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In blog/ soap making

How Soap Cleans

how soap cleans

Here’s a not too scientific explanation of how soap cleans…

Soap is actually made from fat…could be animal based (like tallow or lard) or all vegetable based (like from coconut oil, olive oil, etc…) or could be a combination of both. Our soaps are 100% vegetable without any palm oil (in case you’re wondering why no palm – here’s why).  These fats are mixed with either sodium hydroxide (for solid soaps) or potassium hydroxide (for liquid soaps) which breaks apart the fatty acids and turns them into a salt (or alkali).  That chemical reaction is called “saponification.”  The original oils are no longer oils and the hydroxides are no longer hydroxides – they are indeed a new matter called soap.

We all know water and oil don’t mix. Oil and grease are “insoluble” in water.  So, try as you might to wash without soap…dirty oils aren’t going anywhere with water alone. Soap works to emulsify oils, allowing them to become “soluble” in water and thus to be washed and rinsed away.

So how does soap work it’s magic to emulsify? For this, we have to think about soap at the molecular level. You all remember molecules right…well, it’s a combination of atoms. Soap is a chain of atoms with very different ends. One end of the atom chain attracts water, the other end attracts oil. A soap molecule is kinda holding hands with water on one side and oil on the other. So now that they are joined and getting along happily, oils can be rinsed away with water. The key word here is “rinse”. Soap is a rinse-away item, its function is to emulsify oils with water so it can go down the drain. It’s not meant to stay on the skin like a lotion or perfume.

Natural soaps tend to be more mild since they usually don’t strip all the oils off your skin and include some percentage of unsaponified fats.  In the soaping world, it’s referred to as superfatting your soaps.  Soaps that are harsh tend to clean a little too well and leave you with that dry and tight feeling. For the most gentle bathing experience, use a mild soap with warm (not hot) water, make lots of lather, rinse way and keep it brief.  I of course do not take my own advice and will stand in a hot shower way longer than necessary since it just feels amazing. But, my skin never feels dried out since I only use handmade soaps (of course my own but I do enjoy soaps from other makers too) and I have a water softener.

So that’s it!  If you haven’t already – do yourself a huge favor and give natural soaps a try.  In fact, you can order a bag of samples right here.

Soap Sample

2 In blog/ skin care/ soap making

Natural Soap is Best: Part 1

natural bar soap doylestown, pa

Rebatched Honey Almond Soap

Instead of writing a thesis on all the reasons, I’m going to write this as a series.  The first installment has to do with glycerin.

The quick insight is….natural soap is best for your skin because it retains glycerine, naturally created during the soap making process (saponification.)  When making soap, you primarily use three ingredients:

1) Fats/Oils
2) A Hydroxide (could be sodium or potassium or a combo of both)
3) Water

Then of course you can (and should) get fancy and add in lots of fun stuff like essential oils, botanicals, exfoliants, etc.  But, the essential ingredients are just the oil, lye and water.  So, when these chemically come together you no longer have oil and lye.  Instead you have soap and glycerine, with some water and maybe some extra oil.   Soap made this way is very gentle on the skin, it doesn’t strip the skin of all its oils and leave you with a dry itchy feeling.  On the contrary, it leaves you feeling moisturized and, depending on your climate, you may not even need lotion or any other body moisturizer!

One of my friends that started using my soap experienced this “transitioning” and said she thought it was some sort of scum on her skin as she was used to that squeaky-clean-dry feeling.  But she realized after a few uses that the soap was actually leaving her skin moisturized, so much so she didn’t need to slather on a bunch of body oil.

So why do we care about glycerin?  It’s a humectant which means it draws moisture to the skin.  The extra oils and glycerin from a natural soap will keep your skin from that itchy dry feeling most people associate with soap.  The humectant retains moisture while any remaining oils in the soap trap it in.  You’ll feel the difference right away.  For my soap, I formulate it in such a way where there’s always some extra fatty acids floating around; that’s one reason it’s so gentle.

