How long has it been since I last published a blog post? It was before last Christmas certainly, and I don’t think I’d been particularly prolific for a while before that either. SO much has happened since then, as we all know. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way most of us live our lives, and has affected us all to a lesser or greater extent (high five to all the parents out there who’ve been homeschooling!). My soapmaking has remained constant however. Increased, if anything. My customer base has changed of course – wholesale orders dried up completely as soon as the lockdown was announced, and all craft fairs and markets were cancelled. This website however has been my saving grace. It was still under construction last time I posted here but we managed to get it launched last February and thank goodness we did – that’s where more or less all my sales have come from over the last 4-5 months. If this is your first time visiting do have a look around before you go and let me know what you think!
With the new website came this new blog. All the old posts have been transferred over to here, and fingers crossed all the subscribers have too, but nothing’s certain so I’ll press publish with bated breath and see what happens.
The best thing to happen (soap wise!) since I was last here is the change of packaging. I’ve been wanting to upgrade my packaging for a long time but couldn’t settle on what it was I wanted to do. When I started making soap for a local company and saw that they were selling it in beautifully simple paper wrappers, I realised that I could do something similar. I approached a local printers and they designed and printed my current packaging. It’s a fantastic solution and as an added bonus, it’s fully bilingual, which I’ve wanted for a while.
Another big change since I was last here is the design of the fragrance oil bars. They used to be all done using the drop swirl technique which, while pretty and distinctive, wasn’t something I could keep scaling up as I made more and more bars. I routinely make 6kg batches now, poured into four loaf moulds, and the drop swirl design is just too time consuming to do effectively. I now make all my fragrance oil bars using the ‘In the Pot’ technique.
There have been two limited edition releases since I was last here – the Spring Specials and the Summer Specials (no surprises there :-D) –
I’ve just finished making the tester bars for the Autumn Specials:
And started gathering together options for Christmas. Well, it is July after all 😉
So there we go – a whistlestop tour of the last 9 months or so. My goal is to get back to weekly posting if possible – maybe something along the lines of the weekly updates that I was doing last year, but it may take me a while to get back into the habit, so bear with me.
Please join me on social media for way more regular soapy updates – just seach for The Soap Mine on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter. We also have an active (and very friendly) facebook community here https://www.facebook.com/groups/841016452928421 where you’ll find competitions, giveaways, sneaky peeks and the occasional bit of sillyness 😉
I can’t be the only one who’s incredulous that there’s only a week and a half left of October? They say time flies when you’re having fun so I guess I must be having a whale of a time 😉
I didn’t manage to get a weekly update out last week, I posted the info about the solid conditioner bars (here) and that, it would appear, brought me to the limit of my available blogging time. However, you really didn’t miss much. I made soap. I wrapped soap. I labelled soap. I dispatched soap to retail and wholesale customers. I read about soap and talked about soap soap – in person and online. Oh, I took the dog for a few walks as well.
Seriously though, I am living and breathing soap at the moment (with the odd foray into solid conditioner bars). I’m running out of space in my rented office space (a 20 second commute over the road above the village Tourist Info Shop – I should share some pics sometime), and I definitely need a larger making area at home. It feels like I should be expanding my space, but there isn’t really anywhere local I could move into, and the children are still too small for me to travel too far afield. We’ve talked about the possibility of building a workshop in the garden, which would solve the studio space issue, but I’d still be struggling for curing / wrapping / packing space. It’s one of those things that’s on the back burner, but always there, niggling at me to find a solution, so I’m trying not to fret about it too much during the run up to Christmas, and will give it some more thought in January / February (supposedly my ‘quiet’ time, but it didn’t quite work out that way this year so we’ll see).
I’ve had a big run on guest bars this last couple of weeks. The guest houses and holiday lets around here continue to be occupied throughout autumn and are always full over Christmas and New Year, so I think everyone’s getting their orders in now to be sure they don’t run out over the festive period. I have 250 of these mini bars to cut and bevel over the next two or three days. Thankfully customers are becoming increasingly eco-conscious and don’t always want them fully wrapped – the ‘naked’ option is becoming more popular, and I always provide a full ingredients list and other mandatory info for the customer to pass on to their guests.
