I have made soap for over 20 years and have not had any major or minor “incidents”. (Incidents refers to being personally burned, scarred, or having property burned or scarred from lye solutions.) So,this past spring, I decided that my goal for the summer would be to master liquid soap. Liquid soap is an entirely different creature than bar soap. Liquid soap uses potassium hydroxide instead of sodium hydroxide, and the stirring happens over heat instead of on a convenient counter. Ace Hardware stores carry sodium hydroxide. I suspect that there is some locked and guarded vault in the desert, that stores the potassium hydroxide.
The Medicine Wheel Herbal shop used to be my kitchen. Now it is my shop that we cook food in. On Monday, I assembled all of the equipment and ingredients to begin making liquid soap. Nobody was home, NPR’s classical music hour was on loud, and the dogs were sleeping in the other room. It was time.
Liquid soap making by the book seemed to be going well. Temperatures were where they needed to be and my pot looked like the pot in the book. I actually remember thinking that this was not so bad. In less than a nanosecond: I noticed that the soap in the pot was rising. I stirred more vigorously. The soap was unaffected by my stirring and rose to the top of the pot. I turned the gas flame down to its lowest point with my free hand. Resembling a super hero soufflé, the soap erupted over the top of the pot, cascading down, and filling the four burner cavity on the stove top, smothered the gas burner flame, and kept on going. It flowed down the front of the stove, over the oven door handles, and onto the floor. My feet spread wide around the growing puddle of caustic liquid on the floor, and tethered by my plugged in stick blender, I held the gushing pot off of the stove top. My soap volcano finally bubbled its last, and immediately congealed.
My shop…NO…my kitchen…was a toxic wasteland with caustic, raw soap everywhere. Driven by the mental visual of this caustic mixture eating the front of my stove’s face off, I dumped the pot into the sink and threw myself into cleaning up. This part of the liquid soap making process is called making the paste. And paste it is! If you can picture falling into a vat of liquid salt water taffy, you can picture my clean up.With bubbles. With bubbles on top of those bubbles, on top of even more bubbles.
I painstakingly cleaned the stove top. The stove front. The oven door handles and the floor. I am extremely grateful that I didn’t ruin anything. And the soap? The soap turned out so well that I’m going to make another batch!