Preserving Your Handcrafted Soap
I sent some soap to my mom for Christmas last month. It's the first time that I have sent her any of my soap since I started making it this past year. We talked as usual throughout the holidays--sharing stories and enjoying conversation. About a week later, it hit me that I really needed to call her again: "Mom, what did you do with your soap?"
For as long as I can remember, I've known mom to tuck soap bars in clothes drawers, and other unsuspecting places, "to make the drawers smell better, and the soap last longer." These weren't homemade soap bars, and I think some of them remained in their secret places for years, and long past their life-time of scent. I could just see her doing that with my homemade soap. Since homemade soap doesn't have preservatives, I needed to have a word with her about how to take care of her new soap! Here are few tips that I'd like to pass on to you as well:
- Since handcrafted soap is made with natural ingredients and no preservatives, it won't last forever! Generally, handcrafted soap can be stored for about a year. Beyond that, handcrafted soap may go rancid, and smell awful; that's something I knew mom wouldn't want in her clothing drawer! So, if you buy handcrafted soap for yourself, or you give it to someone as a gift, just remember that this is a gift that is meant to be used!
- Store your handcrafted soap in a dry area, and out of direct sunlight. Here's why: handcrafted soap contains glycerin, and glycerin attracts moisture. If you store handcrafted soap under the sink next to the water pipes, or even in a moist bathroom, the soap will attract moisture, and begin to break down before you've even started to use it. This isn't as much of a problem with commercial soaps because the glycerin is usually extracted for use in other products. Over time, handcrafted soap will also begin to loose fragrance and color, especially if they are stored in direct sunlight. Some really good places to store unused soap include the linen closet, or your clothing drawers. So, mom had the right idea about where she was storing her soap!
- Once you begin to use your soap, use a good soap holder to keep your handcrafted soap from sitting in water. For example, soap dishes aren't really adequate for holding soap because the soap continues to sit in water and, consequently, the bar breaks down more rapidly. If you use a soap dish, use one of those inexpensive plastic soap holders that have the little nodules on them to hold the soap high and dry on the soap dish. A wooden soap holder with good ridges is another excellent alternative because the wood wicks the moisture away from the soap.
- It is has also been suggested that you use a wash cloth or loofah sponge with handcrafted soap instead of rubbing the soap directly all over your body in the shower. You can work up a nice lather by rubbing the soap really good on a wash cloth that you then use on your body, so as to reduce the wear on your soap. Remember to store soap away from the direct stream of the shower head, too.
- Give your soap a chance to dry out in between uses in the shower. Rotate your soap bars so that you use one every other day, or cut a single bar in half and use each half every other day. The extra day to dry out in between uses gives your soap bar a chance to firm up, and last longer.
Generally, once you begin to use your soap bar, it should last about a month if you follow these tips. That amount of time may vary depending on the oils that have been used to make your soap. For example, harder bars made with palm, lard and/or coconut oils will last longer than the softer bars made with olive, soy, and castor oils.
Mom and I had a good conversation about soap that day, and she seemed interested and glad to know about these tips. I'm also glad to know that she'll go ahead and enjoy her new soap instead of stashing it away someplace for an eternity. After all, it's handcrafted soap, and it's meant to be used!