Ooh, and I’ve added a new fragrance to the FO range… During the summer I released four limited edition bars, one of which was Watermelon, which proved to be extraordinarily popular. And justifiably so – it smells utterly delicious. When I dropped Tutti Frutti from the core range I had room for a new regular fragrance and adding Watermelon was a no-brainer. Here’s the very first batch of 60 in the mould:
I said in my last weekly update that I would share a bit more about the Christmas range soon but I’ve STILL not managed to take any photos. I hereby undertake, no, I PROMISE, that I shall reveal the Christmas range in my next update post. *Adds another thing to this week’s to-do list*
I’m still working on my HUGE order that I alluded to back on the 22nd September. The first batch are now all fully cured and are bevelled and ready for wrapping. There are almost 800 bars just in this first delivery to get labelled up with a cigar band wrap, and I’m so grateful that my lovely friend has been willing to come round and help me in return for a cuppa and a chat. Now these are new to me, but I love the way they look, and I’m edging more and more towards doing my own this way. They’re eco-friendly, look great, and are quick to wrap once you get into the swing of them. However my customer is an online only company, so these bars won’t be sitting on a shop shelf for any length of time, whereas mine would be, so I’m not sure whether it would work for my wholesale customers? I think I’m going to give it a go though. Here’s a sneak peek of some we’ve wrapped already:
And finally, here are some pics of cut soap and soap in the mould from the last couple of weeks…
Back in August I was contacted by Blossom Oils and asked whether I would be interested in testing some of their fragrance oils in return for feedback. I didn’t need to think about it for long – I don’t often get the opportunity to experiment and play with fragrances these days. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, I have a core range of fragrances which I have to keep in stock for my wholesale customers – it would be way too confusing and time consuming to keep switching out fragrances. Secondly, fragrance oils are expensive, and especially so when buying in small quantities to trial. I bulk-buy my fragrance oils for the core range to keep costs to a minimum. Thirdly, there’s always a risk involved in trying a new fragrance oil – it might accelerate trace (soap on a stick anyone?), it might discolour, and there’s always the chance that you just might not like the smell. Years ago I bought a dupe of Lush’s Karma fragrance and OMG it was vile. Horrible. I can still remember it. I really wish I couldn’t….
Anyway, I digress. I happily accepted their kind offer, and received eight, EIGHT!!! samples of fragrance oils in the post very soon after:
Oooh the joys of new fragrances to sniff. Anyone else an inveterate sniffer? I can’t help myself. Shampoos, perfumes, and of course, fragrance oils. I was in scenty heaven. Here’s what I was sent, in alphabetical order:
FBomb (Similar to Flower Bomb perfume)
Opulence (Similar to Decadence perfume)
Sea Breeze & Mint (Similar to a men’s shower gel)
I had cheekily asked whether one of the samples could be FBomb as Flower Bomb is one of my favourite perfumes, and I also suggested that they include a Christmas fragrance or two. Unfortunately their Christmas fragrances weren’t yet available, but they did send the Amaretto and Mulberry as options that could be considered ‘wintery’.
So. First thoughts, sniffing from the bottle:
The Amaretto was LOVELY, but then I do like a little glass of Amaretto over ice at Christmas. Almondy and sweet, I really liked it.
Dove. I’ll be honest, I thought this was a strange one to have included in the eight. I can’t bear Dove ‘so-called soap’. (It’s not soap, it’s a beauty bar, because they’re not allowed to call it soap. Rant over). So anyway, the last thing I would choose to put into my soap is something that would make it smell like Dove. But in the interests of fairness and honesty, I’ll treat it like any other FO, and it DOES smell like Dove.
FBomb. This definitely reminded me of the perfume straight out of the bottle. So far so good.
Lavender. I usually use lavender essential oil for my lavender soap, and I found this fragrance to be slightly more ‘powdery’ and slightly sweeter than the EO.