The typical commercial soap you see in grocery stores REMOVE glycerine as part of their soap making process to use for other products; or to sell off.  It’s kinda like how the tobacco companies remove the nicotine but then add it back in.  Some things are better left alone.  And I guess, some things you just need to leave alone – period.

Now, what about glycerin soap you ask? Well now dearest, that’s a WHOLE other discussion.  Let’s just say the use of the word “glycerine” is more than a bit misleading.  I’ll address that in another post.

In the meantime, get yourself some of our soap, your skin will be so happy! 🙂

2 In blog/ soap making

The Truth About Soda Ash

Soap with Slight Soda Ash

As an honest merchant, soapmaker, person, etc….I’m constantly irked by the stupid marketing claims made by other makers of beauty products.  In particular, when it comes to anything handmade or natural.  So, I’m starting a series to educate folks here and there on some dubious marketing claims out there.

My intention is not to bash what other folks are doing, in fact – I’m inspired by many of their stories and am impressed with their products.  It’s just when marketing people (and BTW – my career is in marketing) add their little “twists” to the truth it just rubs me the wrong way.   Some twists are clearly lies, others are exaggerated.  So here’s one I came across whilst looking around the internet….

“All Beekman 1802 soap is handmade from the milk of the Beekman goats, who graze freely on the land and drink the waters that once made Sharon Springs one of the most famous spa destinations in the world. Beekman 1802 soap uses the highest percentage of pure goat milk possible in each soap bar which will leave your skin clean and well-moisturized without the use of any synthetic chemicals and can be used for face, body and even hair. You may notice a faint layer of ash on the bottom of the soap, which washes away with first use.  This ash affirms the bar is made from pure goat milk using non-chemical methods.

It all sounds so bucolic and lovely; very charming.   My issues is with the underlined sentence on how the ash “affirms” the natural, non-chemical, etc…. This is total goatsh*t.  (Excuse my French…)

Let’s talk about soda ash on soap for a bit….first – it’s a bit of a mystery to all soapmakers.  I used to get it on my soaps when I let them sit out and go through the full heating and cooling process.  I’ve since changed my formulation and processing and I don’t get any ash.  Personally, I don’t like it although many soapmakers believe it adds a rustic touch.  It does actually, but for my bars – I like them without the ash.  In fact, most soapmakers seem to not like it either and consider it a problem.  Here’s a video which talks about how to remove soda ash:



Here’s how soda ash is explained by the Soap Queen:

“Soda ash forms when unsaponified lye reacts with naturally occurring carbon dioxide in the air.  Soda ash is  harmless, and it’s most common on the surface of your cold process soaps, but sometimes soda ash can form throughout the middle of the bars.”

I point you to the Soap Queen who to me is one of the authorities on all things soapmaking. Here’s an article on soda ash on soap: The Soap Queen: Explaining and Preventing Soda Ash.

From David Fisher – the writer on Soap and Candle Making:

Ash is a white, powdery substance that mysteriously appears on soap as it is curing – usually on the surface of the soap as it is sitting in the mold hardening overnight after it is first poured. It will usually only form on the sides of the soap that are exposed to the air while hardening.

What is it? Soap makers have traditionally believed that it is sodium carbonate formed by the free sodium from the sodium hydroxide (lye) and carbon dioxide in the air. Other soap makers have theorized that it’s actually microcrystalline powdered soap residue.

Soap making guru Kevin Dunn, author of Scientific Soapmaking recently did some extensive tests on ash and has confirmed that it is indeed sodium carbonate. Among the clues he used to test his hypothesis were that it was soluble in water and that it only occurred where the soap came in contact with air.  (Read full article here.)

By Beekman’s explanation and the look of their soaps, it looks like they pour the soap mixture into custom molds, the top is exposed to air which is where the ash forms.  When unmolded of course the top becomes the bottom.  Now, ash is not a bad thing – however it does NOT “affirm the bar is made from pure goat milk” and does NOT “affirm using non-chemical methods.”  You can make a cold-process bar of soap with “unpure” goat milk, no goat milk and/or some synthetic ingredients (like synthetic fragrance oils) and still get lots of good old fashioned soda ash.  It does not prove or affirm anything about their ingredients or process.

