Soap opera

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Soap maker Soma Datta has been making her own soaps for years now. It all started as a hobby when she was pregnant. The concern for providing “safe and natural products for my child” drove her to try her hand at soap making. “Soap is something that you use every day. Then, why not make it with really good ingredients that not only cleanse you but also feed your skin,” she says.

Aromatherapist and beauty expert Rupal Shabnam Tyagi says, “Most of us are questioning the source of things that we eat or use. With soap-making at home, you are sure of the purity of the ingredients used.” The other benefits? You can customise it to your skin type, can eliminate what you are allergic to, be liberal with skin conditioners, and pick your own fragrances.

Bubble time
Nutrition expert and food blogger Dr Nandita Iyer, who learnt soap making from Datta, has been making her own soaps too. Her reasons are simple: Homemade soaps are free of any chemical additives. “My soaps are 100% natural, as I use kitchen ingredients, herbs for colour and texture and only pure essential oils,” she says.

For the uninitiated: there are two ways to make soaps. First, the melt-and-pour way, where you melt a readymade bar of soap and pour it into shapes with additives like herbs. Second, the cold process method where you make soap from scratch. Datta says it’s not difficult to make soaps at home. “One can do it in a small corner of the kitchen. The ingredients are available easily and consist of edible oils and many additives from your kitchen and garden.”

Come clean

What you need: water, lye (sodium hydroxide), oils and fats, natural preservatives, essential oils for fragrance, additives like herbs, clay or charcoal and natural colours. “All these ingredients are generally available locally but you can readily find them online as well as from a local chemical suppliers for labs,” she says. Datta adds, “While making soaps make sure you are free from any distraction – no kids and pets around. Also, measurement of ingredients is the key to a good soap.”

But one has to exercise caution while handling lye. “It is extremely corrosive – almost as bad as acid burn, if not worse,” Iyer mentions. The time taken is around an hour for a small-sized batch of 1.5 kilos of soap (this includes organising ingredients, clean up etc). “But cold process soap needs to ‘cure’ for 3-6 weeks depending on ingredients used,” she says.

Good to know

  • You can use readymade soap noodles available in the market for your initial batches. Once you are comfortable with the process, you can experiment further using your own oils and fats.
  • Wear protective gear and comfortable clothing.
  • Always measure all your ingredients in separate dishes and keep them ready.
  • If you are using lye and water, make sure you don’t add water to lye, as it will generate a lot of heat and it might also spill out of the container injuring you.
  • Use well insulated mould to get the correct colour.
    (Inputs by Rupal Shabnam Tyagi, aromatherapist)