Opulence. This smells really good out of the bottle. I’m not familiar with the original perfume, but this was lovely, a nice blend of floral and spice.
Sea Breeze and Mint. Again, I’m not familiar with the inspiration for this one, but it’s a nice unisex fragrance, and the mint definitely came through without taking over.
Warm Mulberry Definitely warm, definitely fruity, a real winter scent.
Wild Berries. Another fruity fragrance, but ‘clearer’ than the previous one, juicy, sweet and berry-like.
Every single one was good out of the bottle. Even the Dove, which I would never choose to use, did in all fairness, smell of Dove.
So I made some soap. I made a single batch of my regular recipe, with full water, because I wanted all the fragrances to be tested under exactly the same conditions, so it made sense to make all the testers out of the same base batch.
I added my chosen colourant to eight different containers, brought my batter just to emulsification, and then split it between the eight containers:
I gave them all a quick stir manually, then added 3% fragrance oil to the first jug. I gave it a thorough stir, made sure it was traced, then poured it into the mould. I did exactly the same with the other seven fragrances.
The testers are the ones with letters above them, just in case I forgot which was which. Ignore the bottom four on the right hand side, they’re leftovers…
The Sea Breeze & Mint (blue one above) caused some acceleration, but not too much, and the Lavender (lavender one above) caused slight acceleration. That surprised me somewhat as, although florals are known to cause acceleration, if anything I find that Lavender essential oil inhibits trace. But it really was only slight acceleration. None of the other FO’s caused noticeable acceleration, which was pretty impressive.
They were unmoulded after 36 hours, and this photo was taken a couple of weeks later:
It was around this time that I realised that I’d made a mistake by using colourants as it’s much harder to tell what discolouration is going on if the soap is already coloured. Regardless, it seems to me that only one of the fragrances caused any discolouration at all, and that was the Amaretto Nog. To be fair, the fragrance description is “A creamy blend of almond and vanilla” and any fragrance containing vanilla is guaranteed to cause discolouration, so it was only to be expected.
So the big question. How do they smell after a few weeks cure time? Here’s my thoughts:
Amaretto Nog. This smells lovely, but it no longer smells, to me at least, of amaretto. The almond aspect seems to have faded but it’s still a warm fragrance with vanilla notes and I would definitely use it again.
Dove. This smells exactly how I remember Dove smelling! A strong, fresh soapy smell which will please any Dove lover.
FBomb. This still reminds me of the designer fragrance on which it’s based. It’s not identical (which would be pretty impossible anyway) but similar enough to be recognisable I think. I’m looking forward to using my tester in the shower! Interestingly this was my husband’s favourite (in blind testing)
Lavender. Oddly this no longer smells of lavender at all to me. It’s a floraly fragrance, less powdery than it was out of the bottle, but definitely not lavender. I asked a couple of other people what they thought it smelled like, and nobody got lavender.
Opulence. I’m not familiar with the perfume on which this is based, but I did like this one. It’s quite a complex fruity/floral fragrance with notes of something more spicy too.
Sea Breeze and Mint. This is a more masculine fragrance, with definite sea-side / ozone-y overtones. I don’t get much mint, but I’m not familiar with the original shower gel so perhaps it’s exactly how it should be. To me it smells a bit synthetic – not one of my favourites.
Warm Mulberry. I was surprised to discover that this is probably my favourite of the lot. It’s not one I would have necessarily chosen from the description (fruits with vanilla) but it’s delicious. It is fruity, but it has a warmth and a depth to it which is hard to describe. I used a fairly dark colour for this one, so didn’t notice any discolouration, but it might discolour in a white/light coloured bar.
Wild Berries. Last, but definitely not least, comes Wild Berries. This was my husband’s second favourite after FBomb, and I really like it too. It’s a juicy, fruity uncomplicated fragrance, and would make a really nice smelling bar of soap.
