Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hand Milled Soap

Hard to spoon the glop into molds!

Sometimes you will come across fancy soap in the stores labeled as hand milled or French milled.  It means the soap has been processed a second or third time.  The soap is made, grated, dried and then heated and re-poured.  Some of the big firms use big rollers to press the soap.  The result, apparently, is a finer bar of soap: hard, firm, no traces of lye.  Grated soap is often sold at craft places for people who don't want to make soap from scratch.  You can buy pre-made soap already grated, melt in the oven or crock pot, add your own scents and additives without ever going near a jug of lye.  Milling or re-batching, as it is also called, can be used on a batch of soap that has failed for some reason.  For the DIYer, scents and additives go farther and it's much easier.

I had read about hand milled soap during my learning process before making soap.  I was interested in making soap from scratch with our fresh goats milk, so I didn't pay the process much attention.  As I got into soap making, I chose to use flat molds, rather than loaf molds, so that less heat would build up in our soaps, potentially damaging the goats milk.  To get a nice fat bar I was always over-filling the molds and had to trim away the excess, which I saved - largely because I couldn't bear to throw it away!  After a couple of years of making soap, I had quite a collection of these trimmings, long thin pieces cut from the sides of my batches.  So, I decided to try hand milling to use up the bits.

At home, this involved leaving the bits out to dry, then using my food processor to grate them into smaller bits.  Then a little more milk is added for moisture and I heated the whole thing in the oven at low temperature.  I took my basic method from these instructions and this info.  Grating the soap in my food processor was a bit of a mess: Even though the soap was well cured it stuck to the blade and gooped up.  Pour into a casserole, mix in some milk and heat - quite simple.  It took longer to melt to a nice texture but the mixture was still hard to pour, even after being returned to the oven.  I had used bits of our Simple Soap; apparently heating fragranced soap or soaps with herbs just turns into an ugly mess.
Even after sitting out for over a week...

Unfortunately, the resulting soap is a soft, gooey mess.  Too much milk?  Whatever the problem, I've decided that it's not worth fussing over.  The time involved in re-batching is just not worth my while.  If I can only re-batch unscented soaps that doesn't solve my problem of left over trimmings from soaps with essential oils and herbs.  And, with the time involved, a bar of Simple Soap, which sells for $4 normally, would have to sell for $7 or $8!  I don't think my customers would see the advantage.  I cure my soaps long enough that the lye is all used up and they are nice and firm, so I'm not worrying about those concerns.  As I thought about it I realized that the best thing to do is not over-pour and have all the trimmings left over in the first place!  Soaps were going to have to go up in price this summer due to inevitably rising costs, so instead of raising the price, I'll just have a slightly smaller bar of soap without waste.

1 comment:

  1. I really like your soap posts. I had no idea all the work involved in making such a, what I tend to think of, simple product. Lots of tricks to know and a bit of science to understand.