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Making Castile Soap

Traditional castile soap is made of nothing more than olive oils and a sodium hydroxide solution, and its origins lie in the soap that has been made for many centuries in Aleppo (Syria), from local olive & laurel berry oils. When the recipe was brought to Europe (specifically the Castile area of Spain, with its abundance of olive trees) it would appear that laurel berry oil was hard to come by, leading to it being dropped completely, becoming the 100% olive oil soap that we know today. It’s considered to be the gentlest of soaps – kind to sensitive skin often used as a baby soap (though personally I don’t think very small babies need any soap at all!)

At the beginning of the year I decided to make it one of my goals for January, and hey presto, last week I made my first ever batch of castile.  I don’t always bother with test batches, and I didn’t think an awful lot could go wrong with this one, so dove right in with a full sized batch. The recipe was simply:

  • 1500g Olive Oil
  • 570g Water
  • 193g Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)

I used my usual method – made up the lye solution and left it to cool down to room temperature.  For my regular bars I melt together the hard oils/butters, then add the liquid oils and let it cool down to room temperature, but there was none of that faffing about with this one – I just measured my olive oil out of the bottle and into my mixing bowl.

Olive Oil
Olive Oil

Then added the NaOH and whisked until it was emulsified:

Oil / NaOH Emulsified
Oil / NaOH Emulsified

Gave it a bit of a mix with the handblender until it traced:

Soap Batter at Trace
Soap Batter at Trace

And poured it into the mould:

Castile in the mould
Castile in the mould

I knew from my reading that I probably wouldn’t be able to unmould / cut after my usual 48 day wait, so I left it a little longer, then kind of forgot about it for a couple of days (oops) and eventually unmoulded it 8 days after it was poured. I was happy to note that it was a lot whiter than it originally appeared to be:

Castile 8 days later
Castile 8 days later

Perhaps I’ll only leave it three or four days next time as it was the hardest batch I’ve ever cut, and I feared for the wire on my poor Bud soap cutter.  I took it slowly, and the end result was this:

Castile freshly cut
Castile freshly cut

The usual recommendation is to allow castile soap to cure for a good six months, if not more, as it’s notoriously slow to harden. I’m not convinced though, and will be testing it often in the next few months to see how it’s developing.

By the way, I’ve never actually used castile soap myself. The things I’ve heard haven’t always been particularly positive – the lather has even been described as ‘slimy’, so I’m going to (try to) put the opinions of others out of my head and be as objective as possible.  Stay tuned and I’ll keep you updated 🙂

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Hello 2017!

Another year, another set of goals… To be honest, last year’s weren’t a huge success – on a personal level I didn’t read as many books as I’d hoped, and I certainly didn’t run as far as I wanted to. Luckily, I’m not anywhere near as bothered as perhaps I should be 😀 On a business level I achieved two out four of my goals – I generated significantly more income than I did in 2015 and I nailed down my bath bomb recipe / got my assessment paid for and certified, so I can now crack on with making and selling them.  Lip balms and website are back on the list for this year…

Speaking of which, I’m going down the route of monthly goals this year.  Last year’s goals weren’t time specific enough, so without any further ado, here are my personal and business goals for January:


Run 30km.  Yep, I’m running again.  Last year I started off with a rather gung ho attitude and injured myself. I was out of action for a good couple of months and never really got back on track properly after that. This time I’m starting very gently. I’ve run 6.5km so far, so I think 30km is achievable.

Read one book.  Any book. Just read dammit!! We’ll see… This is one I may have to give up on until the kids are a bit older.


January is usually a quiet-ish month, but I’m generally kept busy restocking after the Christmas period, so that’s a given, not a goal. In addition I want to:

Complete my tax return.  This is not optional. It has to be done by 31st January, and WILL be done by 31st January, so I know I’m onto a winner with this one 🙂

Make a batch of Castile soap.  Castile is a pure olive oil soap, with no other oils or butters, which needs at least 6 months cure time. I’ve wanted to make it for a while but not got round to it. I figure if I put it down here as a goal I might be more motivated to find the time.

Work on a formula for a facial bar.  I probably won’t actually make it this month, but I’d like to start researching and formulating a recipe so that I can try making this soon.

Post a minimum of 8 times on the blog.

