The Ugly Soap

Every year I make this bar of soap for my daughter who has excema and for me with very dry skin.  It is very ugly but it works. It is called the Ugly Soap. She likes lemongrass as her fragrance and I like lavender and lemon. So the house is an aromatherapy haven at the moment.

To make soap all you need is a fat,  I use sweet pasture raised lard, and a liquid (water for yesterday) and lye. The scents and added oils are extras. lye

For the Ugly Soap I add oatmeal, sugar and ground coffee for exfoliation. Plus olive oil and coconut oil for extra moisturising and a little lather and Vitamin E.  I tried to call it the Breakfast Bar bu it was too ugly.  The Ugly Soap it is. soap making

My soap is made in the Slow Cooker for convenience.

soap making

soap making

And I use the stick blender to stir it to Trace.

soap making

Once we achieve trace I pour it into molds lined with plastic bags, held in place with pegs. The molds are little boxes I collect throughout the year and miniature drawers. I buy almost nothing specifically for soap making – just using whatever I find or collect.

Then the sits under the covers keeping hot for 24 hours while the chemical reaction turns the lard into scented soap.  Magic really.
soap making

I cut one of the completed Ugly Soaps  this morning before sunrise so you could see. They will all be cut this morning while they are still a little soft. Do you see the metal apparatus on the table? This was sent to me by my sister-in-law way back when I began making soap – it is the best soap cutter, simple and clean and precise I use it for all the loaves. When  cutting a round soap  I use my big butchers knife. soap

Once cut the soaps sit and cure somewhere cool but dry. Usually the soap needs about four weeks to complete the cure. I store the soaps in labelled shoe boxes.

Today we are going to make another three batches, this time with milk instead of water. I have not used milk before – soap making being a winter job but I have managed to keep milking until soap making this winter. So this will be interesting! The milk adds extra fat so I am not sure how my equation will work out.  They make soap with goats milk and my research tells me there is no reason why cows milk will not work?

soap making

Johns soap is on the right. He likes his plain with a Eucalyptus fragrance.

My most important tip is this site. The Brambleberry Lye and Fragrance Calculator writes each recipe for me. I enter all my precisely weighed fats, set the superfatting level to five and the equation will tell me how much lye and water to add. Then another calculator tells me how much fragrance. So far using this very precise method I have not had a failure.

It is cold this morning. 4F/-15C. There is a little bit of wind too – the WNW which is the prevailing wind here in the winter.

I hope you have a lovely day.






62 Comments on “The Ugly Soap

  1. You are so industrious! I love the thought of making soaps and I used to buy handcrafted soap bars from a local source (they no longer make soap). What happens if the soap “fails”?

  2. So interesting! And the soap looks fabulous! Not ugly at all! I keep wanting to have a go at making soap. We have both the sweet pastured raised lard and goat milk (frozen though, as we dried the girls off before breeding). I’m thinking I should go ahead and do it! 🙂

  3. I had an elderly cousin who made soap when I was a child in Central Kentucky. She lived in a big old dark house with a turret. And I often heard it said, Full moon tonight. Cousin Sally will be making soap. I asked how do you make soap? You need lard & lye & a big pot… I pictured her stirring her big pot by the light of the full moon in her backyard, like the old witch in Hansel & Gretel. My brother mentioned Cousin Sally when he was here visiting during the last full moon. We laughed to think of her & her big old pot & to think that the full moon was outside & of course poor old Cousin Sally was in her kitchen by the stove. You haven’t waited for the full moon, but I’ll bet your soaps will be luxe & divine.

    • And I just recalled a memory of wood ashes as one of the ingredients for Cousin Sally’s soap. That popped up out of the dim mists of memory, which your project has poked in my winter brain.

      • Your Sally must have made her own lye with the wood ash! I only ever knew one older man who did that. I am afraid of that end of the soap-making. Lye is pretty scary!

        • This was a long time ago, back in the late forties of the 20thc. & Cousin Sally was the only other private person I ever knew of besides Celi who made her own personal use soap. And Yes, isn’t lye notorious in poisonings & other horrible murder mysteries, cover-ups, war crimes & general evil doing? I like that it is also useful in cleansing though if the soap make is very careful & the chemistry correct.

