DIY Bath Salts Tutorial

June 26, 2020

Even Thought About Making Your Own Bath Salts?

Bath salts are on the “easy” end of the spectrum of DIY bath products, but I’d like to share a couple of tips with you and give you a good recipe you can use as a template to make your own!

Making your own bath salts allows you the creativity to choose your own type of salts, decided whether to color them, what fragrance they should be? All natural, or synthetic fragrance oil? 

And once you have an idea of what you’d like to make, there are so many cute containers in which to package them for yourself, or as gifts!  I chose a cool (giant) test tube for my packaging, but largely because I felt like it matched the theme of my shop bath salts a little better than a cute mason jar with a wooden scoop or similar.

massive a salt gift box set

And look how beautiful the combination is?  This is a decent close up of A Salt and Battery, which is the one I will be showing you how to make today.  I love the variety of salt colors and sizes, and a touch of mica powder to give it that slight shimmery look!

Close up of a salt and battery in tube

Don't You Love Bath Salts?

Don’t you just love bath salts?  It’s one of those bathtime luxuries that is easy to forget about…right up until the moment you have another salt bath!  Sometimes the mix of salts and fragrance is just right, for that very day, or those particular aching muscles, and then nothing in the world is better!

Do you prefer an epsom salt bath? A simple salt bath? A salt bath with a soothing milk powder or maybe one that bubbles and fizzes too?  So many bath salts to try, so little time…

Do Bath Salts Do Anything For Me?

There is a lot of debate (at least online, which is where most things get debated these days anyway) about whether there are curative properties related to salt baths, and in particular salts like epsom salt and black lava salt.  

I think it’s a matter of opinion since it doesn’t appear to be a matter of science where we can point in one direction or the other with any degree of clarity.

So, here’s how I feel about the issue.  Baths are relaxing by nature.  When I add an essential oil to a bath salt, the aromatherapy experience alone is next level relaxing for me.  So there are plenty of people who say that bath salts don’t do anything for you and you only feel more relaxed than before because you took a bath.  

Maybe… but the experience matters.  The aroma matters.  The softness of your bath water matters.  I personally find epsom salts very relaxing and soothing for the muscles.  I believe that black lava salt (made from activated charcoal derived from coconut shells) has some detoxifying properties, and I believe that peppermint oil makes me feel more invigorated and ready to face the next challenge in life, the same way that lavender oil puts me to sleep.

Bath Salt Infused with Peppermint Essential Oil - Recipe and Tutorial

I’m going to share the recipe I like to use for my peppermint oil infused bath salts, which in my shop are called A Salt and Battery (since Peppermint is kind of an energizing fragrance!).  

You can use this recipe and mix it up with a different essential oil, add different dried flowers (or emit them altogether), etc.  So consider this a template.  I’ve included links to smaller sizes of some of these products I used (almost of them from Amazon and easily attainable), and you can easily make all 18 tubes with the products listed.  I capped it at 18 only because that’s the quantity of 4 oz test tubes that I linked below. 🙂  This particular recipe yielded 6 4oz tubes with a tiny left over for me. 🙂

 

 

Start with 20 oz of Course Dead Sea Salt

Dead Sea salt isn’t sea salt that has died, it’s salt that is mined from the Dead Sea.  There are a lot of people who sell products they call Dead Sea salt, as if it were just a kind of salt or a size of salt, but it’s specific to the actual Dead Sea.  Kinda like calling all bubbly wines champagne…

I bought Dead Sea salt that is actually Dead Sea salt.

And when I said start with 20 oz of course Dead Sea salt, you could also read that as “of course, Dead Sea salt”.  But seriously, the coarse crystal size is what you want….the fine grain end up feeling like table salt, which is not the experience you are going for.

Minera Dead Sea Salt

Weigh out your ingredients with a kitchen scale, and start with 20 ounces of Dead Sea salt.

Next, Add 4 oz. Himalayan Pink Salt

This particular brand I used is from The Spice Lab has such a beautiful assortment of sizes and shades.

Close up of pink himalayan salt
The Spice Lab pink himalayan salt bag

The pinkness of this salt is naturally occuring based on the minerals to which it has been exposed in the Himalayas.  SO PRETTY.    I am also looking forward to using some of these as decoration on top of a bar of soap next time I make a batch!

Follow Up With 2 oz of Coarse Black Lava Hawaiian Sea Salt

Black Lava Hawaiian Sea Salt

I like this one from the San Francisco Salt Co.  Like the Himalayan pink salt, this salt also doesn’t have any colorant.  All of the black color in this salt comes from activated coconut shell charcoal.  Very cool.

I only use 2 oz of this salt, and honestly, in this recipe, mostly because I like the speckle of the black mixed in!  This is likely the most expensive of the ingredients (and what I use in much larger quantities in one of my other bath salts, Tactical A Salt) so using is sparingly for this recipe is helpful.