And there we go, nothing really groundbreaking but, fingers crossed, they’re achievable. If you’re reading this, thank you!  It’s you I’m counting on to keep me on track, if only because I have to report back here in four weeks time – hopefully with my head held high 😀




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I’m slipping.  After successfully completing Blogtober, I planned on continuing to post at least twice a week, but because I don’t have that challenge mentality it’s just not happening. I need a plan.  I need structure and regularity (and a little more determination :-D).


So here’s the deal. I’m making a commitment, now, to post a minimum of twice a week, most likely on a Sunday and a Wednesday. I plan on doing a weekly roundup on a Sunday evening of everything soapy (or maybe the top 5 soapy events / the best soapy stuff) that has/have happened that week. I’d also like to start sharing some book reviews (I have an AWFUL lot of soapmaking books, for starters) and also posts about other products that I’ve tried and enjoyed.

Somewhat disconcertingly, out of all my Blogtober posts, the one that received the most ‘likes’ was the recipe for a Swiss Roll. Ohhhh, OK. Nothing to do with soap at all.  Well, this blog is supposed to be about my soaping life, and baking is part of that, so I will probably share some more of my favourites – occasionally.

I do have plenty of ideas for the Wednesday blog posts, I just need to buckle down and write them. Now that I’ve made a commitment to post more regularly, I think I will!





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October Goals – Blogtober Day 2

I’m pretty sure  I should be doing this every month – having a list of goals would probably lend focus to my work wouldn’t it?  October is going to pretty busy even without this daily blogging malarkey, but this is what I’m hoping to achieve by October 31st.

  1. Get my website up and running.  This has been a goal for so long, it’s become a bit of a joke, but I know what needs to be done now and I want the website live, even if it’s not perfect to begin with.
  2. Finish organising, and successfully hold a craft fair in my village.  This is a biggie – not something I’ve done before and it’s a bit of a learning curve.
  3. Prepare a wholesale linesheet.  I’ve managed so far without a formal linesheet, but wholesale enquiries are increasing, and it’s no longer good enough to be directing interested parties to my Facebook page to see photographs (especially given that I don’t even have a website yet).
  4. Prepare a stock of bath bombs. I’ve finally perfected my recipe, and applied for my assessment so that I can sell them.  I’m hoping the paperwork will come through so that I can start making them in readiness for the festive season.
  5. Post at least 31 blog posts – eeeek!!

So much to do, so much to learn!

Thank you for reading – I’m off now to make as start on that lot up there ⇑⇑⇑

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Blogtober Blogging Challenge, Day 1

When I woke up this morning, I reached for my phone (and my glasses – not sure when exactly THAT became a prerequisite for reading my phone screen but it’s now automatic – arghhh) and checked my Twitter feed. At 6.30am I had no idea that such a thing as Blogtober even existed but by 6.45, I was doing it.

The Blogtober Challenge is all about blogging every day, for a month.  You may know that I recently committed to update the blog more often but I’m still struggling to do so, mostly due to time constraints. So how on earth I think I’m going to do this, I’m not really sure, but hey that’s what a challenge is all about eh?!

As far as I can tell, many, if not most, bloggers out there are following a set list of prompts for each day of October,  but I didn’t want to be quite so constrained, so I’ve created my own list of potential blog post topics. So as well as the usual soapy stuff I’ll also be writing about more personal topics and day-to-day life. They may not be long posts (in fact, they’re very unlikely to be!)  but If nothing else, you’ll get to know a little more about the person behind The Soap Mine!

If there’s anything particular from this list of topics that you’d absolutely like me to write about, please let me know in the comments below and I’ll be happy to oblige.

  • Goals for October
  • Soapy (and related) stuff
  • My (non-soapy) daytime job
  • How/why I started making soap
  • Where I live
  • World Smile Day – things that make me smile
  • Weekly wrap-ups
  • If I could go anywhere in the world…
  • A day in my life
  • Instagram tips
  • Favourite IGers
  • Recently read, currently reading, want to read…
  • Favourite recipes
  • Book reviews
  • Pet peeves
  • My garden
  • Other crafts
  • My pinterest obsession

Anyone else committed to doing this or done it before?  Please do share any tips, ideas or advice you may have (and leave a link so that I can follow you too)



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Bath bombs – I dipped a toe…

