Thursday, April 8, 2010

Re-Barring Soap

I can't help myself. If an item has potential for reuse or recycling, I save it. It's an old habit – very little was ever wasted in my mother's home! I'm not in need of a hoarding intervention, though. Whatever I save is (usually) used promptly, sent to recycling, or discarded if some viable purpose can't be found.

Bar-soap slivers are one example of items which don't get used promptly, but their container takes up very little space under the sink and, when it's full – which takes a few months – I make a new bar right away. I developed the process because I was unable to find instructions elsewhere.

There's information on how to make your own gel soap. The problem is, the gel soap was so gooey the pump got bunged up. When I added more water to prevent that, the gel wouldn't suds up enough.

I found another handy hint which suggests using those leftover soap slivers in an old stocking, then hanging that from an outdoor tap, or using it as a home-made soap-on-a-rope when camping. I'd never use the outdoor tap to wash my arthritic hands – the cold water wash would be excruciating! And, since we haven't gone camping in a few years, this idea has no practical purpose for us.

With a little experimentation, though, I came up with is a very simple process to make Re-Barred Soap. If you'd like to make your own, here's what you'll need:

  • Leftover bar-soap remnants
  • Tin can, clean and dried, with rough edges pressed down.
  • Narrow pot with high sides
  • Box grater
  • Glycerine
  • Stir stick
  • Glass dish to "form" the bar

First, shave the soap chunks with the grater, the finer the better. Put these shavings in the tin can, and place the can in the pot. Add water into the pot to the same level as the soap inside the can. Careful, though. The can may float and tip over if too much water is used – that's why a narrow, tall-sided pot works best. Bring the water to a high simmer. Add a teaspoon of glycerine to the soap shavings. More may be needed, depending on the amount of soap you're melting, but I add only as needed, and in very small increments. The glycerine helps the soap liquefy and adds a skin-softening attribute to the Re-Barred Soap. Too much, however, and the bar won't set. I use a long, trussing skewer to stir the soap. The trussing end makes a perfect mini-whisk and stirring helps ensure all the soap pieces melt. When the soap is melted, coat your glass "form" with a generous dab of glycerine – this will facilitate the removal of the bar, once it has set. Pour the liquefied soap into the form and smooth the surface as much as possible with a glycerine-coated spatula. Let cool. The bar, once completely set, should pop out of the form quite easily. If it doesn't, simply put the form in a dish of hot water for a minute or two until the heat affects its release. The soap may look a little glossier than usual, but that's merely the glycerine which coated the form.

For the purposes of this blog, I made a batch of Re-Bar Soap but, instead of using the simple round dish I usually use, I tried a leaf-shaped dish instead. I thought it might produce a nicer looking bar. It didn't. In fact, the bar was more difficult to remove from the form because of the unusual shape. Next time, I'll keep it simple and use the round dish.