When all 3 salts have been added to the bowl, it’ll look something like this:

All 3 Salts combined in mixing bowl

Add Your Essential Oil

Once you have your salts in the bowl, I like to add the fragrance here.  I almost always use essential oils in my bath salts (unless I’m doing something fizzy or bubble or fun), because that’s the right vibe for me in this application.  

A big part of the experience, for me, is aromatherapy, and I want to feel like I’m getting the spa experience!  

With essential oils, however, you must be careful with how much you use.  The same is true of synthetic fragrance oil, but I believe there is often a misbelief that since essential oil is “natural” that equates to “safe”, and that’s not the case. 

There is a maximum safe level for skin exposure to essential oil.  One of the best resources is a website called eocalc.com (essential oil calculator. com) by Modern Soapmaking.  It’s free to use, and there is a usage calculator that will give you a range of safe use dependent on the type of product you are making.

Peppermint essential oil

For this entire batch, we only need 2ml of peppermint essential oilI like this brand, but there are obviously many essential oils and essential oil blends online.  I got this one on Amazon, but also fell down the rabbit hole of essential oils and picked up 6 more (oops).

One of the reasons I like this particular oil is because unlike some peppermint essential oils that can get pungent and medicinal-smelling, this one is sweet and bright.

Mix Your Salts and Oil Together Thoroughly

I wear gloves when I do this because, #1, I’m going to be selling mine in addition to giving them as gifts, so I follow good manufacturing practice and wears gloves and a hairnet.  #2, even if I weren’t, there is a LOT of touching of the salts.  I don’t want to be gross. 🙂

BUT, if you are just making these for your self, and you don’t want to bother with gloves, please be prepared to lose any nail polish you might be wearing!  Salt is abrasive. 

Regardless of how you proceed here, THIS IS THE BEST STEP.  Mixing up the oil and salts gets that peppermint oil kicked up into the air and it’s magical.  I think I likely stirred it for way longer than necessary because I was enjoying it so much. 

Scoop from the bottom to combine

You can see the technique in the tutorial video linked at the bottom of this post, but basically I’m scooping from the bottom and mixing it to the top…over and over again.

I also take handfuls of it and rub it in between my palms.  This will help if you have any clumps of salts in your mixture.

Rub salt in between palms

Add Any Decorative Elements Now

For this recipe, I chose a sprinkle of mica powder, which I will also link to.  The mica powder I got is just a small sample of cosmetic grade mica, so it’s skin safe (not all mica is, so you always need to check!).

But it gave the salts such a nice sheen!

Sprinkle of mica powder
Close up of mica covered bath salts

I also added some crushed rose petals, mostly for visual interest again.

I didn’t want the bath salts to be rose salts, and they are so fragrant there’s no mistaking them for anything other than peppermint!  But I also really like the look of them in small quantities in this application.

I like these petals from Brambleberry.  You get mostly petals, and aren’t stuck with a bunch of stems…

Red rose petals from Bramblerry

BUT, I also crush them between my palms and get the pieces as small as possible (so they go down the drain easily) and that process does help identify any stray buds that may be in your mix.

Dried rose petals about to be crushed between palms
Take out stray buds

Obviously, you can just discard those. 🙂

Small beaker to fill tubes

Fill Your Containers!

You did it!  Time to fill your containers and hope for leftovers. 🙂

I filled my test tubes with a small plastic beaker with a pour spout.  The test tubes I picked have a nice wide mouth, and they come with a tiny little funnel, but it’s clearly meant for liquids because there’s no way our coarse grain bath salts are getting through there!

If you don’t have a small plastic container with a pour spout, you can take any flexible small container (maybe an empty clean yogurt container?) and just bend it to make a spout. 

Bend flexible container to make spout
Spout from flexible container
Filled to the top with bath salts

Once you think you have completely filled your container, gently tap it on your work service.  This will give you a little more room to fill it up to the top.

I like to get these as full as possible, which also keeps air from getting to your salts.  If you have any level of humidity in your area, a bowl of bath salts left out will be wet to the touch the next time you feel them!  So best to keep them away from the air.

I close mine up and then shrink band the lids so they are tamper proof and resistant to air.

I will link all of the supplies at the very bottom.

A Video Tutorial For You!

Whenever possible, I like to do a video tutorial for you.  I am personally a visual learner, so while I would READ this blog post, I would learn more from watching it be done.  In case that’s you, I gotchu.

Materials used for this project are listed below.  Some links are affiliate links, and if you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  If you do, thank you in advance for your support of this blog.


 

Dead Sea salt: https://amzn.to/2CIrYgQ  This is the bag I have, but a smaller bag of dead sea salt may be more appropriate if you are just doing a small project!  Make sure you get COARSE GRAIN, not fine grain.  This one appears to be an acceptable substitution in a 2lb size: https://amzn.to/3dG8lTy

Himalayan pink salt: https://amzn.to/2CI10pE

Hawaiian black lava salt: https://amzn.to/3ezkf2x

Peppermint essential oil: https://amzn.to/37ZbE70

Mica powder (optional): Sample set of cosmetic grade mica, I used the pearl shade https://amzn.to/31jtlNm

Test tubes for packaging: https://amzn.to/2CIxEaF

Shrink wrap tamper-proof bands:  https://amzn.to/3dxjx4M
 
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!