This is where the marketing folks spun the truth into a misleading lie.  Yeah, it’s a lie (I don’t believe in gray areas.) I suppose they don’t really like the ash and were looking for a positive spin to explain it.  Or customers expressed concerns or had questions…who knows.  So what does ash on soap truly affirm?   It “affirms” that the cold-process method was used to make the soap and that during the process it was mostly likely exposed to air.  That’s about it.  Beekman soaps are lovely enough and I don’t doubt their ingredients or process.  I’m sure their using goat milk from their farm and using the old-fashioned method of soapmaking (cold-process.)  Ash is just a natural part of the process but does not at all validate ingredients.  So, shame on you marketing folks – you should know better.  And if you know better – you should do better.  And if you don’t know better, than the company should get some new marketing folks who at least know how to do a Google search.

In blog/ humble beginnings/ soap making

Why did you start making soap?

Here’s my thinking on the matter and I still haven’t found a succinct way to explain.  (Gotta work on that.)  I really believe it was divine inspiration but that doesn’t make much sense to folks who don’t really hold the same belief system.  In God’s word it says:

Romans 8 28

Typically folks lean on this verse during hard times that don’t make sense.  Maintaining faith includes knowing and expecting that God will use every circumstance, decision, event – good, bad or otherwise – for our good.  Our lives are like intricately woven tapestries that may appear like a jumbled mess when viewing just one section up-close but…when we step back we see what looks like randomness is actually a beautiful piece of art.

So all of that being said, I believe God gave me some talents, experiences and interests that led me to the idea of making soap.  These include:

– I’ve always been creative but in a practical sort of way; not art for art’s sake.  (For example, when I was at Princeton I majored in Civil Engineering but took some art classes like oil painting and ceramics.   In ceramics I got yelled at by the instructor for creating a box – she chided me saying this was not an arts and crafts class.  Whoops – my bad! Decades later I learned she yelled at everyone and told them how their work sucked too. )

– I like making things by hand (e.g., for a season knitting became my “passion” as I spent many hours attending my daughters’ various activities: piano lessons, tennis lessons, soccer practice, drawing class, volleyball, etc.)

– A trip to Vermont introduced me to the notion of being a soapmaker and having my own shop. I stopped in a store named “Thistle” in Woodstock, VT which became a huge inspiration to me but it sat dormant in my subconscious.  I remember thinking, “Now THIS is the good life!” and then quickly dismissed it as not being in the cards for me and moved on.

– I wanted to be a pastry chef and own a special occasion bakery called Baby Cakes.  Before going to business school I considered going to culinary school.  I chose b-school.  For my dream bakery,  I was going to specialize in mini-cakes.  When I was living in the NY area after b-school I took classes and almost enrolled in one of the top pasty chef programs.  Life took over and I ended up moving out of the area.

– I always wanted to have my own business.  I just never really knew what to do.

– Somehow or another I believe I stumbled on the Soap Queen’s blog.  That was the clincher.  I watched this video below with much interest.

After making my first batch that pretty much sealed the deal – I found something I’m passionate about, I’m good at and can ultimately provide the lifestyle I dream of.

So, in the end – I believe God has been putting it all together for some time now. It’s so amazing and humbling to look back and see how He’s been fitting the pieces together on my behalf; of course unbeknownst to me.  Can’t wait to see what else He’s working up! 🙂

In blog/ soap making

Common Soapmaking Myths

In my early days of soapmaking, I measured each ingredient, mixed it up just so, took temperatures and insulated my soap to ensure a good and proper gel.  I even wrapped my soap mold in a wool scarf (handknit by yours truly).  For my first step by step attempt feel free to read this post.

Insulating Soap

Freshly Poured Soap; Wrapped and Insulated

Yes, I babied every batch.  I did each step  because I thought I had to.   As exciting as it was to create each new batch – it was also quite nerve wracking.  Here’s some chunks of one of my early soaps – reminds me of vanilla fudge (yummm!)

