Saturday, November 19, 2011

Soapmaking with McGillycuddy's Naturals

I was so happy that I was able to sign up for a soapmaking class with McGillycuddy's Natural's.  They only had 2 left this season and after I had a little fender bender, I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it so I had to wait until late this week to register.

The soapmaking class was held at their farm in the Cobleskill NY area, a little town called Dorloo.  This is about an hour trip for me and the class ran from 9am-12pm so I had to get up really early to make sure I got there in time.  I was shocked that I actually woke up before my alarm went off though I prefer to wake up before the alarm goes off because I hate hearing the alarm.  I got ready and headed out with my GPS to guide me.  I took a route I didn't expect to get there but I think it was a good thing because the route I expected the GPS would take actually had a lot of construction going on and I might have run late.

We got to learn about soapmaking, some history, some chemistry and some of the McGillycuddy's Naturals background story.  Our class was actually being held in the room where they produce all of their soaps so it was cool to get to see behind the scenes. There was a station with supplies set up for each member of the class.  We all got info on how to make soap so we know how to make it on our own if we want to, though a lot goes into it.

My soapmaking station
We started by mixing lye with water.  You have to be really careful with lye because it is a corrosive alkaline substance (also known as sodium hydroxide).  It is safe to use but you have to be careful while it is in this form because it can burn your skin.  When we mixed it in powder form, it looked kind of like crystals, with water, we had to wear protective goggles, face masks and gloves. We stirred the mixture and took the temperature.  It got hot and smoked.  It was fascinating and felt like science class.  We left them outside on a table so the temperature would drop to where we needed it. 
My Safety Gear
We went back into to each measure our mixture of coconut oil  & soybean oil, already melted for us.  We got to pour this into a bucket on a scale until we had the right amount.  Then we mixed olive oil with it which cooled the temperature pretty quickly.  Once the lye mixture was cooled down to around 100 degrees, we brought them inside.  To take the temperature of the lye mixture, you should stir it a bit first.  When I stirred, I accidentally rested my arm where my mixing spoon had been sitting on the rim and it had left some lye there so my skin started to itch pretty badly.  I let them know and was immediately shot with Windex! Just like in My Big Fat Greek Wedding! I swear! It did help cool down the burning itch I was feeling.  My skin is so sensitive so it looked pretty red immediately even though it felt better.  This is why you have to be careful when dealing with lye and making soap.  When I went to explain what happened to my boyfriend, I started to explain what lye is and he said, I know about lye...Fight Club.  I quickly remembered as it is one of his favorite movies and books, oh yeah, they made soap LOL  Don't worry about the safety of lye, when you add it to the oils, they neutralize the lye. 
My oil mixture
Once the lye mixture and oil mixture were within 5 degrees of one another, we mixed them together.  We carefully poured the lye mixture into the oils and stirred and stirred and stirred.  It started to thicken a little. As we stirred, they mixed our custom selected scents for us.  We got to smell all their essential oils and fragrance oils and pick what we wanted.  We could have 1 scent alone or mix 2.  I stuck with the essential oils and wanted to mix orange with ylang-ylang but didn't know how they would go together.  They did a mix test with me and added a drop of ylang-ylang first since it is strong and then one drop of orange at a time until we liked it.  Once she hit 4 parts orange to 1 part ylang-ylang we both seemed to really like it and I went "oooooooh" so I knew that was the mix. They brought my essential oils over to me and I asked if I could add oatmeal and she said yes and brought me some. The oatmeal was ground up in a food processor.  We could also add dried rosebuds, camomile, rosemary, peppermint leaves, poppy seeds, apricot kernals, etc for texture, exfoliating or other properties.  I opted for oatmeal since it is so good for your skin, soothing and balancing.
Me pouring my soap mixture
I used a hand blender to mix the oils and lye until it thickened and got to a trace point.  This is when you start to see a pattern left behind as you move the blender and it starts to look thick like cake batter.  Once it got to that point, I added my essential oils and oatmeal and blended away.  When the mixture was ready, I slowly poured it into a sterlite storage container (shoebox size) lined with saran wrap.  After the soap is poured, I carefully wrapped the saran wrap around it so it was enclosed.  I sealed the sterlite container and wrapped it all with my thick beach blanket to keep it warm and shielded from light.  We all actually finished early so we got to hang out and chat and ask questions.  They gave us all samples of their soap, one milk soap and one olive oil soap.
The soap poured into the container
After I headed home,  I carried my soap in, still wrapped in it's beach towel.  It felt really hot, somehow that surprised me.  I found a safe spot for it since I was not supposed to open it for 24 hours.  I let it sit, wrapped for all that time.  I could smell it a bit through the container and towel and I was excited and wanted to see how it turned out but they said if you peak at it, you might ruin your whole batch.
All snuggled up in a beach towel
I waited until the afternoon on Sunday and opened it.  I removed the top layer of saran wrap and decided to plop it out onto the lid of the sterlite container. It was still pretty soft.  I am leaving it to cure some more before I slice it. When I finally slice &/or shape my soaps in a day or two, I will share pics and info.
My brick of soap

To see the next steps, view the following blog posts:

Soapmaking class continued:

My Handmade Soap Gifts:

I am not affiliated with this company. I purchased these products myself for personal use unless otherwise noted.

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  1. Heather - This sounds like a really interesting experience. Thanks for sharing it with us. Neat class, plus the bonus of a soap w/scent & exfoliating properties just the way you like it.

  2. So fun! I've been making soap for about 18 years and it's basically my fave hobby in the world! =) I hope you get to soap outside of the class too - they make for great gifts or just to make your own soap for the entire year. =)

  3. How fun! I always liked chemistry class in high school. :) Happy SITs Day!

  4. This is so cool! I'd love to do something like this!

    Happy SITS Day!

  5. That's very interesting! I have allergies to just about every eyeshadow and eyeliner in existence. The only eyeliner I have been able to use is Almay's gel eye pencil which they have discontinued. So frustrating! I have the ingredient list on my last package of it. Sounds like you have similar problems. Any recommendations? BTW, happy SITS day!

  6. I really need to try this... Awesome!


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