Love, Amanda

Fun and Son-Episode 3: Fish In A Bag Soap

May 30, 2020

We Made Fish In A Bag Soap!

Fish in a bag soap is not a new idea by any means, in fact, it’s so popular it’s hard to know who to credit with the idea.  Spencer and I tried our hands at it and it was pretty fun, and turned out really well.  Here are our final fish in bags:

Fish in a bag soap finished product

You Might Say We Beta-Tested This Soap 🙂

If you follow my blog, or my shop products, you’ll know that I’m a fan of a good word play.  When I ordered the plastic fish for this project from Amazon, I was initially upset because there were very few actual goldfish in the assortment.

Holding up the bag of fish, it occured to me that the blue and purple fish look like beta fish.  So while we didn’t end up with a lot of carnival-style goldfish in bags, we did end up with cute beta fish bags instead.  

A Fun Kid-Friendly Soap Project

If you have seen the other Fun and Son posts and videos you will know that I’m typically on the lookout for things that I can do with Spencer that are interesting enough to keep his attention, and interesting enough that I want to do them too. 🙂

This is a great soap project to do with kids.  The fish in a bag soap uses melt and pour soap, so unlike cold processed soap (see my DIY soap video for basics), there is no use of lye or inherently dangerous ingredients.  Obviously, there is melting and pouring to be done, and there needs to be supervision, but Spencer said he would definitely do this project again, so that’s a good sign that it was enjoyable!

Step By Step Fish In A Bag Soap

Below is a brief step by step for how to make this fish in a bag soap, but there is also a link to a video tutorial below.  

Start By Gathering Some Supplies

Not surprisingly, to make fish in a bag soap, you need fish, bags, and soap. 🙂

Bag of plastic toy fish
Bag of plastic toy fish from Amazon. Link is below in the supply list.
Cuffed treat bag
We used 4x9 inch treat bags which we rolled down the tops of to create a small cuff. I like these because they are really clear, but any similarly sized treat bag will work. I have linked several options for you below.
Stephenson melt and pour clear soap base

Unmold The Block of Soap and Chop Into Cubes

Pull off tab of soap container
If you aren't familiar with melt and pour tubs, do yourself a favor and make sure you pop the tab on the side of the lid!
Flip over and pop out soap block
Flip over the container and push from the back to release the block. We put ours on a parchment covered cutting board.
Chopped up soap block
Chop up the soap block into chunks approximately an inch large. Place them into a microwave safe container, preferably something with a pour spout like a Pyrex measuring cup.

Melt Your Soap

Microwave in 30 second bursts until all soap is fully melted.  If you want, you can add a little blue colorant to make the soap appear more clear.  This is also when you would add fragrance if desired.  In the video you can see how adding the blue turns the melted soap from a yellowish color to a more clear color.

You will also want a spray bottle of 91-99% rubbing alcohol to pop the bubbles on the surface of the melted soap.

Almost melted soap
Stirring between 30 second microwave bursts will help break up the last few stubborn cubes.
Adding blue colorant
We added some seriously diluted blue lab color to the fully melted soap, which gives the appearance of additional clarity.
Bottle of rubbing alcohol
Spray the top of the melted soap with 91-99% rubbing alcohol to pop the bubbles, and set the soap aside to cool.

Prep Your Bags

While your soap cools, prepare your bags for pouring.

Open top of treat bag
Open the top of the treat bag.
Fold treat bag top down
Fold down the top of the treat bag into a little cuff. Be careful not to split the sides of the bag.
Prepared bag
This will leave you with a nice open bag that will be easier to pour into.

Pour Your Soap

Skin formed on top of soap
As the soap cools, it will form a "soap skin" on the top. Carefully spoon that off of the top.
hold bag open to pour
Holding the bag open, slowly pour soap into bag until you have the desired amount. We filled our bags about 1/3 full.
Spray with rubbing alcohol
Spray your rubbing alcohol onto the top of the melted soap as bubbles will have formed during pouring.
Bubbles before spray
Here's a closer look at the amount of bubbles before the spray of rubbing alcohol.
bubbles after spray
This is what it looks like immediately after the spray of rubbing alcohol. It's like magic!!

Insert Your Fish!

Next, you need to insert your fish.  I will warn you, this sounds like it’s going to be the easy part, but it’s actually quite tricky.  The fish toys naturally wanted to float upside down….which is not a good look for a fish in a bag soap. 🙂

Drop your fish into the bag
Drop your fish into the bag. He's going to go wherever he wants, so your only real goal here is to get him into the bag without making too many bubbles. If you do happen to make bubbles, just spray with rubbing alcohol again.
Get fish to front of bag
Gently lift the bag
Once you're comfortable with your fish placement, gently lift the bag and squeeze together at the top, being careful not to squeeze out any warm soap or dislodge your fish.
Clip bag and leave to cool
Clip the bag closed with a chip clip, clothespin, or baggie clip and gently put it in a container to cool and firm.
Tie with ribbons!

