you’ll be adding to your recipe. For example: In this recipe, I used fresh avocado. Avocado is going to add extra fat and water to my recipe. To help balance this, I decided not to superfat my recipe too high, but I still wanted those wonderful properties avocados bring to the skin to be enjoyed within my soap as well. For this purpose, I chose to superfat my recipe at 5% and no higher. For the extra water the avocado would introduce into my recipe, I subtracted the weight of the avocado from my recipe’s total liquid weight. For a batch of this size (32oz of batch oils), I used half of the avocado and weighed it (the other half ended up being spread over slices of toast- Yum!).
The avocado came out to weighing 2.12oz. My recipe called for a total of 8.44oz of liquid. Taking the weight of the avocado (2.12oz), I subtracted that from my total liquid weight (8.44oz) to determine the new, divided liquid weight in which I would need to make my lye solution (8.44oz - 2.12oz = 6.32oz. 6.32oz is the amount of liquid I need to dissolve my lye into). Just remember that when making your lye solution, lye needs at least its own weight in liquid to safely and fully dissolve. If your new, divided liquid weight comes out totaling less than the weight of lye in which your recipe calls for, it’s too much puree.
Anything extra added to a soap recipe, such as fresh fruit and veggie purees, can affect your soap’s shelf life too. While the growth of bacteria and mold may be inhibited, rancidity is still a possibility. You’ll know when rancidity occurs because your soaps will develop what’s commonly referred to as “Dreaded Orange Spots”, or “DOS”. While a bar of soap with DOS is still perfectly useable, it can certainly be unsightly, and sometimes, even the scent of your soap can be affected. For these reasons, when it comes to incorporating fresh fruit of veggie purees into your recipes, I personally recommend using and enjoying the soaps sooner, rather than later (within 3 to 6 months).
So, you’ve got your avocado weighed out, and you’ve subtracted the weight of it from your recipe’s total liquid weight. Now what? Well, it’s time to turn that avocado into avocado puree! Using whatever mashing or blending tool you prefer, or have available (you can even use your stick blender for this... It’s actually what it was made for!), get that avocado mashed up, nice and good!
This next step is purely optional, as you can certainly choose to incorporate your avocado puree into your soap batter at light trace if preferred, but I’ve personally found that it just works easier for me if I blend my puree really well with one of my recipe’s soft oils instead. This just really helps me be able to effortlessly and smoothly incorporate any fruit or veggie puree into my recipe with ease.
If you prefer to do it this way as well, any of your recipe’s soft oils will do, so long as you have enough of it to thoroughly blend your puree into. The recipe I used for this project has 35% olive oil, so that’s the soft oil I chose to blend my puree into. I started by taring out the weight of the mashed avocado, then adding my recipe’s full amount of olive oil directly over top of it. From there, I just used my stick blender to fully, and oh-so smoothly, incorporate the avocado right into the olive oil. Once all was nice and blended together, I simply set it off to the side. When it came time to get all my batch oils combined, I just poured my olive oil (avocado puree and all), in with my other batch oils- easy peasy!
I’M A TITANIUM DIOXIDE SNOB!
Choosing a color theme for this heavenly project of bubbly avocado goodness hit me like divine intervention! Already I was dying to get the gorgeously green shade of “Jade Green” mica into this batch, but it wasn’t until I saw Nurture Soap’s “Orange Marmalade” mica (another goodie included in the order I had shipped to my mom’s house) that I realized this color combo was positively ROCKIN’! I mean, HOLY ORANGE MARMALADE!! This mica is jaw-dropping! It’s an intense burst of orange with rich and bold red undertones! It almost looked more like a vibrant red when first dispersed in a bit of carrier oil, but make no mistake about it, this mica is totally confident in its orangey-ness, yet fully embraces its red tones too! It’s the most beautiful shade of vibrant reddish-orange I’ve ever seen, and it’s very likely I’ll be using it in everything I make for the next foreseeable future!
“Jade Green” and “Orange Marmalade” micas looked thoroughly magical together, so a dash of the cheerfully bright “Lemon Drop” mica just seemed like the perfect choice for an accent color (it so totally was!). A softer side, featuring accents of the whimsically fresh “Enchantment” mica, alongside the energizing orange glow of “Electric Orange” mica, came together to make a fantastic combination of colors, capturing the energy and vibe of how “Seventh Heaven” fragrance oil made me feel! Despite how weird it felt making soap in a kitchen that wasn’t mine, I knew I was on the right track with these colors!
The actual batch oils I used for this recipe had me a little worried that coloring a portion of my soap batter white would prove to be a bit of a challenge. Not only did I have the green of the avocado puree to contend with, but the recipe itself contained batch oils, that when combined, look pretty dark. Because of this, I chose to use something I don’t use very often at all- titanium dioxide!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against titanium dioxide, I’m just more of a “Winter White” gal myself. On a personal level, I’ve always found “Winter White” mica to be super easy to work with, super easy to pre-mix and incorporate, and it gets my soaps plenty white, with no worry of batch acceleration, glycerin rivers or those pesky titanium dioxide speckles. All this being said though, in situations like this, where I feel using titanium dioxide, in place of “Winter White” mica, will work best to achieve the whitest white in my soap batches, the absolute BEST titanium dioxide in this soap maker’s opinion is Nurture Soap’s titanium dioxide (and those who know me personally, can verify I’ve been saying this long before I started writing guest blogs here)!
