Tag Archives: soap

Tooth Soap

By now you probably know that I make my own laundry soap and fabric softener, “fabric freshener”/ bug spray, dishwasher soap, toothpaste and even, on occasion, bar soap.  Pretty granola, huh?  Well, today I stumbled upon tooth soap.  Yuck, right?  Maybe not. 

Ambre at We Are of the Day is giving away this tooth soap from Beautiful Soaps

Pearly White Teeth

All natural and free of SLS.

It can’t kill me, and it’s better than all the poison nastiness that is commercial toothpaste, so I decided to enter.  You should too.  Really.  Go now.

Not game for tooth soap?  She’s also giving away lip balm and bar soap.  Everyone loves free soap, right?   

Some of the soaps are pretty amazing.  Actually, I may just be inspired enough to go whip up a batch myself.  I’ll keep you posted.

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How I Made Homemade Soap (and Didn’t Screw it up)

I’ve attempted this before, but it didn’t work out so well.  You can see the finished, botched soap in this post

This time, things worked out much better.  Just like the first time, I started with bacon fat.  

Jar of dirty pork fat

Upcycling this dirty old jar of grease.

 And, just like last time, I washed the fat.  However, this time I decided to use only one jar of fat instead of two.  This helped speed the process up measurably.   I washed the fat twice just like last time to get out all the residual bacon bits.  

What I knew this time that I didn’t know the first go round is that washing the fat takes longer than any other step in the process.  You can save yourself a lot of time in your soap making by using other fats that are already clean.  Olive oil comes to mind.  So does coconut.  You can even find directions on the internet for Crisco based soaps.  For now I’m sticking with bacon fat because I always seem to have some around and I don’t have to buy it.  Someday I would like to try an olive oil (castille) soap but I’m going to refine my skills with bacon grease first. 

Fat after washing twice.

Washing the fat is the longest step in the process.

Now that you’ve washed your fat, it’s time to actually make some soap.  My directions from the first experience were pretty thorough, but I learned a few things along the way so I’ve added those golden nuggets of wisdom so that you don’t make the same mistakes I did.  

  1. Clear your workspace of young children and pets.  Lye is not dangerous if you respect it and follow safe handling precautions, but children and chemicals don’t mix.
  2. Weigh and melt the fat. 
    Melted soap fat

    The fat liquified and ready to be made into soap.

    THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.  Inaccurately measuring my ingredients was the biggest mistake I made the first time I made soap.  I used too much lye and the result was a chalky, crumbly soap.   This time I got a more accurate kitchen scale.  I want this fancy-shmancy one but I’m not willing to spend that much money on it.  I found a used one for $60 but I wasn’t ready to spend that much either.  We’ll see how much soap I actually make before I start forking out the big bucks on equipment.  My new kitchen scale cost $1 at the Women’s Resource Center.  It seems to work just fine for what I need. 

  3. Once the fat is melted, use this lye calculator to determine how much lye you will need. 
    Water on the scale

    The mass of the water only; I set the scale at zero with the measuring cup on it.

    It will tell you how much water and lye you need based on the type and mass of fat you have.  It will even let you use multiple types of fat so that when you become a soap expert you can create new recipes. 

  4. Once you have calculated how much lye and water you need, sprinkle the lye into the water IN A HEAT-PROOF GLASS CONTAINER and swirl with a silicone or rubber spatula.  (This is an exothermic reaction and gives off A LOT of heat; use caution.)  This is where I made my second mistake the first time I made soap.  I knew the lye mixture would be hot.  I knew it needed to cool.  I just wasn’t sure how much it needed to cool. 
    The solution is cool enough to use now.

    The lye-water solution has cooled to about 82 degrees.

    I talked to my soap-maker friends and learned that the temperature of both the lye-mixture and the fat are critical to the finished product.  Here the lye has cooled enough to combine with the fat.  It is just over 80 degrees.  The fat should be about the same temperature; warm enough to be liquid, but not too hot.  If your fat and lye solution are too warm, the resulting soap can be brittle.  (Like mine was last time.) 

  5. Once the fat and lye are both under 100 degrees slowly and carefully pour the lye solution into the fat and stir continuously with a stick blender.
    lye mixture combined with the fat

    Stir the mixture constantly once you have added the lye.

