Making soap

Mother’s day was coming, and I decided to make my mother a gift using slave labor my kids as helpers. I thought it would be a great activity for the kids, I also like to make my gifts, and the combination of kids and home-made-edness should result in a more meaningful gift for my mom/their Nana.

We are all set! Any parent with more than one child can attest to the need for each child to have their own set of tools.

I opted for ultra-simple glycerin soap, and the kids would mix up their own colors with food coloring. Just put a few drops into the bottom of an ice-cube tray to start.

Glycerin soap is super-easy to use; just cut off the amount you’d like, and microwave it in a safe container (I used an old sour cream container) in 15-second intervals until melted, and it is ready to pour into any form you’d like. Ideally use a disposable container, not that you are going to throw it out. If there is leftover, just keep the container. If you’re lucky it will just pop it out, but if it won’t come out, you have used a container you were going to throw out or recycle anyways and there will be no regrets. Just keep it for next time.

We used toothpicks to stir.

My son was a little more creative when it came to mixing his colors. My daughter did the one-color-per-cube thing.

Just pour…

…and mix!

The other awesome part of this activity was that the kids were so excited to see the end product, they pretty much sat still and waited for the soap to cool and harden. Sitting still is a rare treat for any parent.

I lucked out when I went looking for forms for the soap. I went to the dollar store, originally thinking I would use disposable plastic cups as the molds for the soap, but then found these really cheap ice-cube trays that had silicon bottoms on the bottom of each cube. Once hardened, the deformable silicon bottom could be pushed and the soap would be forced out fairly easily. $1.25 each.

He’s pretty proud that he made orange (his favorite color).

Out they shoot.

Pop pop pop. My son had the blue, circular ice cube tray, my daughter had the red, rectangular one.

All the soaps fit just perfectly.

Adding a pretty bow with ladybugs on it for Nana.

Above is the kids’ gift to their mom for mother’s day. We made soaps using the a similar technique (in the box) but we tried to make fancier/pretty-smelling ones, with bodyscrub (in the jars) and a hair band with flowers on it.

A close-up of her soaps. Despite our best efforts, they didn’t really work out that well. Only the cinnamon-clove soap turned out, and it turned out well.

Making meth… or soap… or another internet… whatever

All the legislation and effort that governments around the world are putting into censoring or tracking everyone and everything “undesirable” on the internet are just so… futile. As though it is possible to suppress an idea or hide knowledge. Thing is, this sort of censorship always has been going on. As soon as one person does something bad with a service or product there are all these knee-jerk, reactionary laws put into place that make what was legal the day before illegal, as if creating a new law will magically make undesirable behavior stop. New laws don’t solve problems, they just create more criminals, and send undesirable behavior further underground.

My grandfather once told me that when he was a young man, it was possible to buy TNT in the hardware store. Today, no one could imagine being able to buy TNT so easily, but in reality, if you really wanted to, making TNT isn’t that hard, it’d just take you five minutes on the internet, a friend with a background in chemistry, or a copy of Fight Club to figure out how.

My point is although legislators who made it difficult to purchase TNT went home feeling like they accomplished something, they really didn’t. It’s still ridiculously easy to manufacture TNT on your own, yet we don’t see widespread use and criminal activity with it. Most of the time people are reasonable with their freedoms, and the occasional nutjob will slip through the cracks, but marginalizing everyone because of the actions of one will get you nowhere other than giving yourself a false sense of accomplishment and security. And a disenfranchised public. Your time/money/effort would be better spent helping the “nutjobs” to be healthy, productive members of society instead of marginalizing them.

As much as all the internet censorship makes my blood boil, I know that even if the worst scenario came to pass, people would rise to the challenge, and create a new internet. A decentralized wireless darknet with no central tracking and no way to eliminate or cut off information will rise up, and hopefully on its own and soon. I’ve heard stories that darknets have sprouted up en masse in Syria due to government crackdowns.

Personally, I’ve ran into this sort of reactionary law recently. I want to make soap. I found a really simple recipe to try it out. Basically fat and lye and water. In this case I am going to use coconut oil for the fat. In a well-ventilated area, while wearing gloves, goggles, and long sleeves, mix the lye in water, and it heats up really hot (the solution is very dangerous, and vents off lots of bad-for-you gases). Wait for the solution to cool to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. While the lye solution is cooling heat the fat to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and once both liquids are at the same temperature, mix them together, and blend until a haze forms in the new mixture with an old, no-longer-used-for-food, blender. Then pour into a mold and leave it alone for a month for the saponification process to complete. Presto, you have soap.

So I’ve started collecting the materials to make soap. Hard part was finding lye. Turns out, there have been significant efforts made recently to eliminate all lye sales, to to replace raw lye products with some sort of chemically-similar-but-not-lye products. The reason being that lye is necessary in one of the simplest processes to make meth. Notice I said “one of the simplest processes”. There are still other methods to make meth without lye. So while legislators feel as though controlling and outright banning sales of lye is helping the problem, they, once again, are just disenfranchising the public.

My other point: I had no interest in learning how to make meth before, but thanks to the roadblocks put in place to my finding lye, in my research I stumbled across multiple recipes for it (many of which are on Youtube). By making something illegal they only served to disseminate the information quicker; where I had no interest in the knowledge previously, secondary curiosity has brought it into my focus now. While trying to collect the materials to make soap I couldn’t find lye, and out of frustration I naively asked Google ‘Why is it so hard to find lye?”.

Problem is, for a soap-maker, you need lye, no substitutes. And there are still 100’s of valid uses for pure lye out there.

The solution for my lye needs? Easiest would have been to order it through the internet. You can still get anything through the internet, and everything is tracked electronically so some government agency can track you and put you into a database and do analysis of your behavior. That wasn’t good enough for me, it would take too long and shipping can be expensive. My solution to finding lye was to drive out of town. Ten minutes, to be exact. Most of those 100’s of valid uses for lye reside on farms, so just go to a hardware store in a farming community. During the momentary banter with the clerk as my debit transaction was being processed I was complaining how hard it was to find lye, he said to me “now don’t go making meth with this stuff”.

I won’t, but thanks for the tip anyways.