There’s a special place in hell reserved for travelers who do not turn off their 4:45 a.m. alarm when vacating a room but instead, leave it for the next unwitting weary guests to be woken up to. Twice. My Mom is in Rohnert Park with me at the American Dairy Goats Association Annual Convention (courtesy of some last minute great Alaska Airline fares and my book club’s clever suggestion that she join me). We were startled out of a deep slumber this morning with the blaring, fog-horn alarm of the previous occupant of our room. Sadly, we only silenced it by hitting “snooze” and had to go through the whole thing again 5 minutes later.
Despite our abrupt entry into the day, we were excited to work on Goatsmilk Soap Judging with Marie Gale, the President of the Handcrafted Soap Maker’s Guild. My Mom was a trooper and sat in a small hotel room all day with us (rather than enjoy the California sunshine). She was a great set of extra hands to help with the intense soap judging process.
The Goatsmilk Soaps were judged on a variety of criteria – presentation, smell, creativity, use of color, lather (size of bubbles, stability of bubbles, color of lather), uniform hardness and texture, rinse-off ability, feel of hands after soaping up and finally, the water absorption test. Oh, and the lye test… like last year, we licked every single bar of soap to see if there was any free flowing lye left. There were none with excess sodium hydroxide (for which our tongues were thankful).
Evaluating 80 plus bars is no small job. We worked a full 8 hours today and still have another 8 hours to go tomorrow.
Though less than 5% of the score, the water absorption test was by far the most labor intensive. Here I am, screwing in a small eye hook into a bar of soap. First, we cut a slice of soap off every bar of soap entered into the competition. This cut soap had to weigh between 30 and 35 grams. We weighed the soap, screwed an eye hook into the soap, threaded the eye hook into a piece of wire or skewer and then dunked the soap in water for 2 hours. Then, we re-weighed those same bars of soap to see how much water they took on. Here are half of the soaps, all lined up and waiting for the baptism of tepid tap water.
Hard soap lasts in your shower longer. The consumer generally likes a good value for their money and would prefer if the soap lasted longer than 2 days in their shower. By dunking the bar in water, we can determine how much water the bar takes on and therefore, how soft or how hard the bar is. And in theory, this corresponds directly to how long the soap will last in the shower.
As you can see from these two photos, these soaps are taking on a lot of water. And by a lot, I mean, “literally dissolving in the water.”
Some soap had LESS soap on the eye hook than before we started because the soap absorbed water and sloughed off. This is one such bar; it weighed less than when we started and is about half “goo” (yes, “goo” is a technical term). In theory, this soap would not last long under normal shower conditions.
The fascinating part about this test is that our subjective ideas about lathering (size of bubbles, stability of lather) seems to correspond well to the water absorption test. Too high of a soap superfat leads to softer soap and too high of a superfat also leads to smaller bubbles and creamier lather.
We won’t know the winner until the big ceremony on Thursday night but I feel very confident in saying that there were some *amazing* entries with wonderful texture, smell and lather. Poor Marie Gale’s hands (at left) took quite a beating with all of the washing, washing and more washing. Thankfully, her hard-working hands will get a bit of a soaping respite. Tomorrow, we’re going to evaluate lotions, liquid soaps, tally up the results of the water absorption test and start another (smaller) round of evaluations for the commercial soap brands that entered the “Best in Show – Goatsmilk Soap” competition.