All Natural Coconut Milk Soap

Freshly Cut Coconut Milk Soap

If you’re brand spanking new to soapmaking – I encourage you to go the traditional route and then tweak the process as you see fit.  You’ll find tons of info via all of the well known books, blogs, Yahoo groups and YouTube.  Don’t try to take shortcuts in mastering your technique, do it every which way and then figure out where you can create efficiancies and still achieve the result you want.  You really have to learn how to formulate, work with the mixture and develop what I call your own “soap identity.”  No shortcuts….so all of that being said – here are some shortcuts 😉  Please throw these into your mix of soapmaking experiments:

Soapmaking Myths

Your oil and lye should be around the same temperature in order to saponify your oils. Nope!  They can be room temperature.  In fact, I premix my oils and a lye solution before making large batches.  I also use masterbatching to create efficiencies (more on masterbatching later).  With my premixed components – I make soap at room temp.

You must insulate and gel your soap to ensure full saponification.  To gel or  not to gel, a question for the ages.  You do NOT have to gel your soap.  Once you’ve mixed up your oils and lye – there’s no turning back (assuming you mixed to a minimum level of trace). In fact – you can freeze you soap at this point to avoid gel entirely.  Whether or not you prefer to gel is totally your preference.

A good recipe includes palm oil.  Every basic soap recipe seems to include palm oil so I thought it was a necessity.  It’s not.  After reading about the ethical/moral issues of using this oil I quickly abandoned it.  It’s also an oil that requires pre-mixing (extra work) so all the more reason not to use it.  For more on that you can read my article here on why I don’t use palm oil.

So, three common myths you are fee to challenge on your own.  Hope this is helpful for anyone new (or experienced for that matter) to cold process soapmaking.

In blog/ skin care/ soap making

Smooth with the Roughness

Our exfoliating soaps are making a come back.  I’ve decided to do away with our sugar scrubs and instead offer a variety of scrubby soaps.  The first compliments our best selling Virgin Coconut soap and is loaded with skin renewing natural exfoliants like shredded coconut shells and crushed jojoba seeds. Here’s a sneak peak at our Virgin Coconut Exfoliating Soap Bar, made fresh and just sliced and stamped:

Virgin Coconut Exfoliating Soap by Bubs and Scrubs of Doylestown PA

Fresh handmade scrubby goodness!

This is not for the faint of heart – it truly is scrubby.  The key is to let the soap and the exfoliants do the work – no need to mash it into your skin unless of course you have some major grime you need to remove.  I plan to offer these as a bundle: the smooth and the scrubby version (hence the original concept behind Bubs & Scrubs – the Smooth with the Roughness). 🙂

Here’s another view; a close-up of the top before the slab was sliced…

Virgin Coconut Natural Soap by Bubs and Scrubs of Doylestown, PA

Close-up of fresh slab of scrubby soap.

Once these are cured and ready to sell; I’ll announce here and on Facebook.  If you haven’t yet –  like our Facebook page to stay tuned and connect with me personally.  CLICK HERE 

Questions or comments?  Just leave a note below and I’ll respond shortly.

Proverbs 2:8-12  He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe. Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted.

In blog/ humble beginnings/ soap making

Our First Video Review!

Just a quick post sharing a video review made by one of our newest customers.  Thank you sooo much – I so enjoyed this.  Better still, I’m happy they’re really enjoying my soap!!!  I don’t make the oatmeal soap anymore but if anyone still wants something unscented then my Virgin Coconut coconut milk soap is for you.  Watch and enjoy!



If you’d like to do a video review too we’d be delighted to post it. 🙂

2 In blog/ skin care/ soap making

Cleaning up Acne with Tea Tree Soap

I never really had a problem with breakouts – even when I abused my face as a teen.  I would use cheap make-up and sleep with it but amazingly I never had a bad case of acne.  As I approached  my mid-30’s I started getting more breakouts.  I don’t know if it was hormones, that my skin was changing so needed a new routine, or both?  Either way, I consistently had a flare up here and there that I’d have to cover up with makeup (at least us gals have that as an option.)

