A few days ago, I told you about my first foray into soap making. It seemed simple enough – I could make my own soap, leave out all the chemical ingredients, and boom, I’d be Tom’s of Maine. I whipped up a bar of coconut oil soap with a bit of lemon juice. It lasted all of one day in the shower and then melted. For that 24 hour period though, damn, my skin was supple.
Okay, time for some research. I scoured the internet, and no matter how natural the soap, they all had sodium hydroxide, even the ridiculously popular Dr. Bronner’s. All of the homemade soap gurus were including this ingredient as well. I needed to learn more.
As it turns out, there is a process in place to bond ingredients together, tried and tested over many moons. Despite my intense desire to not include any ingredients that include the suffix “oxide”, I cracked.
Sodium hydroxide goes by an even scarier name, lye. Yes, the same shit that you put in your drain that burns through whatever is clogging it. It isn’t something to treat lightly. When I made my batch of soap today, not meth, I was looking like I should be in a trailer in a desert. Rubber gloves, goggles, the whole nine.
Lye is an incredibly caustic, basic (on the pH scale) substance used to clean ovens and drains, cure foods, make meth, and, in our case, solidify soap. It turns out that soap actually requires lye (sodium hydroxide mixed with liquid). Any skin washing product or shampoo made without sodium hydroxide is a detergent, not a soap.
That said, once the soap is complete, no lye remains. Through a process called saponification, the lye and oil molecules have combined and chemically changed into soap and glycerin.
So, although the batch of soap I made today indeed included sodium hydroxide in the process, I’m still rationalizing it away and saying the bar of soap in currently in my shower is as natural as any on the market.
At some point I may keep a jar of coconut oil and bowl of lemons in my bathroom and use the combo of the two to wash, but I’m taking this baby step first.
Hey, I didn’t tell you couldn’t have bread on day one, did I?