Out of the eight there are at least four that I would definitely consider buying when I need a new fragrance for my range, and another two that I like but probably wouldn’t get round to purchasing. There were only two that I wasn’t particularly keen on, which I think is a pretty good percentage given that everyone’s tastes are different and it was the luck of the draw what I received.
I’d like to say thank you to Blossom Oils for giving me the opportunity to sample some of their fragrances. I would definitely recommend them to anyone looking to try some new and different fragrance oils. Their website is easy to navigate, and provides you with all of the technical data required (MSDS, IFRA certs and allergen declarations) if you sell your products. Oh, and they’re suitable for candles / wax melts too!
Happy Easter everyone, I hope you’re having a fabulous weekend. I didn’t post last week as I didn’t get round to making ANY soap at all (gasp!), but I’ll be back to the usual routine tonight / tomorrow with a weekly update…
In the meantime I just wanted to let you know about a giveaway I’m holding over on Twitter to celebrate the launch of this new three large bomb set. Just follow me and RT the competition post to be in with a chance of winning – easy peasy!
I’m so excited to be able to share today that I have a brand new Stockist – Siop Ogwen in Bethesda, Snowdonia. I delivered a selection of bars and gifts sets there this morning, and by the time I’d got home they’d already shared a pic on social media:
They started out as a book shop (my other passion):
but they’re diversified their range and now have some lovely, locally made gifts like this jewellery:
and these utterly glorious Welsh lady prints and bags by Twinkle & Gloom:
I’m honoured to have been asked to supply this lovely shop, so if you’re not near enough to be able to pop in and check it out (33 High St, Bethesda), then please take a look at their website or social media: Twitter, IG and Facebook.
When I put out my appeal for Blogtober topics here, Jo asked for hints and tips for making bath bombs. Now, I’m absolutely not an expert but I did learn a few things while I was knee deep in frustration trying to crack the bath bomb enigma. Everyone else seemed to be effortlessly cranking out these beautiful bath bombs, while I was crying into my bath bomb mix, WILLING the two sides of my balls to stick together…
Here’s a few points that might help you if you too if you find yourself in bath bomb purgatory…
While you only need baking soda and citric acid as your dry ingredients in bath bombs, it helps to add extra dry ingredients which can help prevent the premature reaction between those two main ingredients. I use both cornflour (cornstarch) and kaolin clay in my recipe. (Don’t use more than half the weight of the citric acid)
Use POWDERED anhydrous citric acid. You can buy the coarser citric acid and grind it yourself, but to be honest it’s a right faff. Just buy the powdered version. Also, be careful not to buy monohydrate citric acid, you definitely need anhydrous citric acid.
If you’re a beginner, or having problems with your recipe, don’t use Epsom salts or Dead Sea salts in your bath bombs. I have seen recipes using them, but they’re high in magnesium, which is a humectant (i.e. it attracts moisture from the air), and can prematurely set off the fizz
Sieve, sieve, sieve all your dry ingredients. Never, ever try to make bath bombs with ingredients that haven’t been carefully sieved to remove all and any lumps.
If you plan on making a lot of bath bombs, consider investing in a dedicated kitchen aid type mixer. Get it mixing all the dry ingredients, then combine your oils (cocoa butter and rice bran in my case), your fragrance and your colourant in a separate container, then drizzle it into the mixer and get everything really well combined with minimal effort.
Citrus essential oils can prevent bath bombs from hardening. I made three big batches of bath bombs using my ‘serenity’ essential oil blend (that contains both sweet orange and lemon essential oils) and couldn’t understand why the bath bombs never got hard. I suspected that the essential oils might be to blame but a lengthy Google didn’t come up with anything. I finally got my answer after posting in a bath bomb Facebook group. Citrus EOs can be problematic in bath bombs.
Use a water soluble colorant specifically designed for use in bath bombs. I use these from Soaposh. Mica in bath bombs aren’t recommended and can lead to a hot mess in and around the bathtub unless to you use Polysorbate 80.
