Tyler Durden Organics

In new grassroots life product on 08/10/2010 at 1:05 pm

Remember when Fight Club was everyone’s favorite movie? That’s when I learned how to make soap, in theory. But its multiple steps and use of toxic corrosives is more in line with the other half’s attention span. So when we were running out of shampoo, I said, Let’s make a soap-shampoo bar! which of course meant, When are you going to make me the next product in the jeju food-based luxurious lifestyle line?

I couldn’t wait for another 28 days that’s required to cure the soap-shampoo to post this article. So after a week of vigorously compiling ingredients and engineering, the major manufacturing processes are complete. Now the discs are resting comfortably on a top shelf untrodden (hopefully) by Skimbleshanks and Jennyanydots. Let’s go back to the beginning.

I don’t like smelly shampoos. The cheap ones stink. The Whole Foods 365 brand unscented shampoo used to be a nice thick gel. But now it’s pricier and my hair doesn’t get clean. It feels dry, like thin twigs. The other half likes to use soap. If you use any soap as shampoo, it usually doesn’t lather up nice and foamy. We learned from some research that soap is much like lotion in that it’s also just a chemical reaction between fat and a liquid.

If you want to feel like a mad scientist, then soap-making is for you. It involves a dangerous corrosive substance: lye. But once it’s properly neutralized, you can eat it. Our resident Excel expert squealed with glee while working on the magic formula. All I know is you can pretty much use any type of oil, but they have saponification numbers, and you mix n’ match. We wanted a hard bar that would last longer but would still lather up real nice without much conditioning (call me crazy, I like tangled hair). Our secret ingredient is poppy seeds, for that bonus exfoliation.

All these oils were found at local supermarkets. The palm oil was the hardest to dig up, even the guy at the organic food store didn’t know they carried it. It’s cheaper online, but we didn’t want to wait, or pay for shipping. In total, we spent about $50 to create 10 four ounce bars, and didn’t use up all we bought. A gross calculation of the cost is probably about $2 per bar of soap, not counting labor and time spent. Below is the very scientific chart o’ grease ratios:

The other half has a predilection for circular discs of soap. After some figuring, it was decided a PVC pipe would work best. The ACE Hardware clerk looked amused. They only sold it in five and ten foot increments. The other half had to cut the pipes down further to make them manageable a foot plus sections. The store charges $1.50 per cut! Good thing we have a circular saw.

The hardware store also sells caps for the PVC for $4.49. They only had one left, so the other half improvised and made duct tape caps. We ended up only using one pipe.

The soap-making officially begins! Weighing the fats was quite the highlight.

After the powdered lye is added to water, it automatically heats up. We didn’t have any ice to cool it down, but we did have some disgustingly savory prickly pear Ciao Bella ice cream. We figured this would be a better use for it. It worked like a charm.

The magic happens when you add the liquid lye to the melted fats. You may now think, Hey, I’m really making soap! The lye thickens up as you stir it and goes from clear to opaque. Since we used red palm oil, we ended up with a very buttery orange color.

After adding the poppy seeds, the mixture looked like passion fruit sorbet, but not made by Ciao Bella because it would then certainly not taste good. It might taste like soap.

Line the molds with either parchment paper or smear with petroleum jelly prior to pouring the warm soap goo.

After the overnight cozy rest on top of the burner on our rickety old stove, the big reveal  commenced. The other half suggested touching a sliver of soap to your tongue. If it got zapped, then the lye didn’t completely neutralize. I deferred that option.

Loosen the edges where the parchment didn’t quite reach. Then a couple of good thuds and the soap will slide out like good canned cranberry jelly on Thanksgiving. Blooorp!

The soap is very easy to cut with a cheese slicer. Highly recommended technique. To make shampoo out of the soap, you can slice off flakes and add to water in a bottle. Shake it up and use. If it weren’t for the other half, I’d be lazy and just take the bar and scrub it on my head. Next time, I suggested we stick a rope in it so we could hang it in the shower to extend its life. Insert soap-on-a-rope joke here.

You can see the difference in coloring. The piece in the upper right was the end of the soap pipe, exposed to air for 24 hours. The other ones are still darker in the center.

I didn’t want to add any minty scents to this batch so I could smell the original and see what flavor would go best with it next time. When the soap was still in its liquid form, it smelled strongly of processed grain, like a protein bar. In its solid form, the smell calmed to a more mild and mellow aroma.

We are now taking orders for our jeju Groovy Passion Fruit Soa-poo!


see Table of Fats above
candy thermometer

1. Melt solids on low heat in clean pot, not made of aluminum (it reacts with lye).

2. Add lye to water [never the other way around! this will get very hot, and don’t get it on your skin/clothes/anything. Rinse with vinegar any spills, then clean very carefully with lots of running water.] Use thermometer to gauge proper temperature.

3. Let cool. While cooling add liquid oils to the melted fats. Bring temp up on fats and down on lye water to around ~105 degrees F, cooling lye water in cold water bath if needed.

4. Add lye water to fats while stirring until mixture thickens, ~5 minutes. Pour other add-ins now (i.e. scented oils, oats, tea, seeds)

5. Pour into soap molds. Wrap with towel and keep in warm place for 24hrs.

6. Unmold and cut into desired shapes.

7. Cure for 30 days total.

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