Glycerin Soap Notes...

Glycerin is a widely used ingredient in skin care products.  It’s water-soluble, odorless, colorless, and is a natural humectant.  Because it is a humectant, it draws moisture to itself (which is one reason it is so popular in bath and beauty products!) 

Because glycerin draws moisture to itself, glycerin soap has a tendency to “sweat”. This “glycerin dew” is totally normal and is a result of the glycerin pulling moisture from the air around it. 

If you want to keep your glycerin soaps from sweating (assuming this bothers you at all…I personally don’t care), you can wrap it in plastic wrap or put it in a container once it’s dried in order to keep moisture out of it’s way. 

In the case of the fish soap, I would recommend a small soap dish since it’s probably not going to last long in your house because little people will want to get to the fish inside as quickly as possible!

Video Tutorial and Product Link

If you love the look of this fish in a bag soap and don’t want to make your own, they are for sale in my shop here:  https://shop.amandatoryactivity.com/product/beta-test-fish-in-a-bag-glycerin-soap/

I think they would be a natural choice for a party favor for a carnival-themed or fish-themed birthday party! We ended up getting 5-6 fish out of each 2lb block of soap base, so if you are making these for yourself, plan accordingly when you order supplies for favors. I will list supplies for you below.

Finally, here is a link to the video tutorial.  You can laugh along with the fish stuggles…getting that little plastic fish to stay put was laughable. 

Materials used for this project are listed below.  Some links are affiliate links, and if you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  If you do, thank you in advance for your support of this blog.


 
 
4×9 cello bags: https://amzn.to/2M91G8V
 
Soap base: 
 
 
If you are an Amazon shopper, this one may be more convenient with no shipping costs: https://amzn.to/3eymeUi
 
Blue color (totally optional):
 
I used the one from Brambleberry (again, I was already ordering a bunch of other stuff, so shipping wasn’t a concern):  https://www.brambleberry.com/shop-by-product/ingredients/colorants/dyes/brilliant-blue-lab-color/V600002.html
 
If you are an Amazon shopper, I have also used these soap dyes, which are food grade and skin safe (and can also be used to color slime if that’s something you’re into!): https://amzn.to/2M9Tmpt

We did not fragrance our batches, but you could obviously fragrance yours with a small amount of essential oil or fragrance oils.   This set of fragrances offers some fun scents including an ocean breeze scent: https://amzn.to/2MbYKbK.  

I personally think plain glycerin soap has a nice clean smell without any additives. Spencer suggested “fish scented”, but I didn’t think that was a great idea. 🙂 

Love, Amanda

The Shop @ A Mandatory Activity

May 24, 2020

Did I Accidentally Start A Company? Maybe.

I’m writing this post a little late, and so I apologize to those dear friends to whom I have not yet shared this news.  COVID-19 and staying at home has affected us all differently, but I am firmly in the camp of people who have been having the weirdest dreams (when I’m actually able to sleep, that is).  One morning, I woke up to realize that I had designed an entire product line in my sleep, and so I accidentally (?) started a company.

Ok, I’m simplifying matters a little bit, and nobody accidentally starts a company.  At some point I did have to get a business license and tax ID number and all of the things that don’t happen by accident, but it’s accidental in that it wasn’t part of the GRAND PLAN.

Ok, I never really had a grand plan.  I had a blog idea and things to share and teach and that was good enough, until quarantine. 

Let Me Welcome You to The Shop @ A Mandatory Activity

Please allow me to introduce you to The Shop @ A Mandatory Activity.  There is now a convenient little shopping link at the top menu bar, and that will take you through to the site if you want to have a look around. 

If you’re just here for the tutorials, that’s totally good.  These are still mandatory activities and nothing is going to change.  As I’m writing this blog post I’m also supposed to be working on a design for my nephew’s birthday card, so my projects have increased, but not shifted!

I’m very proud of my accidental little company, and I’m really enjoying the journey so far, which is why it’s felt so weird not to have shared the news here.  Honestly, I had to take a moment to catch up with initial demand, which was a fantastic problem to have (do NOT mistake that remark for complaining)…I just didn’t expect the initial volume. 

I’ve since restocked everything over the course of the last few weeks of evenings and weekends though….so no worries if you’re actually in the market for some candles or need to order gifts for someone. 😉

Let me talk to you a little bit about the genesis of the idea, and my vision of the future and where this all fits in…

Word Play At Play

While in my strange limbo between sleeplessness and vivid dreaming, I started having a game of word play in my head.  It’s not totally abnormal, but I can usually shake it off.

This whole blog is one giant play on words, and I think my brain does a lot of these shenanigans on its own that don’t make their way to paper or pen or blog or idea.  I blame my Dad, who was the same way.  Dad jokes for me were on a whole other level.

If you read my first blog post, The Blog Post Nobody Will Read, you will know that I started this blog almost in response to his death.  I decided life was too short to be scared to try to do the things that make you happy.  My mandatory activities.  