    It will take quite a while for the mixture to thicken up to the right consistency.  (Especially if you have measured your ingredients correctly; my soap reached trace really quickly the first time because I used too much lye.)  Don’t stop stirring even when your arm gets tired.  The soap is finished when it reaches “trace”.  Trace is when you can see where you have been mixing.  In the photo you can just see the path where the blender was.  

    Soap is almost ready

    The soap is ready when you can see where you were just mixing. This is called "trace".

    And, in the sake of complete disclosure, this photo is from the last batch of soap; the picture of trace from this batch wasn’t so great.  If you are going to add fragrances or herbs, now is the time to do it.  Last time I added dried lavender blossoms.  That was a waste of perfectly good lavender blossoms.  They turned brown in the process instead of being lovely little purple flecks like I’d imagined.  This time I stuck with straight essential oils.  I’m particularly fond of lavender in my soap so of course, I used that but I added lemongrass again too.  

    essential oils

    Lavender and lemongrass essential oils.

    I didn’t add enough oil this time so the soap is only slightly scented.  Next time I will add much more.  One of the reasons I like homemade soaps (both mine and Fish Creek’s ) is that they make the bathroom smell lovely instead of all soap-y like commercial soaps.  The last time I opened a bar of store soap, it about made me gag.  It’s amazing how artificial artificial fragrances smell when you get used to smelling real smells again. 

  6. My friend Alicia keeps me in soap molds. 
    Will this make my soap goldfish-shaped?

    Upcycling trash into treasure.

    She provided the silk container (which wasn’t big enough for two jars of bacon fat-soap last time) and this giant Goldfish container (which was actually too big for only one jar of bacon fat this time).   Once you have blended in any fragrances you want to add, pour the liquid soap into the mold and let it cure for 18-24 hours. 

    Soap poured into the soap mold

    Finished soap in my fancy soap mold.

    Once the soap has cured for a day, you can remove the soap from the mold.  Or, if you upcycle an old container like I did, you can just peel the mold off of the soap and discard it.  I forgot to take a picture of the soap before I started cutting it, so I had to push it back together to provide you the illusion of “whole-ness”:  You get the idea.

  7. After you’ve cut your block of soap into bars, all you have to do is wait.  Soap needs to cure for awhile.  At least three weeks is recommended, but the bars will get harder and drier with age. 
Nothin' left to do but wait.

The freshly cut bars biding their time.

So, I haven’t used the bars yet but they cut smoothly and didn’t crumble or get chalky like the last batch so I’m assuming all’s well for now.  They seem to be curing nicely and will be ready for use soon.  Now that I’ve figured out the process, I think I’m ready to start playing with some recipes.  Like maybe this one.


Filed under crafts, frugality, green cleaning, green living

How to Make Your Own Soap (Concluded)

This post is the third in a series of posts.  If you haven’t read Meat Day or How to Make Your Own Soap, you may want to go do that now. 🙂

  1. Empty carton upcycled
  2. Upcycle an old soymilk carton into a soap mold for your homemade soap.

Okay, maybe this isn’t the conclusion to my soap story.  However, for now it is.  I cured my bacon grease soap in the upcycled Silk carton soap mold over night just like I was supposed to.  I peeled away the carton and started slicing the soap into bars to find my soap fragile.  Crumbly.  In fact, it looked much like blocks of feta cheese: smooth-ish on the top and crumbly-jagged on the sides where it split when I tried to cut it into bars.

Tea Tree, Lavender Homemade Soap Bars

Crumbly batch of homemade soap.

I should have known to leave well enough alone.  I started troubleshooting soap flaws online.  I found that crumbly soap could be the result of a few things.  One could be too much lye.  Since I don’t have a very good scale, that was a possibility.  Or, crumbly soap could be caused by mixing the ingredients at the wrong temperatures, stirring too much, or not stirring enough.  I wasn’t sure which of these were the culprit, but from my research I determined that I could rebatch or remill my soap.

So, I ground the soap up and threw it back in the pan.  I added a little more oil (olive, ‘cuz that’s what I had) and some hot water and stirred it.  The soap looked like it was coming back together, so I dumped it into a  large, glass loaf pan.  I’d have used a milk carton, but I’d already used the only one I had.  It was at this point I saw my soap separating.  It hardened up fine, but there are holes where the unincorporated oil drained out.  Maybe I didn’t need that olive oil after all, huh?