It wasn’t until I started using my own handmade all natural soap that it cleared up.  I made a bar soap with tea tree, neem and bentonite clay with the intention of selling it as a facial bar.  So I began using it and my face – and this is the honest truth – has never been more clear.  I only get a little break out when I stop using it.  That’s not from a dependence on any substance – it’s just apparent that given the daily onslaught of toxins, dirt and bacteria my skin faces everyday – it really needs the extra fighting power of tea tree.   Hmmm, now that I think about it – maybe that’s what changed – the environment was becoming a bit much for my skin to fight off – who knows!

One of my best friends from childhood (I’ve known her since we were five) raves about it too.  She has struggled with breakouts too and this has been the only remedy that consistently keeps her face clear.  We had a silly falling out not that long ago and she admitted she was concerned about not having her  tea tree soap hook-up!  🙂  My teenage daughter has also used it with good results; it cleared up a really nasty breakout she had over the summer.  She’s my sensitive child and she didn’t have any bad reaction to the soap either.

So don’t be afraid to try an all natural soap on your face – it works for your body too.  Most all natural soaps are made with loads of olive oil so they don’t dry out the skin at all.  (It’s a really bad misperception about soap – don’t confuse the all natural stuff with the big-company detergent bars you see in your grocery store.)  Our bars are made food grade extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and more skin-loving goodies.

Of course – I recommend giving our tea tree soap a try which you can see here.  This lasts 1-2 months if you’re justing using for your face and allowing to dry in between each use.  We’re working up a liquid version too as lots of folks prefer liquid soaps over bars (keeping it all natural and loaded with pure tea tree essential oil of course.)

tea tree soap for acne by Bubs and Scrubs


2 In blog/ skin care/ soap making

Choose Natural Skin Care

Okay, here’s the dirt on commercial detergent bars…they’re not good for you or the environment in so many ways.  Notice, I’m not even dignifying the product by calling it soap.  In fact, according to the FDA – many of your favorite bars aren’t technically soap so they CAN’T use that term either! It’s not just the bars, it’s also the gem colored shower gels, etc – all kinds of synthetics in most of the most popular bath and body items out there.  I’m going to have to break this down in multiple posts to help create a full picture here so stay with me.

In order to provide some context, we first have to understand our skin, it’s function, proper care, etc…so let me start here.  Once you have an improved understanding of the skin your in you can then develop an appreciation for natural and organic body products.  We all know skin is an organ – just like our heart, liver, etc. – and it performs a number of functions for us.  Some include maintaining homeostatis (maintaining constant temperature via sweating/shivering); it provides a layer of protection from abrasions, against pathogens, radiation from the sun, metabolism of vitamin D, and much more.  Bottom line, it keeps us safe and is a critical layer of protection.  Plus, healthy skin just looks and feels good!

Skin Care and Soap

Cross-Section of Epidermis

Despite all of this great protection, skin is highly absorbent.  It will absorb whatever it comes in contact with which then goes directly into the blood stream (hence all the patch programs now – nicotine, birth control, etc.).   Our skin is inundated with chemicals, preservatives, and all sort of toxic substances.  Our bodies are certainly designed to combat what gets in but why not safeguard our health with better choices?  As we begin to take more care regarding the food we put in our bodies (go organic, no pesticides, no cloned food, no gmo’s, etc), the same amount of care should be taken with what we put ON it.  Because what goes on, is highly likely to go IN.

Many of the ingredients in commercially made bath and body products are just not good for skin despite all the marketing.  They are fairly cheap to produce and they make a hard/lasting bar; the low price comes with a cost and that’s in the quality of the ingredients  used and the chemicals used to preserve shelf life.    All of these additives, chemicals, and preservatives go from our skin and into our bloodstream.  Not good.  Stay tuned for additional posts on ingredients to look out for and avoid if possible.

