I remember one of my first projects on my soaping adventures. I wanted to make sea salt soap. It was a total disaster. I didn’t know it was possible to mess up a “melt and pour” project, but oh, did I manage it.
It was a lovely Soap Queen tutorial on Shea Butter and Sea Salt soap bars. I think that I approached it less like the science that it is, and more like how I cook, which I suppose, is with a lot of whimsy. I will choose an idea, research a few recipes to get an idea of what’s going on, and what’s supposed to happen, think about my ingredients, flavors, and what I want to happen, and then start throwing things together to make that happen. I have been told that cooking, especially baking, should not work like that, but for me, it does. Soap, however, does NOT.
I don’t remember if I used a scale. I had my new Vibrance Mica Sampler Pack from Nurture Soap, some rose-type fragrance oil, and all of the ingredients for the Soap Queen tutorial.
I added my mica to the microwaved soap. I was not at all careful or cautious. I did not get a lovely soft pink in keeping with the theme. I got a dark, bright pink that I remember from this long, fitted tunic top that I hated in junior high because my step-mother made me wear it with blue leggings, and I was adamant that they did not match.
I added my fragrance oil next. My husband really likes scents, especially roses. He thought I should add more. It didn’t smell like much, so I added a bit more. That was ok, but did you know that some fragrances mature as they sit? So, that pleasant floral scent later became OMG!Flowers after the soap set up. (He can sniff and offer opinions to help choose between two competing blends, but he is no longer allowed other input on fragrances. He has good taste, he just doesn’t know when to stop! Dragon Woods Soap and Leather & Lust Beard Balm are his favorite products.)
There is, however, another point to this story than to share my soaping failure. I did still try to use the sea salt soap. Hey, ugly soap is still soap. The problem was the salt. I wanted to love it; I wanted to experience its lovely exfoliating texture. The comments section on the Soap Queen Blog was full of rave reviews. I felt like I had once again flipped over the handlebars of my 10-speed going down the gravel hill outside the apple orchard, as my skin was scraped away (another unpleasant junior high experience). I have extremely sensitive skin, and the sea salt (even the finer grind) was simply too rough. I loved the idea of sea salt soap bars, but the reality was not working for me.
I decided to work on the problem. This time, I decided to try science 🙂 ‘How do I get the benefits of a sea salt soap bar, without feeling like I am using sandpaper to wash?’ My answer was to dissolve the salt in my water, with my lye, and to put a bit of salt on top of the bar (my melt and pour adventures mostly behind me, I had now moved on to the joy of cold process). It seemed like a good answer to me.
Little did I know, as I was experimenting in my soaping studio, I was pretty much reinventing the wheel. Last year, I remember hearing a huge buzz about this soaping technique called, “Soleseife.” At the time, I didn’t know what it was, or really look into it much. My understanding of it, was that it was a fancy type of coconut oil soap, in the way that “Castile” is a fancy olive oil soap. I was wrong, of course. My misunderstanding came from the fact that many Soleseife recipes are high in coconut oil, because the soapers are trying to preserve certain qualities of the soap, in the presence of the salt. The fancy name is because it apparently comes from an old German recipe for a brine – salt water – soap. The same technique that I was using as an alternative process for my ‘salt bars.’
It turns out, that what I was selling as my sea salt soap bars, were actually brine/salt water soap or to be fancy… “Soleseife” soap. That’s cool. A little relabeling, and a little adjustment to my marketing and I was good with that. This is still one of my favorite recipes, and one of the two bars that I use in my own shower on a regular basis. (Shea & Mango Butter Soap is the other one.) They have a very, very fine gritty texture to them (like soft sand), that is very gentle, but still has a pretty creamy lather. It makes a very good everyday shower bar. I enjoy using this as an alternative to commercial anti-bacterial/deodorant soaps.
As for those original Shea and Salt Soap bars (*cough* hockey pucks *cough*), they turned out to be wonderful as air fresheners. The strong floral fragrance was still pleasant enough. The unsightly color didn’t matter, if it wasn’t in sight. The salt may have even contributed to its wonderful air clearing qualities (They say that Himalayan Salt Lamps do…). I just know that I kept them around, tucked in a couple of corners for almost six months, and tossed them when we moved into a new house, having considered them a lesson learned, and a step in the experimental process instead of a *complete* failure. They are a cringe-worthy memory along my adventures in soap making, and experimenting with new techniques, and kind of amusing in retrospect (kind of like junior high).