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I have various different ways of trying to make an income here, non of which have been particularly successful but I keep trying new ideas and live in hope. My latest is soap making.
On a previous trip back to London, while browsing through the second hand shop, I came across a book called Gourmet Soaps Made Easy by Melinda Coss. I knew I could get the glycerine base here needed for the simpler melt and pour method, and the books well written, clear instructions inspired me to give it a try, adapting the recipes to make use of the ingredients available to me.

Happy with this lot

Happy with this lot

Since then I have found numerous sites on the internet offering more recipes and have a collection of lovely smelly soap as a result. The melt and pour method is simple and great fun, your imagination and creativity can run and run.
In order to melt the glycerine base, you need a double boiler, a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of water will do, or you can melt it in a microwave, just do it slowly and make sure the melting soap doesn’t get too hot, when completely melted leave to cool slightly before adding fragrances and other ingredients, then pour into a mould to set, that’s basically all there is to it, but before you start make sure that what ever you are using to melt the glycerine in really is heat proof; I didn’t, with a rather messy result.
I used an old glass jug to melt the soap base in, thinking it would be easier to pour it into the mould after. I thought it was strange that while the soap base was melting, the water in the pan had gone a little cloudy, but assumed it was soap that had been on the outside of the jug. I picked the jug up by the handle and as I lifted it clear of the water in the pan, the bottom dropped off it, 1½ kg of melted soap went everywhere. The base of the jug fell back into the pan and with it a fair amount of the liquid soap, but the rest went all over the cooker and all over the floor. At least they’d be clean.
I trooped off to get the mop for the floor, leaving the cooker to soak in its soap mask, that’s when I made my second mistake. The soap was setting on the floor and a sensible person would have taken it off the tiles with a knife, not me, I wet the mop and set to producing a lovely lather, that’s when I made my third mistake, thinking that as the floor needed a wash anyway and as I had all this soap I might as well use it, I added more water and spread it about, result the floor became a soapy ice rink. It took me about an hour, skating about in the foam with frequent changes of water in the bucket, to finally get the floor free of soap, by golly it was clean. Then I had to start on the cooker, as the soap had set I was able to peel large pieces off, taking the underlying grease with it, a little water (yes I’d learnt my lesson) and a sponge took off the rest leaving a positively gleaming cooker. I left the rest of the soap/water mix in the saucepan while I got on with dinner (a bit later than usual) and by the next day it had set into a soft soap. When the jug had broken the base came off in one piece but I re melted what was left of the soap and then strained it through a very fine sieve just to be sure there were no tiny slivers of glass, I then used the glycerine/water mix to make a soft soap for washing the dogs, adding citronella, T-tree and peppermint oils to keep ticks and fleas at bay, it smelt fantastic and now so do the dogs, for a change.

Some of my soaps

©Claire Pattison Valente 2009