There are plays on words throughout a lot of my posts, and a warning shot in the “about me” section…I like a good bad pun.  

And I Am A Materials Girl

That header has been in the list of things I’ve been wanting to write about for awhile, so don’t be surprised if it makes its way to a blog post title too…but I need it here right now.

I am often thinking about what kinds of things I’d like to make next, or what I want to learn, or whose birthday is coming up and what I’m going to make or give them.  During the process of putting together this blog, I’ve run into SO many creative people, and creativity inspires creativity.

I’m really happy making cookies and cakes and papercrafts and a handful of other projects, but I also want to continue to learn new things.  

You might call me a materials girl. 🙂  For me, inspiration for something comes from an idea that I then need to think about how to communicate and in which material, OR I have a material in mind and I need to figure out what to do with it. 

Here’s an example.  I found this stupid pillow at CVS last Fall on clearance for $4.  It made me smile and I walked away from it, and by the time I had finished actual shopping, I decided I needed to swing back to the clearance aisle to bring him home.  

Because in my mind, he was a great-looking cookie.  See what I mean?  

CVS owl pillow

(Incidentally, this all happened before I started the blog, but not before I had the idea for the blog…so I will have some footage to share when we get closer to Fall project time!) 

In this case, the material to convert this owl pillow into something to share with friends and family, was to make him into a cookie.  That was the right “material”.

The more materials I learn how to use, the more ideas I am inspired by, and that’s what happened with my shop.

Some of the Products

What I was thinking about, lying in bed, was how difficult this time must be for people who were already unhappy.   I know how fortunate I am to be quarantined with 2 of my favorite people, but I started to feel so sad for those who must feel much more hopeless.

What came to mind was the idea of social distancing, and how I wish I could put some Zing into it for those who really needed some help.  

Suddenly, there was Social Distance-Zing.  A burst of grapefruit and mango to lighten your spirits. The right material for this project was wax.  20-40 hours of aromatherapy… 

I had most of the materials except the fragrance in my candle stash.  I designed the labels and branding myself, put in an order for the fragrance oil and some others I thought might be nice. 

 One of those scents was almond.

And a couple of days later, there was Marzipan-demic.  A nice, warm, nutty fragrance that makes you want to cozy up at home with a good book.

Marzipan-demic candle

Two other pandemic-related candles emerged as well.  Flat-tin the Curve (which was inspired by…you probably guessed it, the candle tins I saw when I was shopping for candle jars online.

And also, Shell-ter in Place, which in my mind was the nautical option.  We can’t go to the beach at the moment…but you can take a vacation with your nose.  This one smells like sun and sand and sunscreen and legit makes me feel like it’s summer.  I got playfull and made little shell embeds for the top, and did a little swirl of color to make some beachy waves before my wax totally dried. 

Shell-ter in Place will be the first candle that I show you guys how to make.  Embeds and all.  Coming soon…

Flat-tin the curve candle
Shell-ter in place candles with open lids

The embeds led to more embeds…and when I started working on my graduation gift set, On A Grad Hoc Basis, and Caps and Grounds…it seemed like a great plan to throw some wax coffee bean embeds on the top of Caps and Grounds.  When you melt the candle, the embed melts and the colorant disperses and turns into kind of a latte color when it cools and solidifies again.

More to Come

So, it’s safe to say that we have some new mandatory acvities, because man is this a lot of fun.  I have been working on my Father’s Day candles this weekend and then I’m halfway through ideas for the Fall fragrances and bubble bars and pumpkin pie soap slices and OMG THERE ARE SO MANY FUN PROJECTS TO BE DONE.  One. At. A. Time. 

I have also been making soap (and made soap cupcakes this weekend which I’m in love with).  If you saw my soap making post and video from last week, you will have seen the first soap that will be for sale in the soap section.  Soap takes 4-6 weeks to cure, so the soap will slowly pop up as it becomes available.

I’ll also get to show you how things are done!  I recorded the soap cupaking making, of course, so there will be more to come.  

More candles, more soap, likely a slight re-org of the blog (Lifestyle to candles and soap? What do you guys think?)

Sorry for the length of this post, but the longer I put it off, the more there was to share, so I’ve ripped off the band-aid now and I can just work on posting updates instead of a whole explanation of what the heck…

For those of you who already knew and have been so super-supportive.  Thank you.  Truly.  I’m trying to be brave and take chances, and follow this journey wherever it’s going, but it’s SO much easier to do when people believe in you.

Love,
Amanda

The Basics of DIY Soap

May 15, 2020

Have You Ever Wondered How To Make Your Own Soap?

You know the soap I’m talking about…you pick it up at a Whole Foods, or a craft show, or a farmers market and think about how cool it is, and you think “Can I do that?”  Let’s run through some of the basics for DIY soap making.  

Making soap is no joke…it’s complicated, it involves a toxic ingredient, and you don’t get the immediate satisfaction that you can get with other crafts.  

