Taking Toxic Triclosan Out of Your Soap (By Making Your Own)

The benefits of natural soap, plus two recipes shared just for you.

You step into the shower, pick up a bar, and start suds-ing. For a few minutes, you’re transported to a spa, splashing about in steam and scents, luxuriating in bubbles. Or—you’re lathering up as fast as you can because your coffee is burning and you’ll miss the 8:45am train into the city. Either way, soap is the mainstay of our beauty regime, a product we use without fail.

So amidst all the weird, harsh chemicals out there masquerading as beauty ingredients, isn’t this the one product you really want to make sure is natural? And what better way to make sure your soap is clean is to make it yourself?

I know what you’re thinking—isn’t soap self-cleaning? In the age of antibacterial gels, sprays, probably soon-to-be gas-masks misting us constantly with germ-fighters, aren’t we clean enough? But. Traditional soaps are made with a boat-load of caustic and harmful ingredients, including anti-bacterial triclosan.

Just how bad is triclosan? Let us count the ways (which we already did in this informative article.)  But just a quick reminder—while antibacterial products have their place in hospitals and doctor’s offices, every day use encourages bacteria to evolve and become all-powerful. Further, triclosan can lead to extreme hormone disruption.

Not to mention, there is the environmental impact of traditional soaps. The Environmental Working Group reports that a nation-wide study in 2002 of man-made chemicals and hormones in 139 streams revealed that 80% of them were contaminated with chemicals from our wastewater. Another study in 2007 of the San Francisco Bay showed high levels of triclosan, phthalates, and bisphenol A—all hormone-disrupting ingredients found in traditional soaps and more.

So bring on the natural soap! There’s a ton of fantastic soap-makers out there—my favorite is Strawberry Hedgehog’s vegan soaps. But how cool would it be to make your own? Vegetable-based soaps, which contain no animal parts, can be easily made right in your own kitchen.

Lucky for us, Heidi Corley Barto, the Natural Soap Chef, has shared two of her best-selling cold-processed soap recipes. Barto combines fun, fragrant ingredients to serve up some truly pampering soaps.

All you’ll need is a stove, refrigerator, and the tools/ingredients listed below. So check out Barto’s recipes, selected just for EcoSalon, and let us know how you fare!

BASIC 4-OIL SOAP BAR

Mix temp 110°F

This recipe is the basis for most of the soaps in this book. You can make it as is—unscented and uncolored—or use it as a jumping-off point for creating your own recipes, adding your choice of colors, fragrances, and exfoliates. To add fragrance, use an online fragrance calculator, select the fragrance you are using, and calculate for cold process soap at 20 ounces—Heidi Corley Barto

Oils
170 grams Shea butter
170 grams palm oil
113 grams coconut oil
113 grams olive oil

Lye mixture
78 grams sodium hydroxide (NaOH)
215 grams distilled water

1. Measure the oils into your plastic container. Place the container in a larger pot and pour in enough hot tap water that the container begins to float. Set the pot on the stove and turn the heat to warm. Insert a thermometer into the oil.

2. Goggles and gloves on!

3. Measure the distilled water into a heat-safe glass container. Measure the lye crystals into a separate small glass container. Slowly add the lye crystals to the water, stirring with your spatula as you do so. Do not inhale above this container—beware the fumes! This mixture will heat up quickly. Insert a thermometer into the mixture.

4. Monitor the temperatures of the two containers. You want both to reach 110°F. As needed, refresh the hot water bath or turn the stove burner higher to raise the temperature, or use a cold water or ice bath to bring the temperature down.

5. When both the oils and the lye mixture are at 110°F, pour the lye mixture into the plastic container with the oils. Blend with your stick blender until the mixture reaches medium trace (see page 26 of my book).

6. Pour into a chilled mold and refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator; spray the top with isopropyl alcohol, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

7. Remove from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature.

PEPPERMINT TEA SOAP

Mix temp 110°F

What can I say about peppermint soap? People love peppermint soap! The fragrance helps to wake you up and get you moving in the morning. Peppermint essential oil also has a cooling effect on your skin. Many people swear by my peppermint soap to soothe aching joints. I don’t make any health claims—I’m just happy they like my soap!—Heidi Corley Barto

Oils
170 grams Shea butter
170 grams palm oil
113 grams coconut oil
113 grams olive oil

Lye mixture
78 grams sodium hydroxide (NaOH)
215 grams chilled strong peppermint tea (see directions below)

Add a trace
9 grams peppermint essential oil, 2nd distill
½ teaspoon peppermint tea leaves (from making your tea)

1. Measure your fragrance into a small glass container. Add the ½ teaspoon tea leaves and set aside. Measure the oils into a plastic container. Place the container in a larger pot and pour in enough hot tap water that the container begins to float. Set the pot on the stove and turn the heat to warm. Insert a thermometer into the oils.

2. Goggles and gloves on!

3. Measure the chilled tea into a heat-safe glass container. Measure the lye crystals into a separate small glass container. Slowly add the lye crystals to the tea, stirring with your spatula as you do so. Do not inhale above this container—the fumes will be very strong. This mixture will heat up quickly. Insert a thermometer into the mixture.

4. Monitor the temperatures of the two containers. You want both to reach 110°F. As needed, refresh the hot water bath or turn the stove burner higher to raise the temperature, or use a cold water or ice bath to bring the temperature down.

5. When both the oils and the lye mixture are at 110°F, pour the lye mixture into the plastic container with the oils. Blend with your stick blender until the mixture reaches a light trace stage, and then add your fragrance–tea leaves mixture. Blend until the mixture reaches medium trace (see page 26 of my book).

Heidi Corley Barto, the Natural Soap Chef

You can find Barto’s book, The Natural Soap Chef: Making Luxurious Delights from Cucumber Melon and Almond Cookie to Chai Tea and Espresso Forte on Amazon and most bookstores.

Image:arlingtonva 
Additional photos courtesy of Heidi Corley Barto

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