        • we tried to make our own lye once – what a failure!! Cousin Sally sounds like a character in a book, I imagine her with her turret above her stirring that pot.. c

  4. Your soap looks great. I spent 3 months studying soap chemistry and it was amazing. Where do you get your lye? If you are making it in a slow cooker, do you keep the heat on from the cooker or do you use ‘cold process’. That’s the method I was taught, though the old fashioned way of ‘hot process’ people sometimes still use and modernly in a crockpot. Just wondered which you use. Did your SIL tell you where she got her cutter? I would love something like that, so simple. I made some in which I used natural herbal coloring – soft yellow using Queen Anne’s Lace (you put the dried flowers in when dissolving the lye and let it infuse a bit) but other colors using natural materials also can be used to make it fancier. Yours looks so wonderful, I like the speckled look as well as how it must feel to use! Thanks for sharing your journey. Happy New Year. Diann Dirks, The Garden Lady of Georgia

  5. Because I wanted to begin making my own soap. Specially, goat milk soap. so he bought me some soap making supplies one year for Christmas. I have yet to attempt to make my own soap. I’m a little intimidated at the thought of using lye.

    • Lye is just as dangerous as spitting hot oil. Gloves and Glasses and stir carefully.. I just ban all food making while I am soap making – the kitchen becomes a laboratory with safety regulations.. c

  6. Here in Bulgaria we have the Big Snow..all commercial vehicles have been forbidden to use the roads as if they get stuck the snow ploughs cannot do their far it is 40 cms deep and more on the way…SO today we are tucked inside in the warm and l am reading about you making soap. you ever stop? I do so admire your ability to keep working whatever the weather….how did Ugly soap get its name..surely its not really ugly?

  7. Loved reading about your making soap! It’s so interesting. And I like how you can vary it – such as John getting his own type of soap, minus all the exfoliating stuff. GOD – it’s C.O.L.D. there… but not as cold as the woman writing from Bulgaria… YIKES!!

  8. Your soap looks great! I never thought about using a crock pot! Great idea. We got a little bit of snow in Albuquerque! But we will be in the upper 50s by tomorrow!!

    • Upper 50’s sounds terribly nice right at the moment.. I hope we do not go up and down too much more or the fruit trees will start to bud – that would be bad.. c

  9. That is amazing. I have never made soap but I do love handmade ones I sometimes buy at the local market,

  10. Excellent – if I had the space I’d do this myself. I used to buy a really nice oatmeal soup from Boots, which after many years they stopped making. Apparently they got lots of complaints and started to make the soap again, but they changed the formula and people didn’t like it…

  11. Good luck today with the new batches. I use my goat milk in place of water with no extra calculations, but your cow milk will have much more butter fat than mine. I hope it works out well! And your soap is definitely not ugly!

    • I mixed the cows milk with water 60/40 to account for the extra fat. But made no other adjustments. Goats milk would be great to have for soap – but you know how I feel about the goats. c

  12. I sure wish your Ugly Soap was available for purchase – it sounds like just what my aged, dry, winter-chores-worn skin could use. Right now I dread getting into the shower, because no matter what “mild” commercial soap I use, my skin will be so prickly and miserable for hours afterward.

  13. I took a soap class at the Estes Park Fiber Festival in Colorado one summer. We made cold processed soap. The instructor was very strict about how the lye was to be handled. We went outside to mix the dry lye crystals with the water as there is a gas that is formed. But outside, the gas disperses quickly. And no metal stirrers, only plastic or wood if I remember correctly. I have kept an old crock pot which will be used for soap. I have big plans once I retire. I wish I could get some good lard, but will probably use coconut or grape seed oil. Your soap looks lovely. I will bookmark the magic calculator site!

    • Yes, we open the doors to the freezing cold when adding the lye to water.. just a little coconut oil as it can be very drying to the skin. I look forward to you making your soap ! We can do swaps! c

  14. In Spain where we are they make soap using used cooking oil (which is olive oil). Not sure why it’s not fresh oil, but it never is. I really need to give this a go!