  1. The bar I didn't remill.
  2. I should have just left the crumbly bars alone; they looked way nicer like this than they did after I remilled them.

So, what have I learned from this experiment?

  1. Don’t bother putting dried lavender blossoms in your soap; the color all cooks out and they just look like brown flecks.
  2. I need a good kitchen scale.  Accuracy is important in soap making.  I might’ve been able to avoid my remilling fiasco if I had measured more accurately the first time.
  3. Remilling is not for me.  The remilled soap is so ugly that I won’t even take a picture (and I’ve posted some ugly pics in the past.)  Once the ugly soap has cured and I’m sure it’s not too alkaline, I plan to grind it up into my laundry soap.  If I get a crumbly batch in the future, I’ll just grind it up from the start instead of wasting six hours trying to remill a lost cause.

This is not the true conclusion of my soap making, because I’ll definitely try again.  Now that I have all the kinks worked out, it should be much easier next time.  I will only use a quart of bacon grease at a time.  “Washing” the bacon fat takes WAY too long if you have to wait for it to cool between heatings.  I’ll probably also use a blend of oils to end up with a soap that is more balanced and better for my skin.

Check back soon.  I bet I’ll have enough fat in a few weeks; my bacon jar already has at least a half a cup of grease in it!

For a more succesful soap experiment, check out How I Made Homemade Soap (and Didn’t Screw it up).


Filed under frugality, green cleaning, green living

How to Make Your Own Soap (Continued)

If you need to clean your bacon fat, check the first post in the Bacon Fat Soap Trilogy.  Once you have clean fat that can actually be used, continue: 

Washed Bacon grease

Bacon grease clean and ready to be saponified.

  1. Bacon Fat Melted

    Clean fat melted and ready to make into soap.

    Weigh and melt the fat.  ( I had about 5.5 lbs of fat when I was done washing it.) 

  2. Do not make soap with young children or pets underfoot; it is not worth the risk of an accident.  However, there is no reason to fear lye as long as you respect it and use safety precautions. Put on your goggles and rubber gloves.  
  3.  Use this lye calculator to figure out how much lye and water you need.  (Based on the quantity and type of fat, I needed 1 quart of water and 12 oz. of lye)
  4. Water and Lye

    Lye and water mixture.

    Sprinkle the lye into the water IN A HEAT-PROOF GLASS CONTAINER and swirl with a silicone or rubber spatula.  (This is an exothermic reaction and gives off A LOT of heat; use caution.) 

  5. Fat with lye and water added

    Soap fat combined with lye-water mixture.

    Wait until the lye and water cool off and pour them slowly and carefully into the fat. 

  6. Soap is almost ready

    The soap is ready when you can see where you were just mixing. This is called "trace".

    Blend with an immersion blender until you can see where you’ve been blending. 

  7. Add fragrance or herbs if you plan to and mix well.  (I used about 30 drops off tea tree oil and 65 drops of lavender plus some lavender blossoms I harvested this summer.)
  8. Empty carton upcycled

    Upcycle an old soymilk carton into a soap mold for your homemade soap.

    Pour into soap mold. 

Check back soon to see how the soap turns out!  This post concludes here.


Filed under frugality, green cleaning

Meat Day (or, How to Make Your Own Soap)

Despite my efforts to live simpler, be greener and eat healthier, Mr. Hippie likes him some junk food. To that end, we have something that has become known fondly as “Meat Day” in our house.  Meat Day is when the boys in my family consume a pound of bacon and sausage. I do my best to buy local sausage and nitrite/nitirate free meats, but let me tell you, that stuff’s expensive.  So, some “Meijer Meat”, as my daughter and I have taken to calling industrially produced meat, sneaks through. I try to trick them into eating healthier by serving eggs, potatoes, and pancakes or french toast with their meats, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are consuming copious amounts of pork products.

With pork products come pork fat.  There are many uses for pork fat.  I add some into my dog biscuits and homemade dog food, but that poor dog couldn’t possibly eat all the bacon grease produced by Meat Day.  (Well, he probably could and would love every second of it, but it would be a messy, messy walk the next day.)