Once everything is combined, spritz with a little Witch Hazel. Really, just a very small amount. For a recipe that starts with 900g baking soda I only need one or two spritzes of Witch Hazel. You really don’t want a ‘wet sand’ texture (certainly not the wet sand that I’m familiar with anyway) If you squeeze some mix in your hand it should hold together, but it doesn’t look or feel wet. This bit is notoriously hard to explain, and really, trial and error is the best way to become familiar with it (but it’s like riding a bike, once you’ve got it you’ve got it for life :-D). Too much moisture (of any kind) in your bath bombs can lead to lumpy, warty or cracked bombs as they dry out.
Don’t put any water anywhere near your bombs. Despite seeing plenty of recipes advocate a quick spritz of water, you don’t need it, and you’re risking setting off the fizzing prematurely. Also make very sure that your kit, implements and moulds are completely, utterly dry (be especially careful when you wash your moulds between making different varieties – dry them well)
Fill the two sides of your mould then press them down a little to compact it. Then pile more mix loosely on top of each side and press them together really hard. Don’t twist! I then use a teaspoon to tap all around one side of the mould, and the bath bomb then drops out into my hand. Turn it over, tap, tap, tap again, and the other side of the mould should come off. It’s taken me a while to get to the point where this works 99.9% of the time. If it doesn’t work – empty out the mix and give the mould a good wipe on the inside before trying again.
I never leave the bath bomb in the mould for any length of time. Soap Queen has a great Q&A on bath bomb making here, but while she recommends leaving the bomb in the mould for a few hours, I’ve never found it to be necessary with round bombs, but it might well be necessary for different shaped moulds.
I don’t mind a little bit of a flat bottom on my bombs, but if you’d like to avoid one then placing them on bubble wrap that’s been covered with some kitchen roll works well. (The wetter your mix, the more likely you are to get a flat bottom, so consider that angle as well if you want to avoid flat bits)
It’s worth considering the humidity of the air in your ‘making’ area. I live in a notoriously wet area and I genuinely haven’t had a problem making bath bombs when it’s raining. However, if you live in particularly humid area, or your kitchen is particularly steamy, then you might find bath bomb making becomes troublesome.
There you go, those are my tips for bath bomb making. If you have any tips to add please comment below!
Ever since I started making soap, I’ve been asked why? Why do I bother making soap when it can be bought so cheaply in the supermarket? Clearly, first and foremost I love doing it. You know what they say – ‘Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’. There’s much more to it than that though. Traditionally crafted, handmade soap like mine is superior to commercially made soap in so SO many ways.
*Please note, the reasons listed below apply specifically to MY soaps – they may apply to many other handmade soaps, but I can’t speak for the ingredients in anyone else’s handmade products
It is vegan- (and therefore by definition, vegetarian-) friendly. I use no animal fats or derivatives, not even beeswax (which can be used in soap to give a harder bar). According to Vegan.com most commercial soaps contain some degree of animal fat derivatives (look for sodium tallowate or sodium lardate on the ingredients list)
I never use palm oil. Palm oil is a popular ingredient in both commercial and handmade soap (for good reason – it’s cheap, and makes great soap) However it is also extremely contentious, as palm oil production stands accused of the destruction of the South American rainforest, and of human rights violations due to the forced relocation of indigenous peoples. There are, of course, two sides to every story, and some soapmakers who do use palm oil have been able to source sustainable, ethically produced palm oil. There is also an argument that cutting out the use of palm oil completely could cause economic harm to those people who are employed within the palm oil industry. As I’ve never used it, this isn’t a concern for me. Palm oil will appear as sodium palmate on the ingredients list of a bar of soap should you wish to avoid it.
My soap is never, ever tested on animals, just (very!) willing humans.