Not all titanium dioxides are created equal, and if you’ve ever used impure, poor-quality titanium dioxide before, you’ve found this out the hard way (been there!). Poor-quality titanium dioxide is difficult to work with, doesn’t produce quality results, is more prone to developing glycerin rivers, and even when you mix the ever-living daylights out of it, unsightly speckles abound within your soap. The good news though is that it’s easy to immediately identify poor-quality titanium dioxide. If it thickens, foams and froths up when you disperse it in water with your mini-mixer, it’s impure, poor-quality titanium dioxide. High-quality titanium dioxide will be easy to disperse, and won’t thicken, foam or froth up at all. No matter how long you mix it with your mini-mixer, it will always stay liquid when dispersed in water.
An easy way to spot poor-quality titanium dioxide before you buy it is by looking at its price point. High-quality titanium dioxide will be reflected in its price and is worth every penny. If you see a pound of titanium dioxide being sold for too-good-to-be-true prices, it is! Don’t do it! You’re better off going to Starbucks and getting yourself a venti flat white coffee! Trust me, I am the queen of pinching pennies, but purchasing my titanium dioxide isn’t a corner I cut. I’ve been going on the same 8oz jar of titanium dioxide from Nurture Soap for well over a year now (shows how often I use titanium dioxide!), but I wouldn’t get it anywhere else. Nurture Soap’s titanium dioxide means easy dispersing, a crisp, whitest-white in my soaps, rarely ever a glycerin river, and never once an annoying titanium dioxide speckle in my soaps! What can I say, I’m passionate about some things, and high-quality titanium dioxide is one of them!
So, it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that despite my green avocado and my batch oils, I was able to achieve a beautiful, pristine white in this soap batch, and if you did assume that, you’d be dead-on RIGHT! As for my other mica colors... Well, they looked downright fabulous in my soap batter too, and no amount of contending avocado puree or dark batch oils was gonna break their stride!
I’VE SOAPED AND GONE TO HEAVEN!
Okay, so I have a confession: This fragrance oil... Holy moly did I love it out of the bottle, but in my soap, I don’t even have words for how much I love this! Did it behave awesome in my cold process soap recipe? You bet’cha! In fact, it actually thinned trace for me a bit, which was a saving grace because being unfamiliar with the stick blender I was using (my mom’s), I inadvertently blended my soap batter to a thicker trace than I had intended. Incorporating “Seventh Heaven” fragrance oil into my soap batter thinned it back up, making it much more fluid and workable again (whew!). When I finished pouring my batch, I achieved the beautifully fluid drop-swirl design I was going for, and even family members commented on how good the whole kitchen smelled!
My chosen mica colors looked fantastic as well, and I didn’t even mind one little bit when “Jade Green” mica did what many green micas often do... It still looked beautiful! “Jade Green” mica is an absolutely fabulous color in anything you put it in, but for me and my recipe, it does temporarily turn olive-toned (emphasis on “temporarily”). If you’re new to cold process soapmaking and notice your greens have gone a murky olive color in your recipe, or that your bright, cheerful yellow decided to turn into a bright, cheerful orange, DON’T PANIC!!! This is just the weirdness of PH levels, chemical reactions and cold process soap in general doing what they do best- wreaking temporary havoc on the nerves of unsuspecting soap makers! As soon as saponification is complete, your stunning greens will return to their original stunning shades, and your vibrantly happy used-to-be-yellows will go back to being vibrantly happy yellows again, promise!
DIVINE FINISHING TOUCHES!
As with 99% of my soap batches, I planned this batch to be a high-top design (but probably shouldn’t have! I’ll explain why later!), and whipped up some soap frosting. If you’d like to make soap frosting to pipe the tops of your own soap batches with as well, please feel free to check out my previous blog post, “The Total Guide to Soap Frosting!!!”, where you’ll find all my best tips, tricks, suggestions and recipes for making your own soap frosting batches too! Although, I will mention here, in an attempt to humbly redeem myself, that if you choose to make Recipe #4 (Palm-Free/Vegan with Shea Butter), please use 40% olive oil, not the 30% usage rate I so absentmindedly and incorrectly typed there (hanging head in shame here)!
Moving onward from my mistakes, which embarrassingly expose my human-ness to the world, I decided that for this batch of soap frosting, I’d take one of my most favorite and long-time loved shades of blue, “Klein Blue” mica, and mix one part of its deep, rich “blue-ness” with two parts “Winter White” mica. My brain was thinking “sky” for my heaven-inspired batch of avocado soap, but as I began to blend my soap frosting to trace, the most beautiful shade of periwinkle emerged! It’s for certain my batch oils also played a role in this, and it wasn’t quite the “sky-blue” shade I was going for (you might be wondering why I didn’t just use Nurture Soap’s “Sky Blue” mica in the first place... And the answer would be: Because I forgot to bring it with me!), but I actually found myself really digging this periwinkle-type shade of blue- a lot! Reason #127 of why I love soapmaking so much: There have been so many times little “oopses” have turned into big loves for me!
