16 January 2009

Woohoo! Back in the kitchen!

My man showed up yesterday. No, not my husband, though I was glad to hear him come through the door. Nope, my other man - the one who drives the big brown truck with the yellow seal on the side bearing the letters "U-P-S." Now you know what I'm talking about, because when that truck shows up, goodies follow.

My goodies were 4 pounds of potash (potassium hydroxide) and phenolphthalein solution. Potash is a caustic that is used to make liquid soap. It forms long crystals, unlike sodium hydroxide which produces shorter ones. Of course, I just couldn't wait. Hey, once my base oils were inventoried and audited, they became fair game! I pulled out my soapmaking book and read the instructions yet again. I consulted with others who've made liquid soap. I created my formula in SoapMaker and stared at it, tweaked it a bit and made sure my finished product would be as lovely as I want it to be. Then I got started.

Making liquid soap is a hot process method, which is good and bad. Good, because once it's done, it's done and can be used almost immediately. Bad, because it takes a looooooong time to make. I spent 45 minutes waiting for my oils to melt in the crockpot (following the directions here, and it saves some dishes). I didn't think it'd EVER come to trace, so that was a bit of a wait (or maybe I was just being impatient, or my arm was getting tired). Now I'm about 2/3 of the way through the 3-hour cooking process. At some point in all this, too, there was an email to my mom, the retired chemist, who couldn't remember exactly what shade of pink phenolphthalein turns on a pH of 10 +/- 0.5. It was a long shot, but I thought I'd try. I'm sure I'll have the answer in a little over an hour.

So, now I'm waiting and am using my 30-minute intervals to get caught up on some stuff. So far I've gotten dishes done and bills paid, plus I encountered this delightfully friendly customer service rep at Stamps.com when I called about my account. I've talked with my hubby and thumbed through the mail. I may even be able to squeeze in time to write a letter to one of our nephews (from the cool aunt who helped teach him how to shoot pool). Not bad for a frigidly cold Friday.

I don't know when the soap will be available for purchase. There's some debate on whether or not it needs a preservative. This fan of things all natural is hoping not, but my gut's telling me it will, just because of the extra water that gets added to the paste. To preserve or not to preserve, that is the question. If only Hamlet had put that blasted skull down and answered a question that'd actually HELP me in this! Not wanting to give up my all-natural product if I can help it, but also wanting to err on the side of caution if it does need a preservative, I'm going to do what any responsible soapmaker would do and have both formulas tested. Then once I get those results, I'll be able to proceed from there.

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