We’re nearly a quarter of the way through the year (already!!) and I’ve not been making much headway with those goals, so I decided to give bath fizzies, aka bath bombs, a go.  I’ve always called them bath bombs, but apparently Lush have patented the name and now everyone’s scared silly to call them ‘bombs’. I’ll continue to call them bath bombs until I come up with my own clever, witty and amusing name. Obviously…

So, bath bombs.  I have a vague recollection of making mini bath bombs in a craft class I took once many years ago, but this was the first time I’d attempted to make them from scratch at home. I duly did my research, and one book and a bunch of Facebook groups later I was ready to give it a go.  I started with the simplest possible recipe: 1 to 0.5 Bicarbonate of Soda/Citric Acid, water, colour & fragrance:

Bicarb & Citric Acid
Bicarb & Citric Acid

For my first try I added the fragrance oil to the dry ingredients in the bowl, and added the colour to the water:

Water & Colour
Water & Colour

I spritzed and mixed, mixed and spritzed, until I thought I had enough moisture in there, and, of course, I added too much, not that you can tell from this pic:

Ready for moulding
Ready for moulding

I used a spherical mould in two halves and went for it.  It was pretty successful initially:

No 1
No 1!

But as I made more, and left them to stand a while – uh oh!

Expanding bath bombs!
Expanding bath bombs!

For the second batch I added cornflour into the mix. This is supposed to give smoother bath bombs, and also helps keep the mix stable while adding the liquid (ie helps keep the fizz from happening too soon). This time I added the fragrance and the colour directly to the dry mix, and spritzed with water from the bottle. I got a bit of bubbling as they dried out, but these were much more successful:

Bombs with cornflour
Bombs with cornflour

For the third lot I used the same dry ingredients – bicarb, citric acid and cornflour, but tried spritzing witch hazel (with a little added yellow colouring) rather than water.

I crumbled up the first, failed, lot, added a little cornflour and remoulded them, which seemed to work just fine.

By carefully making sure all the flawed sides were facing back or down, I managed to get a half decent picture of all them together 😀 😀

My first Bath Bombs!
My first Bath Bombs!

Now, I’m not generally a huge bath bomb user, so I handed some out to friends to get some opinions, and I’m happy to say they’ve gone down well. I personally couldn’t see much difference between the second (cornflour / water) and third (cornflour / witch hazel), so I’m not sure yet which is the best.

I can’t start selling yet though.  In the UK (and the whole of the EU) each bath & beauty product that we sell must be covered by a full Safety Assessment, issued by a qualified chemist. Assessments aren’t cheap, but they are a legal requirement and are there to ensure that members of the public can rest assured that the products they buy and use are safe. So, there’s more experimentation on the horizon (I’d like to incorporate a little skin loving cocoa butter next) and once I’m happy with the recipe I’ll get my Safety Assessment done so that I can start adding them to the range – woop!

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Business Goals (finally)

I promised weeks ago to update on my 2106 business goals, but I’ve found it so difficult to decide what my priorities should be. The days have passed and I’ve pondered and prevaricated, mainly because the next 12 months could, hopefully, bring some serious disruption to my soaping.  When we bought our home 18 months ago, we knew we wanted to build an extension at the back, and within that extension would be a dedicated soaping area (woop!). We’ve finally had the planning permission through, and are hoping that the extension will be built this year.

All great stuff, BUT it does mean I’m unwilling to plan for expansion, or an increase in the number of retail outlets that carry my stock, for fear of being unable to keep up with demand if, as is likely, my current soaping area is out of action for a period of time.  It’s difficult to plan for, as it’s by no means certain that it will go ahead as planned, or if it does, how long it will take. So my goals for this year are modest and *crosses both fingers* easily achievable:

  1. Generate at least as much income as I did in 2015. If it’s more – happy days!
  2. Finalise my recipe for bath bombs / fizzes, organise – and pay for – the safety assessment (a legal requirement in the UK), and start selling them.
  3. Lip balms – as above
  4. FINALLY get the website up and running. This one shouldn’t be a problem, but given that it’s been ‘in production’ for over 2 years it’s going to take more focus than I’ve had thus far to get it done.

There, four goals. Nothing too taxing there is there?  We’ll see…

And a quick soapy pic – here’s a stack of a recent batch of ‘Delicious’, with a lovely upside down depiction of the island of Cyprus in the middle 😀



Thanks for reading, I’ll be back soon!