    • Yes – one of my woofers was telling me- he would not touch it because of it being old used oil. I am sure it is just an economy thing. Oils are very expensive.. c

      • It doesn’t smell nasty and folk swear by it for treating their skin. I guess you’re right about it being an economy thing…recycling!

  15. I make my own soap too, and then turn some into laundry liquid and some into dishwashing. I only use a scented oil for those I’m giving away as gifts……usually with a couple of my hand-knitted face or dishcloths. It’s a very satisfying feeling.

  16. [D] Very interesting – and informative! The soap-making you describe seems much more domestic and achievable and down-to-earth than the fancified form from so-called handicrafts suppliers. J says he could do with a ‘crofters cake’ soap, for when he comes home with his hands covered with grease (or worse) from the sheep, face splatted with peat, and encrusted with rock-dust from drilling holes in rock for fence posts.

    • Yes, that would be a great big no-nonsense bar of soap. I do not fancy drilling holes into the rock for fence posts – that sounds like extremely hard work. c

  17. Lavender and lemongrass and eucalyptus…. It sounds wonderful. I’ve wondered sometimes about making soap for the Husband, who comes home with oil, grease and diesel ingrained in his hands, and coal dust over everything else. Orange oil and ground walnut shells for cleansing, and some nice lard for moisturising…

  18. I buy all my soap from a local goat farmer. It’s wonderful. She makes a really nice shampoo bar too and also a ‘working hands’ bar. It really does wonderful things for your skin.
    We’re in the midst of another cold snap here, never got out of the single digits F the last three days with wind chills in the minus teens and twenties but they’re saying 38* F by Tuesday – and snow, sigh. I wish it would make up its mind, this up down weather is more difficult to deal with than consistent cold and/or snow.

  19. Once you make the change from commercial, supermarket soaps to artisan – homemade it’s impossible to go back I think. We bought lovely goats milk soap from a local lemon myrtle farm until a recent disagreement. I have a years worth on hand while I get my head around making my own.

  20. I used the last of my home made soap before Christmas and have been using bought bars for the last week, which is just so different, especially as I don’t use any fragrance. Reading this will spur me into making more. How do you make your laundry soap?

      • I think I might give soap-making a try, but I hate having extra clutter. But I could get a small slow cooker that is specially designated for soap. I’m going to give this some thought, and then I’m going to ask you LOTS of questions!

  21. Next time we gat together, you must sit beside JT, he is fourth generation soap maker! His father’s company was sold about 15 years ago due to economic conditions, sadly. Our wedding favour was a little heart shaped soap that we made with the wedding party. Their die-maker made us an insert with our names and wedding date! He later coated the dies in brass and gave them to us as a wedding gift. We often joke that JT has soap running through his veins instead of blood!

  22. Love your soap. I have just last week purchased a little book of soap recipes. The lye is a little scary and I have just found out that I have to sign a register to buy it in NZ! In case I use it for nefarious purposes. This only makes me more nervous about using it!

  23. Great post! I just made my first soap with charcoal and French clay and it was a success 🙂 after researching and preparing for months:) eczema soap is next! Thank you! How often does your daughter use the soap and does it help?

    • wow – charcoal and clay that is amazing. My daughter uses this soap every time she showers and she swears that is helps keep her outbreaks to a minimum. She has a nasty type of excema that comes out in big round raised areas.. poor thing. But the ugly soap seems to help. And living OUTSIDE of New Zealand also helps. The water where she lives in Australia must help too.. c

  24. I am so happy that it helps:) eczema is a beast 🙂 thank goodness we can make soaps without chemicals. I am preparing for my next batch. I also love the name and smile each time I think of ugly soap:)

  25. I make Oatmeal beeswax soap, in the cold process method. I see you use a crock pot, and a hand blender. I do mine the old fashioned was after melting the beeswax, coconut oil and cocoa butter on the stove. Then I add my cold olive oil and stir well. I make sure the lye/water is a nice 110 degrees before I add it to the fat which is about the same temp by then. I add GSE for a preservative, but it’s quite expensive at the health food store.

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