I’ve been soaping for a blissful fourteen years now. I love it. I crave it. There is very little that makes me happier than seeing a perfect trace in my soap or the smooth texture of a freshly cut batch of soap (big sigh). If I could only make soap all day and never have to actually work for money (you know, answer emails, rally staff, figure out new products, and all the assorted minutiae that comes with running a business), I would be exceedingly happy.
Still, there is a minor downside to soapmaking – safety considerations. To make soap from oil requires a bit of complex chemistry. The short story is that you need lye or sodium hydroxide. Lye is mostly commonly found in things like Draino to clean drains. It is also used to react with fats (like olive oil or coconut oil) to make soap. It is highly, highly caustic and will actually burn you So, when I make soap, I wear long sleeves and long pants and goggles (and look, there’s the photo off to the left to prove it). I usually skip the gloves because I’m pretty used to lye burns at this point in my soaping career.
I don’t like lye burns but as long as I wash them off my hands quickly, I’m none the worse for the wear. And since I’ve been making soap for so long, I (humble modesty coming up right here) am pretty good at it and tend not to spill too much fresh burning soap on my hands. So, no gloves.
I made the most delicious batch of Fresh Baked Bread soap today. It smells amazing, it acted like a dream and soapmaking was a snap. I was set up, weighed, measured, traced and poured in about 20 minutes. Then clean up time. Cleaning up fresh soap is a bit of a pain. This is because it is essentially thick, sludgy oil. It takes a bit of patience, a good degreasing soap and boiling hot water. While I was cleaning up, I managed to pour some fresh soap right into a cut on my hand.
Yowzers! Talk about sharp, intense pain! Note to self and soapers out there: if you have a cut on your hand, definitely wear gloves. Holy soaping gods, it still hurts a few hours later! And my cut is all pink and puffy. It is very impressive in its obvious nature. The take away lesson for me is the obvious one stated above (gloves, you fool, gloves) and also that even with fourteen plus years of soaping under my belt, I am not above making mistakes and learning what every newbie soaper knows: lye burns can hurt.