The Art and Science of Soap: Reminiscing
The world of soap has certainly expanded from what consumers may remember from the past - and who hasn’t experienced that rock hard, yellowing bar of skin stripper that never seemed to get used up, no matter how many times you were sent to wash your hands.
That bar always sat on the edge of the twin tub trough in my grandad’s laundry, just waiting to be used by a filthy child needing to scrub their hands before afternoon tea. That cracked old bar left your hands squeaky clean and tight, but those clean hands meant there would be a chunk of honey in the comb on a big slice of damper dripping with butter.
Butter and honey dripped down our hands and faces and all over our shirts, and that same old bar of soap would be used on kid, shirt and dog, if it was silly enough to get in the firing line while grandad washed what seemed like every kid in the neighbourhood before sending us all home. I don’t think I ever saw one of those bars get used up, they always remained that hard, sun cracked yellow bar, getting slightly more cracked and yellow every time we visited, until it would vanish one day and a larger, slightly less cracked and brighter yellow bar appeared in its place.
It wasn’t until years later that I caught the family dog stealing - and eating - the soap and the mystery was solved. Apparently some dogs love eating soap!
Today, soap has changed. A new wave of artisan soap makers have taken the basic principles of soap making and put their own spin on things. With a greater understanding of those fundamental principles, virtually everything can be tweaked and controlled to ensure that the final product is kind to the skin and retains the unique personality of the person who made it. Some soap makers are passionate about ensuring their products use only vegetable oils, others process and render their own tallow or lard and ensure as much of the animal is used as possible, minimising waste. Others choose to be nut free, or palm free, or use olive oil exclusively. Some use natural colours and essential oils only, others choose bright neons and funky fragrances.
Everything can be tweaked. Everything is unique. No longer are consumers limited to the mass produced, soulless bars found on the supermarket shelf, they have a world of options available to them.
Join me as I explore the surprisingly fun world of soap in this new series. I approach soap making from the perspective of both a maker and a consumer appreciating the science and art that goes into making these amazing creations that look good, smell great, and most importantly, are kind to your skin!