But man, I’m tellin’ you, when you pull that loaf of soap out of your mold, it is Satisfying (capital S for emphasis). 🙂 BUT, it is totally doable with some DIY soap basics, and we’re going to review safety, process, supplies, the works.

Here is the soap that I made for this tutorial.  It’s not fancy, but it’s not not-fancy either.   The moment when you take your soap out of the mold is kind of “the reveal”.  Either your heart sings, or sinks.

But let’s talk about how we get here.

Soap coming out of the soap mold

First Things First. And Safety is First.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that learning how to make soap is something that you can casually try with little equipment.  You CAN get away with items from around the house to use for molds, but there is no getting around safety gear.  BASIC.

That being said, let me address the gloves in the photo above.  Normally, you would want some proper nitrile gloves, but I don’t have any more at the moment and we’re in the middle of a pandemic and gloves are hard to come by.  Even if I found some, I’m not sure I’d feel great about buying them knowing we have as shortage of PPE at the moment, but let’s not get too far off-topic, Amanda.  So…I got some new dish gloves instead.  I’m not nimble, but I’m protected!

You will need some goggles, no question about it.  

No, it is not okay to just wear your glasses.  

BASICS OF DIY SOAP TIP: You must also get rid of any amount of vanity that you may have had before you started your soaping adventure.  

You will look like a crazy person. 

And because I no longer have any vanity, I get to show you these pictures. 🙂

Soap making safety gear on!
Purposely making crazy person eyes while holding lye container

See?

Now, I’m purposefully giving you crazy-eyes for this picture of me cradling my bottle of lye, but I do feel like once you get your goggles on, it’s easy to take on an alter ego…and I guess mine is just  a little bit nuts. 

Bottom line here is put your gloves on, wear your safety goggles, cover any exposed skin, wear closed-toed shoes, and keep the floor clear of any slipping or tripping hazards. 

Let's Talk About Lye

You NEED lye to make real soap.  And frankly, lye is the reason I didn’t try making soap earlier. 

I was afraid. 

Lye is the thing that we are working so hard to protect ourselves from.  Lye is sodium hydroxide and it’s very very toxic.  It will burn you. Even in the video attached I’m too busy talking and took a breath that was a little too deep and felt the hairs inside of my nose start to burn off.  The biggest  most basic DIY soap tip is to be careful with your lye.

I mean, BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR LYE.  If you have any Mr. Yuck stickers hanging around from the 80’s, put them all over your lye container.

If you’re like me, your only previous knowledge of lye is that it’s what people use to dissolve dead bodies in the movies.  Incidentally, when I ordered my lye, I accidentally ordered WAY too much…so I’m pretty sure I’m on some Government watch list (for people who might be dissolving bodies?  Is that a thing?)

Lye is essential.  Soap is, at it’s core, the product of oils/fats and lye.  Anything else we do to it (fragrance, skin-loving butters, colorant, flecks of ground up coffee beans…whatever) is the artistry.  

Making soap is often described as both an art and a science.  Once you get the science part down, that’s when you get to be artistic.  You do NOT get to be artistic with your safety equipment or your handling of lye. 

You should also make sure all of the bowls and spoons and equipment used for soaping is not shared with any kitchen processes.  You need dedicated soaping dishes, and you must never ever use any aluminum spoons or bowls when mixing your soap.  The reaction with lye, I’m told, is quite dangerous.  I’ve never tried it and I’m certainly not going to for the purpose of this blog post, BUT it’s a good DIY soap basic tip!

Get A Good Soap Recipe

It will come as no surprise to you that there are a number of excellent resources for soap recipes online and in print.  My favorite go-to for soap instruction, ingredients, tools, best practices, troubleshooting, and inspiration is Anne-Marie Faiola of Brambleberry.com.  Her website is a wealth of information on the basics of DIY soap.

This is going to sound like some kind of sponsored post, but it’s not.  She just knows everything and sells everything and has been soaping for 20 years (even though she looks about 30 years old…).  I also have her book, Pure Soapmaking, which I find very inspirational. The link to the book IS an affiliate link because I am an Amazon affiliate…so if you buy it, thanks!

Pure Soapmaking by Anne-Marie Faiola
Pure Soapmaking by Anne-Marie Faiola

It’s fabulous and has more than a dozen solid soap recipes, along with a lot of explanations of what kind of oil and fat combinations work well together and combine well with things like goats milk or coconut milk, or whatever artistic thing you want to do once you’ve mastered the science bits.

Another favorite soaper is Katie Carson of Royalty Soaps.  She shares her base soap recipe, but she also does a lot of elaborate soap “frosting”, and I’ve recently joined her soap frosting club, so I’m excited to try my hand at piping soap!

Both of those are my best two pieces of advice for where I go for recipe info that is reliable and informative.

