As a natural product junkie, I’m curious about what goes into my beauty, bath and skincare purchases, all the way from ingredient sourcing/origins to process and packaging.
So, naturally, (had to, sorry) I jumped at the chance to attend a soap making class led by the Owner and “Chief Sudsologist” behind a local, natural soapmaking company that I know, use and love: Old Town Suds. I’m excited to share my soap making experience here on Unsullied, and Old Town Suds was generous enough to offer a freakin’ fabulous giveaway of their products, plus a discount code to use on their classes, beautiful soaps, and other beauty and skincare essentials. Read on for all of the sudsy goodness!
Steffanie, the founder of Old Town Suds, began making her own handmade, natural soaps, bath, beauty and household products in 2011 after a major health concern that resulted in brain surgery. Steffanie is now celebrating three years post-surgery and her natural products are a bigger part of her life – and the lives of her Old Town Suds customers – than ever! Her story is nothing short of inspiring…and I love that Steffanie turned a scary situation into something so positive by launching a business and sharing her natural creations with the public. Her tagline for Old Town Suds is “…made with products you can eat and drink,” and from her gentle lemongrass laundry detergent to her shampoo bars, I can say I’m a HUGE fan of her goods. Seriously, I first approached Steffanie about this post last fall, before we even had a blog. (Putting the cart before the horse, much?)
When I saw that Steffanie was offering soap making classes ($50 for a one hour class), I thought, yep, this is the type of gal I want as an instructor! So, t’was a sunny Saturday that I drove out to the Old Town Suds soap making kitchen (a whole floor in Steffanie’s house) in Virginia. And it was glorious. And yielded me a full pound of custom, sweet, woodsy smelling soap. It’s the current Unsullied soap of record, y’all!
So, how do you even make soap? Most people who have seen Fight Club know that it involves lye (and human fat cells…just kidding. That’s movie fiction!…right?). The basic gist is lye (sodium hydroxide) + water, mixed with oils/solid fats (think almond, olive, etc. oils + shea butter or cocoa butter, etc.) = saponification = SOAP!
We started off the class by peeping at Steffanie’s soap curing racks for a bit of inspiration. (Cue the “oooohs” and “aaaahs!”) This is a soap enthusiast’s dream. Steffanie had all types of artisan soaps in a rainbow of colors and beautiful textures and swirls – beer based, charcoal face cleansers, shampoo bars, and even a “tingly” bar made with sriracha!…don’t mind if i do. You can check out her assortment on the Old Town Suds online shop.
After drooling over Steffanie’s creations, we set off to make our own. We began by browsing Steffanie’s seriously colossal collection of scented oils to give our soaps that special somethin’. I opted for a mix of essential oils, and with Steffanie’s guidance and suggestions, settled on a blend of grapefruit, rosemary and tea tree oils. This yielded a woodsy, subtly sweet scent that I LOVE. Bonus: of the many benefits of tea tree oil, it has skin-clearing properties.
Next up: we had the option to select a clay to add some color to our soaps. Yes, please! Steffanie had a great selection, from shades of greens, purples, pinks, neutrals and more. I couldn’t say no to her rose clay: since I was scenting my soap with grapefruit essential oil, is only seemed suiting. Plus, it’s pretty!
After that, we strapped on mad scientist goggles and the real science of soap making began.
Steffanie mixed lye and water, which causes an exothermic reaction…that stuff gets HOT. We had fun pointing a temperature gun at the mixture, watching the temp spike and then fall back down. She then mixed together a selection of nourishing oils and butters. Once the lye mixture had cooled closer to the temperature of the oils, she mixed them together to start the saponification process. She divided up the mixture among her students: at this time, I mixed in my essential oils and rose clay to create my own custom batch. After some mixing via a stick blender, the mixture began to thicken enough (reaching the “trace” state) that it could hold peaks, swirls and swoops, which I made with a spoon. Finally, it was time to seal up our soaps in take home containers. Parting is such sweet sorrow…
What follows is the hardest part about soap making: WAITING FOUR WEEKS to lather up with ‘em! Soap has to cure after it’s been mixed and cooled in order for the water to evaporate. This creates a harder bar of soap that lasts longer and offers sufficient suds. After getting my one pound tub of soap home, I sliced it into bars after about 24 hours, and now have them laid out to cure for the next four weeks. I’m literally watching over the bars like a mother hen (but not sitting on them) - and I’m so pleased with my pink, swirly bars that resulted from Steffanie’s class! As soon as I hit the four week mark, those babies are going in my shower. And I will REJOICE.
Despite the waiting game, Steffanie gave us a bit of instant gratification at the end of class: all of her students were invited to pick out one of her lovely soaps to take home. Hallelujah. I went with her favorite, the Dry Skin Buster.
AND…I also have some instant gratification for Unsullied readers! Old Town Suds put together a custom spa giveaway package worth $49 (wooooo!), that one of you will win. It’s open to everyone, U.S. and international readers. Here’s what’s inside:
- Best Face Soap Ever
- Nail Strengthener
- Detox Bath Champagne – a brand new release from Old Town Suds!
- Bar soap of your choice!
To enter and experience this fabulous local brand, follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below:
Use code getunsullied to receive 15% off Old Town Suds orders over $25.
The code expires on April 15, 2014.
As Steffanie would say…stay sudsy!