How to make a clear Soap Block

Before taxation of soap was fmally scrapped in 1853, British people had a hard time keeping clean and smelling fresh as daisies. Home-made soaps make for a wonderful, personal gift. They are easy to create and once you know how to make a clear soap block, there won’t be any stopping you, for it’s great fun experimenting with shapes, colours and scents.
You will need: Ze Tian Ji
• A mould, such as a large margarine tub, but many household containers will do provided they are sturdy enough to withstand the heat of the melted soap • Petroleum jelly • 1.2kg clear melt-and-pour soap base (available from craft and hobby shops) • Kitchen knife • Double boiler or saucepan and heatproof bowl • Mixing spoon • kitchen thermometer (optional) • mixing bowl • 8m1 liquid soap colorant — this project uses orange • Measuring spoons • 12m1 essential oil — this project uses Sweet Orange • Knife, vegetable peeler or damp sponge • Cheese wire or herb chopper • Clingfilm
1. Lightly grease your mould with a small amount of petroleum jelly.
2. Chop the soap base into small pieces with a kitchen knife and melt over a gentle heat in the top half of a double boiler — or in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan containing a few centimetres of simmering water. Cover the pan while the soap melts, to keep moisture in. Do not stir, but occasionally lift the lid and five the soap a gentle nudge with the spoon. The ideal melting temperature of the soap is about 60 degrees Celsius. If it overheats, the texture will suffer, so it’s important to keep an eye on the temperature. Using a kitchen thermometer such as the ones used for candy or jam-making is ideal for monitoring.

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3. When the soap has become fully liquid, remove the saucepan from the hob. Pour a small amount into a separate bowl; add a small amount of colorant, following the manufacturer’s recommendations as to quantity. Use a measuring spoon to add this back to the melted base gradually until the desired hue is reached. Then add the essential oil. For citrus or mint essential oils do not exceed a 1% dilution, but for gentle essential oils, such as lavender or bergamot, it is safe to use up to 3%. Stir gently.

4. Pour the soap mix gently and slowly into the mould. Leave to set. This can take several hours. Using the refrigerator will speed things up, but don’t use the freezer, as the texture of the soap may suffer.
5. When the soap has set, remove it from the mould. It should come out quite easily, but if not, try flexing the mould gently or leaving it upside down in a warm room. To remove surface bubbles, slice off a thin layer with a knife or vegetable peeler or wipe with a damp sponge.
6. Slice into soap bar sized chunks with a cheese wire or herb chopper. Store in an airtight container or wrap each block of soap in Clingfilm to avoid moisture loss.
Once you know the principle of how to make clear soap blocks, you will want to try more advanced textures, shades and scents. Following the above recipe, why not make bergamot-scented soap, swapping the Sweet Orange essential oil in the above instructions for 2 1/2 tsp of bergamot essential oil? Add whole, dried orange or Satsuma slices to the mould as your final layer. The number of these will depend on how many bars of soap you wish to cut from your mould.

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