That's a lotta grease!

Hmmm. . . Maybe we should cut down on Meat Days?

So, what do you do with all that grease?
If you’re like Ivory Soap and Tomato Lady at Little House in the Suburbs, you make soap with it

I have friends that make soap, and I’ve always wanted to make soap, but I have been intimidated by the lye-factor.  But, when you have this much grease, intimidation becomes an afterthought to, “I have to get these damn jars of grease out of my kitchen!”

So, here goes.

  1. Microwave the jars of grease for a minute until they are soft enough to dump into a big pot.
  2. Fill the jars with water and add the greasy water to the pan.
  3. Bring the greasy mess to a boil.
  4. Remove the mess from the heat, stir it and add a jar of COLD water.
  5. Let cool until the fat hardens on top.  (I put mine on the back porch to speed thing up, but it is January in Michigan~you may need to use the refrigerator, or wait a really long time.)
  6. While the fat is cooling, stir up a batch of homemade bread and then make a batch of homemade laundry detergent. 
  7. Write a post about the detergent
  8. Check on the fat and water.  See that it is still warm.  Decide that even though it is January, the porch isn’t cold enough.
  9. Move the pot of fat and water to the fridge.
  10. Make Homemade Fabric Softener.
  11. Write a post about Fabric Softener.
  12. Check on the fat.  See that it still isn’t hardened.
  13. Turn the oven on and bake the bread.
  14. Become impatient.  Make space in freezer for fat.
  15. Wonder why I didn’t cook the fat in smaller batches to speed cooling time.
  16. Run to Tom’s to buy habañero peppers for this recipe.
  17. Start dinner.
  18. Check on the fat.  See that it has finally hardened.
  19. Take it out of the freezer.
  20. Scoop the fat out onto a plate.
  21. Dump the nasty brown water and bacon bits out.
  22. Cooked Soap Grease

    The bacon fat after one cooking and cooling. See how it's still yellow?

    Check to see if your grease still has too much “gick” in it. Wonder how long it will take to do it over again so that the resulting fat is cleanish.  If your fat is clean the first time, lucky you!  You can now start actually making soap.  If not, continue on to step #23.

  23. Crack a beer.
  24. Clean the grease pan.
  25. Scoop the fat back into the pan, add two jars of water and return to a boil.
  26. Remove the pan from the heat and add a jar of ice water.
  27. Place the pot of fatty water directly into the freezer.  Wonder for a second how bad it is for the freezer to put that steaming pot in it.
  28. Take a drink of beer.  Finish cooking dinner.
  29. Eat dinner.
  30. Start making chocolate chip cookies.
  31. Hellfire Cookies: Step 1

    Diced Habañeros soaking in warm milk.

    Start making  habañero cookies.

  32. Check the fat.  Decide that even if the fat was hard, it is too late to start soap today anyway; move the tub of fatty water back out to the porch to finish next weekend.
  33. Put the icemaker receptacle back in the freezer.  Finish the cookies.  Go to bed.


This post continues here with actual directions on making soap!


Filed under food, green cleaning, green living

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I’ve been meaning to make my own laundry detergent for quite a while now.  I’m not sure what But the four jugs of “buy 1 get two free” laundry detergent I had kicking around the laundry room kept me from doing it until now.  Now, those yucky grocery store bottles of detergent are all gone so I can make my own.  This is so easy, everyone (including you) should go make some.   I wrote the recipe on the side of my container so that I wouldn’t have the trouble of losing it like I did with my dishwasher detergent.

Angela’s Laundry Magic:

Homemade Laundry Soap Recipe

Now I can never lose the recipe!

Remember how much I LOVE my Kitchenaid mixer? 

Grinding the bars of soap.

Oh, Kitchenaid, how I love thee!

One more reason: It grinds up bars of soap in no time flat. 

Shredded Bars of Soap

Shredded up bars of Kirk's Coco Castille.

I used Kirk’s Coco Castille for this batch because that’s what I bought months ago when I got it into my head that I would start making laundry detergent, but I will NEVER use it again for two reasons.  One, it is expensive; you can use Ivory soap or homemade soap instead.  And, two it has such a strong scent that I can’t stand it. 

