Learn the Art And Science Of Smutzies Soap
The art and science of soap-making in Bucks County PA
Making soap is both an art and a science. It’s the combination of the two that makes the whole thing so fascinating. What the heck are we talking about, you may ask? Stay with us because everything you thought you knew about cleaning your body is about to get way more interesting.
The science of soap
Technically, true soap is the result of a reaction between fatty acids and an alkali. Fatty acids are found in animal and vegetable fats and oils, and an alkali (for soap purposes) is lye. So basically, when animal or vegetable fats or oils are mixed with lye, the result is soap. Got it? Stay with us. The oils and fats need to be melted so they are liquid, and the lye needs to be dissolved in water so it can be mixed in. While the mixing is occurring, the lye combines with the fatty acids making soap, and the water combines with glycerin (found in the oils and fats). So, a bar of true soap contains soap, water, and glycerin.
During this process several interesting things happen. First, the reaction that takes place causes heat, so the soap pot will tend to get warm on its own. Second, the mixture goes from being completely liquid to getting thicker and thicker. While it’s still pourable it goes into molds and when it comes out of the mold it’s solid. Third, when the soap comes out of the molds it’s still a little soft because it contains extra water. Over the next 2-8 weeks the soap is cured allowing the extra water to evaporate. This leaves a nice, hard bar of soap. It’s like magic every time but really, it’s just science!
The art of soap
The true art of soap is how to create a bar that is tantalizing and pleasing to the senses and to do it within the constraints of the science and chemistry of the process. Colors, both natural pigments and synthetic dyes can be used to change the color of the soap (Shmutzies doesn’t use synthetic dyes). Some other additives like herbs and spices can also affect the color of the soap. Beautiful effects can be created with layering, swirls, embeds and some other pretty cool stuff we do here at Shmutzies! We can’t give all our secrets away!
Scent is a major factor in creating a pleasing soap. Almost everyone who buys a bar of soap first picks it up to see how it smells! Scents generally come from essential oils, fragrance oils or a combination of the two.
Lastly, the shape of the soap makes a difference. It can be rectangular (cut from a loaf or sheet mold), individually molded (poured into individual shaped molds to harden), pressed (squashing a bar into a particular shape) and extruded (chopped up and then pressed through a shaped opening and cut).