Once I completed piping the top of my soap loaf, I added an extra dash of “the heavens” to it with a dusting of the ever-mesmerizing “Gold Dust” EnviroGlitter, which was simply divine for this purpose! In fact, for a moment there I thought I could even hear the soap gods, and their angelic hosts themselves, singing songs of praise! Oh wait! Nope! That was just my two young boys singing “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” from the next room, but I'll take what I can get!
Next step was to get the enlivening embeds I made earlier placed on top of my soap frosting so I could insulate this celestial-avocado creation, and allow the magic of saponification to do its thing over the next 18 to 24 hours. At this point, I was really grateful for that order from Nurture Soap because even the cardboard box that the order arrived in served an important purpose! The shape and size of the box were perfect for the 2.5lb Basic Soap Mold I had brought with me, so under that box (and a towel) my batch went for the night!
DO PLAY WITH YOUR FRUITS & VEGETABLES!
As a kid, my mom would often say, “Stop playing with your vegetables!”. Little did she know that as an adult, I’d still be playing with them! Well, in this case, avocados are fruit, but veggie purees are just as fun! If you’d like to make your own “Seventh Heaven Avocado Soap” at home, feel free to use the recipe I used here, or use your favorite tried and true soap recipe, adding an avocado to it, just for fun!
Amber’s Seventh Heaven Avocado Soap:
- Sodium hydroxide (lye) at 5% superfat
- Liquid at a 33% lye concentration (2:1), subtracting the avocado weight from the total liquid weight
- ½ Small to medium avocado per every 32oz of batch oils (¼ avocado/PPO)
- 35% Olive oil
- 30% Coconut oil
- 15% Shea butter
- 10% Castor oil
- 10% Cocoa butter
- Sodium lactate at 3% usage rate
- Seventh Heaven fragrance oil at 6% usage rate
- Mica colorants at 1tsp/PPO
- Titanium dioxide at 1/2tsp/PPO
If you’d like to make this a high-top batch as well, check out “The Total Guide to Soap Frosting!!!” blog post, and refer to Recipe #3 (Palm-Free/Vegan “Double Butter”), which was the recipe I used for this project.
The next morning, I unmolded my batch of soap, and initially, the scent of the fragrance oil within the soap was a tad hard to detect clearly, due to the cocoa butter in my recipe. This is totally normal, but I've found that eventually the scent of the cocoa butter always clears out to allow my fragrance to shine through beautifully. However, if this bothers you, you can always choose to use deodorized cocoa butter instead. At the time of this writing though, my “Seventh Heaven Avocado Soap” is 6 days old, and the scent is INCREDIBLE! It didn’t take long at all for my cocoa butter to take the back seat, allowing this wonderful fragrance oil to come through strong, clear and true!
So, remember when I said I probably shouldn’t have made this a high-top batch? Well, here’s why... It wasn’t until I had completely unmolded my soap loaf that it occurred to me I didn’t bring anything to cut my soap batches with! My sweet mother tried to help though and offered me her single-wire cheese cutter (turned into a soap slicer!) to cut the batch with. There was only one tiny problem... Had I not placed any embeds on top, the cheese/soap slicer would have just barely done the job, but with the addition of embeds, there was no way, no how (without destroying the embeds). Bummer! This left me with one option, and it’s this soap maker’s worst nightmare: I had to cut the batch free-handed!
For the record, I cannot cut soaps free-handed to save my life! If an alien race came down to earth and told me that the entire fate of all humankind rested solely upon me perfectly cutting just one single bar of soap free-handed, well... I’m really sorry everyone, we wouldn’t make it! So, needless to say, these bars turned out horribly lopsided and completely uneven, but they’ll still make for a fantastic bar of soap with which to scrub-a-dub-down with, so it wasn’t a total bust!
This tale of lopsided soaps does have a happy ending though! For Christmas, it just so happens that I received a Visa gift card, and it really came in handy! I used it to order a soap cutter so that I'll always have a way to cut my soap batches whenever I visit family now!
This heavenly creation of “Seventh Heaven Avocado Soap” was my very last batch of soap made in 2019, and it definitely didn’t come without some minor challenges, but boy was it worth it! My terribly uneven soap bars smell AMAZING, and that luscious, fresh avocado puree will make for a wonderful, skin-loving treat in the shower!
As I reflect back upon 2019 and set my sights upon 2020, I am so immensely grateful for all the incredible opportunities that have come my way this last year, and look forward, with childlike excitement, to all the new opportunities for growth to come! May your own reflections of 2019 be filled with moments of love, gratitude, happiness and personal growth as well, and may those wonderful reflections become ever-multiplying realities for 2020! HAPPY NEW YEAR, my sensationally talented fellow crafters, and happy soapmaking too!