Once you have the bars of soap ground up, dump them into whatever container you are going to use to hold your soap.  (Three bars yielded four cups of grated soap.)  Add essential oil for fragrance if you are going to scent your soap (I used a combination of lavender, lemongrass and rosemary.) and shake or stir it before adding two cups each Borax, washing soda and baking soda.  Shake or stir the entire batch until the grated soap is incorporated throughout the powder. 

I put mine into this container I got from a friend that used to hold some kind of protein powder.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Finished homemade Laundry Magic and Wide-mouthed alternative container.

But, if your husband does laundry (like mine does) and has giant man-hands (like mine does), you may need to find a wide-mouthed container that he can easily reach into so that he isn’t deterred from doing laundry in the future.  I reused this old laundry soap container.  Best of all, it even came with its own scoop.  I use about 1/4 1/8 cup per load, but you may need to adjust the amount you use based on how hard your water is and how dirty your clothes are.

If you like this recipe you might be interested in my homemade Fabric Softener and Sink Scrub recipes


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Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people who loses everything.  Take for example, my recipe for dishwasher detergent.  I’ve been making it myself for months, but I’m not 100% sure that I’ve even used the same recipe every time.  So after scouring the internet for hours looking for recipes, I’ve decided that my actual recipe is a combination of the many recipes available. 

I love this recipe because it works just as well as the poisonous dishwasher detergents without all the toxic chemicals, and it is way cheaper to make it yourself.   I’ll add pictures later, but for now, (See, I told you there’d be pictures. 🙂 )here you go:

Supplies needed to make your own.

Everything you need to make your own dishwasher detergent.

Angela’s Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

2 cups Borax
1 cup washing soda
1 cup baking soda
1 cup salt
1/4 cup  Mrs. Wage’s Citric Acid
30 drops essential oil

Use 1-2 tablespoons per load and fill my rinse agent dispenser with plain white vinegar.

Borax can be found in the laundry section of most grocery stores.  
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda is a little harder to find because not everyone carries it, but it is also found in the laundry section. 
I buy baking soda in giant bags from Sam’s Club because I use it for everything. (Hmm. . . that sounds like a future post.) 
I usually use kosher salt because I always have it on hand, but some people have better results with pickling salt which is actually cheaper.  
Citric acid can be found with the canning supplies.  I bought all the cans they had at Tom’s (the grocery store down the block from me) the first time I made dishwasher detergent.  I’m glad I did because they were the old-style packages and cost $1 less than the new plastic jars do.   I have never done it, but if you can’t find citric acid, you can use unsweetened lemon Kool-Aid.  Other flavors will stain your dishwasher.
I buy my essential oils online because they are cheaper, but you can find good quality essential oils in health-food stores.  You don’t have to add the oil, but it adds a nice fragrance.  Also, some oils have anti-bacterial or anti-fungal properties which are an added bonus.  I like the smell of orange oil, but ever since Swine Flu season started in October, I have been using a combination of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary which is known as “Thieve’s Blend”.  It has a nice, spicy fragrance and helps naturally sanitize my dishwasher and dishes.

The citric acid will make your powder clump over time (it absorbs moisture from the air) but it is really helpful in preventing haze on your dishes.  If you don’t run your washer often, you may want to make smaller batches so that it doesn’t sit around and get clumpy. 

If you look closely at the picture, you can see a tall, cylindrical container peeking out from behind the washing soda.  That’s the container the old, poisonous Electrasol came in.  I just refill it every time.  Also, I just realized that I forgot to put the citric acid container in the picture.  Oops.

Like green cleaning recipes?

Check out my:

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade Fabric Softener


Homemade Scouring Powder


Filed under frugality, green cleaning, green living


I currently have three posts in the works.  What am I waiting for?  Lots of things. I need to upload pics, finish typing without falling asleep.  Various other deterrents.  This is important though, and no pictures are required.  A friend of mine introduced me to the  “Little House in the Suburbs” blog some time ago. (Thank you, Amber.) I am in love with it.  So much useful information and things I need to try.  Plus now, giveaways.  I want to win, but as my husband once said, “My friends deserve nice things.”  (Taken completely out of context and that is a whole different story that should be saved for another day never.)  So friends, good luck. 

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