Making Soap: The Process

I have, of course, included a tutorial video for you on how I made this batch of soap, but I will also include some photos below of the highlights of the process.  I am still making small batches, but I’d like to graduate to more meaningful batch sizes some day.  For now, I’m working on science and artistry, but not volume…

Mix Lye and Water Per the Amounts in Your Recipe

Measure out lye into glass container
On a kitchen scale, weigh out the lye into a glass bowl. DO NOT EVER USE ALUMINUM when using lye. The two will interact negatively with one another...
Mix lye into water
Slowly and gently mix the lye into the appropriate amount of water until it is dissolved. I like to do this in small amounts so I can check to make sure it's dissolved little by little.
Lye water solution gets hot!
Lye water solution gets HOT. The water was room temperature and got up to about 200 degrees. Once it's fully mixed together, it needs to cool.

Mix Oils and Fats Per the Amounts in Your Recipe

Brambleberry quick mix lather
Your recipe will come with ratios for all of your oils, but I chose to buy the lots of lather quick mix from Bramblerry. DO NOT be fooled by the word "mix". It's not a mix of anything crazy, it's just the oils for this recipe all measured out into the correct percentages!
Brambleberry oils melted
The Brambleberry bag of oils can just be popped into the microwave to be heated. Super simple and great for beginners. I personally love it because it allows me to focus on lye safety, not measuring and storing gallons of oils.
Oils go into a bowl
Measure out the correct weight of oils on your kitchen scale into another bowl. The oils will also need to cool as the lye water solution is cooling.

Incorporate the Lye Water Into the Oils

It is said that every soaper has their own opinion about the correct temperature to cool your lye and oils to.  Some soapers prefer to do it hot, at about 130 degrees, others prefer to do it cool, about about 85 degrees.  I tend to hover around the middle and I cooled my lye water and oils to about 115 degrees.  Whatever your preferred soaping temperature, your lye and oils should be within 10 degrees of one another.

Pour lye water down shaft of stick blender
You still have on all of your safety gear, right? Using a stick blender (aka immersion blender) pour the lye water gently down the shaft of the blender. This helps keep it from splashing as it hits the surface of the oils.
Pulse oils and lye until emulsion
Once the lye water is in, you need to combine them. Be careful not to splash up oil and lye with your stick blender. A gentle pulse for 10 second bursts is a good start. You want to combine to just past emulsion. The more you blend, the thicker your soap will get and the harder it will be to work with...so don't overdo it with the stick blending!
Here's where terminology gets really soapy! What you are looking for is something called TRACE. You can see here (and more in the video) where the dribbles from the stick blender are leaving behind a line in the soap batter? That's trace. This is thin trace, but the more the soap sets up, you will move into medium trace and thick trace.

Add Fragrance and Colorants

Prepare colorant
Your recipe will tell you whether you need to disperse your colorant (meaning you take a powder and mix it with water or oils to make it a paste or liquid before adding it to your soap batter).
Add fragrance oils
This is typically a good time to add fragrance oils or essential oils. You will have an amount specified in your recipe. Also, some fragrances and colorant can accelerate trace, so be prepared to work quickly for these last few steps! I stick blended a little far, so my trace was getting thick, so I chose to incorporate my fragrance by hand to keep it from speeding up further.
Color sparingly, you can't go back
Add your colorant sparingly. You can always add more (well, quickly) but you can't take it away. I am also stirring in my color by hand to avoid accelerating trace further.

Pour Into Your Molds and Embellish if Desired!

Pour soap into mold
Gently pour your soap batter into your molds. Use a spatula or other implement to push the batter into the corners that may have been missed by the pour.
Texture between pour layers if desired
For this recipe, I did three layers of green. In between each layer, I ran my spatula through the batter as it was firming up. I wanted to give it some ridges for the next layer to sink into.
Embellish the top of the mold
Finally, you can add texture to the top, or a swirl pattern with a skewer or whatever your heart desires. I went with some dried chrysanthemum flowers from Brambleberry. They have a lot of different dried flower varieties!

Spray With Rubbing Alcohol, WAIT, Unmold, and Cut!

Spray with 99% rubbing alcohol
Put your mold somewhere with some ventilation, but where it won't get jostled. Spray the top with 99% rubbing alcohol to help break any air bubbles and help prevent ash from forming on the surface.
Unmold
After it has rested for about 2 days, you can unmold it. Make sure to leave your gloves on. Even though the oils and lye have gone through a chemical process, your soap won't be safe to use for 4-6 weeks.
Slice soap into bars and cure
Cut your loaf of soap into bars and cure them somewhere with good ventilation for 4-6 weeks.

Some Final Thoughts On The Remainder of the Process

Once the oils and lye have sat for 1-2 days, they go through a chemical process known as saponification.  As the soap is still curing, it’s best to wear your gloves (and if you’re going to be giving it away or selling it, it’s sanitary that way too!), to avoid any irritation to your skin.

I find waiting to unmold the soap to be incredibly hard.  I guess I’m used to more instant gratification from my craft projects, but I did feel an enormous sense of accomplishment when I unmolded the loaf and it looked lovely with it’s bumpy layers from the texture we provided with our spatula during the layering of the soap.

