Fun with chemistry in the soap lab

cold process soap in the gel phase

Cold process soap goes through an interesting chemical reaction an hour or even longer after you pour it up into the mold.  If you keep the soap from cooling off quickly by keeping it wrapped in a blanket or otherwise insulated, it will heat back up and almost liquefy into this gel. It starts in the center of the mold and moves outward in a circle until the whole mold is full of gel phase soap. Then it hardens back up in a reverse pattern, outside in. It’s weird.

A guy who stopped by my booth told me he made soap with honey that heated up way more than typical gel phase. I haven’t made much soap with honey, only a few batches. I am going to look into the chemistry of that soon.

jewelweed soap and what it led to

This is the flower of the jewelweed that grows in our front yard. Some varieties are more yellow, less orange.  Jewelweed is useful as a poison ivy remedy and I like to make soap with the pulp in it in summer.

patch of jewelweed (and others)

When I was out harvesting jewelweed, I came across an unpicked hidden surprise wineberry vine

jewelweed stems look sort of powdery blue

So when using jewelweed for poison ivy, what you want is the pulp inside the stems.  I like to look for big jewelweed plants with big nodes, because the nodes have a big chunk of the pulp in them.

Later in the summer they get even bigger and we will harvest them and freeze the pulp for next spring.

this bowl of wineberries is what I harvested from inside the jewelweed patch, minus the ones I ate while picking

After I harvested the berries and jewelweed I decided to take a few pictures of stuff that’s going on outside at our place before heading inside to get to work (Actually I had already started the batch of soap cooking in the slowcooker)

first praying mantis
upside down tomatoes
volunteer egg gourd

So, now back to work.  We split open the stalks and scrape out the pulp.

split open node and stalk section
nodes have a lot of pulp
I use an old grapefruit spoon to get the pulp out
jewelweed pulp in a jar
the soap overflowed!

This is the first time I’ve used the slow cooker to cook soap.  I guess I need to cut my recipe down so it doesn’t overflow like this next time.  I cook the soap that I make into jewelweed and other herbal soaps to protect the properties of the herb from the chemical reaction of the lye.  I will add the pulverized jewelweed pulp to the soap at the end of the cook and incorporate it with a stick blender.

cabbage water ph indicator

purple cabbage water is a ph indicator.  I decided to make some as a little experiment.

cabbage water turned green by soap on spoon

I don’t think the cabbage water ever shows a neutral color for soap.  Just a little aside experiment.

the jewelweed pulp being pulverized with the stick blender
adding the pulp to the soap
adding essential and superfatting oils

I add essential oils to scent the soap with a calming scent, and a little shea oil to soften up the soap that has been cooking for so long.

stick blendering it together
into a cardboard box mold
in it's mold waiting to be sold