Glycerin. GLYCERIN! Yep, I’m shouting. This is important. Glycerin is a byproduct of the soapmaking process, and is fantastic stuff. It’s a humectant, which means that it draws moisture from the air and helps lock it into your skin. It’s not technically a moisturiser, but it has moisturising properties. Commercial soapmakers almost always extract the glycerin during the production process for use elsewhere (eg lotions or nitroglycerin production). Glycerin is found naturally within every bar of traditional handmade soap and is one reason that people with sensitive skin CAN use handmade soap but can’t use commercial soap
Traditional, handmade soap is…. soap. Obvious right? Well yes, except that some commercially produced soap isn’t soap at all. It’s detergent. Take a look at the packaging on a Dove Beauty Bar. You won’t find the word ‘soap’ on the label because actually, it can’t legally be called soap. It’s a combination of various ingredients put together to create a detergent that closely resembles soap in appearance. Clearly all those ingredients have been approved for use on the skin so it’s not necessarily inherently bad, but many of those ingredients can cause skin irritation.
My soap does not contain parabens, sls/sles, phthalates. As above, these ingredients have been approved for use in skincare products, but they can cause skin irritation (and worse) to those with skin sensitivities, and many people will avoid them at all costs.
My soaps do not contain triclosan or any other antibacterial compounds. The use of triclosan in soap has been banned in the US, but is still permissible in the UK/EU. It was claimed in the US that antibacterial soaps were no more effective than regular soap and water and they could even play a part in increasing antibiotic resistance.
For many of the reasons listed above, my soaps are FAR gentler on your skin than commercially produced soap. If you are one of those people whose skin is sensitive to commercially made soap and you ‘can’t’ or ‘never’ use bar soap, please contact me via The Soap Mine FB page for a sample (UK only) – you may well find that you can use it without any of the problems that commercial soap can cause.
Your skin WILL notice the difference. Do you need to use a moisturiser after washing your hands with commercial bar or liquid soap? You probably won’t after using my soap. The generous amount of cocoa butter and shea butter in each and every bar, along with all that lovely glycerin, will ensure that your hands feel clean, soft and moisturised after every use.
My soap is made by hand, in small batches, with an awful lot of care and attention to detail. Yes, you will pay more for it than you would a bar of commercially made soap, but you know what? You absolutely get what you pay for.
There you go, 10 really good reasons why I believe my soap is better than commercially produced soaps. Try some 😀
I can’t be the only one who’s gobsmacked that we’re halfway through the year? The days are already getting shorter and I’ve started thinking about Christmas specials – and all this before the summer holidays officially begin 😱
At the beginning of the month I posted some goals for June – here’s how I got on…
1. Research, and make some test batches of, lip balm ✅ After a bit of research I came up with a few recipes that I wanted to try, and made up a first batch:
I already love this one, but I’m only keeping one for myself – the rest are going out to testers. I still have a couple of recipes to try.
2. Finish making the summer specials ✅ I’m considering keeping one of them – ‘Yr Wyddfa’ – all year round as I think it’ll be pretty popular, living as we do at the foot of said mountain!
3. Create a ‘Core Range’ post for bathbombs ✅ This link is proving so handy to send out to potential stockists!
4. Post at least nine times here on the blog – oh so close! Still, I posted 8 times, and if I’d got my backside into gear and posted this on Friday night like I should have, I would have hit my target.
Or is it a Blogday? Either way, I published my first couple of posts on the 28th June 2013, Woohoo!! At that point I hadn’t made any soap since the birth of my daughter two months before, nor for a good few months before that due to day-long morning sickness and an extreme aversion to the smell of fragrance AND essential oils. (I’d had to ask my husband to put all my supplies up in the attic as even catching an accidental whiff of any of my soaps had me heading for the bathroom – urgh..)
Fast forward and that newborn is now four years old (funny that :-D) and she’ll be joining her big brother at school full time in September. That will mean much, MUCH more time for soaping and the business as a whole (including the blog!). I’m also hoping that I’ll have a bit more time for myself, and of course my poor, long suffering husband who has spent more evenings than I care to mention alone on the sofa while I focused on The Soap Mine.
I have loads of ideas for new products, blog posts and growing the business generally, so please stick with me – I hope I’ll still be here in another four years time, and I hope you’ll still be reading. Thank you all!!
Oh, here’s a little bit of soap in the mould from a couple of days ago, just because it’s pretty lol…
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