So, the process is time consuming, you need a lot of supplies, and you need even more patience.  But the idea what you have made your own soap, full of good skin-loving oils and your own design, is very empowering and addictive.  

Once you watch a few Brambleberry and Royalty Soaps videos you’ll be hooked, just like me!

I will paste the links to the items used here below.  Again, the only affiliate link is the link to the book via Amazon.

Finally, the Link to the Video Tutorial!

Materials used for this project are listed below.  Some links are affiliate links, and if you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  If you do, thank you in advance for your support of this blog.


 

Pure Soapmaking by Anne-Marie Faiola

Happy soaping!

Love, Amanda

DIY

Fun and Son-Episode 2: DIY Bath Bomb Kit

March 29, 2020

DIY Bath Bomb Kit from Grow and Make

Spencer and I set out to make bath bombs with the DIY Bath Bomb Making Kit from Grow and Make. If you’re new to my blog, or my YouTube channel, you have probably not seen Episode 1 of Fun and Son, or heard of it’s genesis, but you have found us at Episode 2, and we’re glad you’re here!

We set out with the intention of making some bath bombs for ourselves, and some extras to use for Mother’s Day gifts, and we had a little bit of a struggle along the way, but that allows us to share some insight with you if you want to give it a try.  Failure is important…I just finished drafting a blog post on the subject that is going up soon.

Grow and Make is an affiliate of mine (no need to bury the affiliate statement, the links here are affiliate links), but I paid for the kit on my own, it was not sent to me and this is not a sponsored post.  The products are fun and the ingredients are natural and their website is really pretty.  It’s one of those sites where you start poking around and suddenly 45 minutes has been lost and there’s a ton of stuff in your cart that you have to figure out how to edit into a “now” and “next time” pile.  As someone who ALSO has some interest in new and exciting Mandatory Activities like making soap and candles, I got pretty excited about these kits.

The bath bomb kit from Grow and Make contains enough ingredients to make 2 batches of 6 bath bombs, with fun fragrant rose petals, calendula leaves, and lavender buds.  The whole process smelled heavenly.  We made a few mistakes with our first batch of 6 though.  Here’s what happened first:

Not ideal.  Also, not the end of the world…in a way, we kind of ended up with 12 bath bombs. 🙂  At least, that’s what I told Spencer.

But it wasn’t a complete failure…we got one perfect bath bomb. 

The one perfect bath bomb led to about 10 minutes of gloating. 🙂 

But the fact that we got one, and that it was Spencer’s got me thinking that it was one of the earlier ones we made…and that it was likely we had spent too much time talking and let the mixture dry out too much.

We tried again with the remaining ingredients, and used a little extra liquid.  I also reached out to Grow and Make to ask if we had done something wrong and they advised that humudity can play a big role in the success.  The kit instructions say to mix until it’s the consistency of sand, but for me, on a kind of dry day in Maryland, that means pretty wet sand.  If I compare it to something, it’s like the top layer of wet beach sand.  It’s not the sloppy wet beach sand you put in your mold for a sandcastle, it’s like 12 inches further into the dry area of the beach.  Kinda like this texture:

THAT texture, my friends, is what led to our bath bomb success. 

 

Unfortunately, bath bomb success also meant a “victory dance”.  If you want to see that trainwreck of a dance, you’ll have to go watch the video.  I could barely keep myself from editing it out, I’m certainly not going to grab an even more embarrassing freeze frame and post it here. 🙂  We hope you enjoy!

Love,
Amanda

DIY

Fun and Son-Episode 1: National Geographic Mega Crystal Growing Lab

February 3, 2020

Fun and Son-Episode 1: National Geographic Mega Crystal Growing Lab

When I decided to start my blog and YouTube channel I don’t think anyone (other than me) was more excited than my son, Spencer.  I’m sure the exciting part for him was the YouTube part, since YouTube is life, but he immediately wanted to know what he could help with.  

“Can we play Minecraft together online?”  (uh oh)
“Can we review toys?”(double uh oh)

You can see the direction the conversation was headed.  None of those things fell into the construct of my blog or channel, but it also didn’t seem like something I should be able to readily say no to.  Those of you who are parents know how many opportunities we have to say no to things, but “what can I do to help?” is too endearing a request..so here we are. 

We are going to intermittently provide some DIY and/or Lifestyle segments, which Spencer has named “Fun and Son”.  

SO, understanding that this is a little off-brand for me, I hope you will do us both the courtesy of giving them a shot.  I’ll try to keep them brief and try to edit in enough goofiness to keep them light and entertaining.  He’s a ham and he seems to like the camera, so at least you won’t have to watch a shy kid who doesn’t want to speak. 🙂

I think next up is bath bombs from the Grow & Make bath bombs kit!

In the meantime, here is the YouTube video with our first episode. 

Love,
Amanda

I'm Amanda, and I put the AMANDA in A MANDAtory Activity (and I like a good bad pun). This blog is a focused on baking and crafting for gatherings and gifts! I LOVE making things a little extra special and I love sharing those ideas with you. Have a look around, or read more here.

Amanda

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