3 In blog/ soap making

Soap Storage Room: Racks

I’ve been wanting these for sooo long for soap storage and am so excited to finally have my dream curing racks! These bakery racks (officially called bun pan racks) are coveted by all soapmakers at some point or another.  It’s the perfect, clean, tidy, professional way to store soaps while they’re curing. You can certainly build beautiful wood shelving but I love these.  I know you can buy these used but I don’t like messin’ around with other people’s dirt so I bought these new.  They were very affordable as I purchased the knocked down version that requires assembly.  Here’s the link to where I purchased these:

They actually showed up within 2 days; I think the distribution center is nearby – yay for almost instant gratification!

I’m thinking big in terms of my production goals so need to consider efficiency and good manufacturing practices, these are a great versatile solution for me – for now.   These were easy to put together – I did it Saturday morning while my family was still asleep (lazy people).  😉

First step, drag the boxes from the garage into the house.  The boxes were really tall.

curing rack for soap


Once in, I took out all the parts.  Next step was to put together the two sides with the included rails.  It was just a matter of sticking the rods in and then tightening the screws on the outside.  There’s a video on the site that I watched for the step by step breakdown – I didn’t find any instructions included so that video was essential.  Here it is standing with the two sides now attached with all the rods.

Bun Pan Rack for Curing Soap


Now, I just had to lay it down and attach the castors.  Again, really easy – actually easier than some of the rods.


soap curing rack

Once all four were on, I just had to go back and tighten all the screws.

That really was it.  I put together two and will order more as needed.  I can fit at least 3-5 more in my storage room without creating any major issues.  Room to expand is a good thing!  Hope you found this helpful.  If you’re a soapmaker reading this, go ahead and treat yourself!  Oh yeah – I bought aluminum pans (I know – it’s not stainless steel but they were too pricey.)  They were $5.99 per pan so not bad.  I’ll just keep ’em lined so the pans don’t react to the soap.  Hope you enjoyed my little DIY bun rack assembly.


soap storage rack

In blog/ soap making

DIY Soap Storage Area


As my head throbs…I’m writing this to share my DIY efforts at creating a soap storage area.  I’m increasing production so need a bigger dedicated space (at least until I can lease space elsewhere.)  One of these days I may have the ceiling and walls professionally finished but not yet.  So instead, I’m sprucing it up with simple materials and will use this area to slice, store, package and ship our items.

Previously this storage area held all of our seasonal decorations and other personal items.  Here’s what it looks like with the carpet remnants still on the floor.  Pretty depressing huh?  I can’t work in a dingy unorganized space so I have to do something with this.  It’s a mental thing.

Creating A Storage Spapce

So the first step is to remove all the flooring.  My plan is to use these vinyl planks to cover the concrete.  It will look nice – I think.  It says it’s easy to install – we shall see!

Vinyl Flooring for Soap Room

Anyway…here’s the room with all of the carpet and padding removed.

Creating A Soap Storage Area

So with the carpet out of the way, I put on my goggles and used a masonry chisel and hammer to chip away the lumps of concrete.  I was a little dizzy from earlier (don’t know why) but I kept at it.  It was actually really easy.  If you got just the right angle the lumps popped right off.  I did a lot of sweeping  and vacuumed up the dust.   In one area towards the back, I was kneeling and stood up quickly just to bang my head on a pipe – OUCH!  I sat and cried on the steps for a bit, blew my nose and got back at it.  No blood so that was good.

Here’s the offending pipe.  The pipe won.

Offending Pipe

I decided to add paint around the edges as I don’t plan on doing a lot of custom cutting.  I don’ want to see the ugly concrete exposed so I headed off to Home Depot to pick up some primer and paint.  I picked out a nice green which I think will brighten it up and will look quite lovely and cheerful with the (fake) wood planks.  So here’s the primer all mixed and ready.

Priming the Floor

I only primed the outer edges of the floor as I’m putting the woodsy vinyl in the center.  It has to dry 4 hours so I’ll be back at it after church tomorrow.  Hoping my head doesn’t hurt too much!