I thought today I’d give you a little more of a behind the scenes look at my process for a type of soap creation and also describe how I go about creating my formulas for products.
I seldom ever use formulas (recipes) created by others for my products, except every so often ones written by the professional soap crafter that created the wholesale supply company that I use. It kind of ruins the creative and fun side of crafting for me. Sometimes the epic failures are a bit overwhelming and discouraging, but most of the time that problem solving aspect spurs me on to keep going. Probably remnants of my days as a Medical Billing Clerk and Coder, plus the HIPAA Clerk responsible for Risk Analysis. Or maybe it goes all the way back to my love of Nancy Drew books. *laugh* Any which way, I love the research behind creating a new formula and all of that tedious stuff that most customers never get to see.
Here I am at about 3 AM a week ago after getting all of the ingredients and tools ready, having finished my research, and written up the starting formulas for the Spoonie soaps and the Maple Bacon squares that I was considering making into embeds for the previously mentioned Grandma’s Roadkill Pie. At the furthest back of the table is the window and wildly messy bed that one of my cats insisted on making look as bad as possible right before I took the picture. Since I had just disinfected, I wasn’t about to touch his stuff. *laugh* In front of that, on the right side, is all of the safety equipment, while my ingredient research book is on the left side. From those items to me are the ingredients for my mad scientist moments. *grin* There is vanilla stabilizer, to help keep the soaps from turning brown due to vanilla content, mica powders for coloring the soap, some color soap bars as a backup if the mica didn’t work to my satisfaction, and then the FOs I was planning on using.
When I create a formula (after talking so much with the case worker for the adoption it came to my attention that really I’m performing chemistry and making math equations, and not really recipes, so I decided to go with the name for consistency sake), I start out writing down the basic ingredients that I plan to use. So I start with how much soap base I want to work with or believe the mold may hold (that’s a fun guessing game some days *rolling eyes*; I really need to go through and just fill with water, and then make a list of each mold’s capacity, but that’d make things too easy). I then write down which scent(s) I am using with a space for writing in the amount of FO I end up using, plus I look up and write down the government’s allowable amount of the ingredient in the base, and then I follow the same steps when I write down the stabilizer if applicable and what type of colorant I will be using. There are a lot of scents that would be too overpowering if I used the maximum allowable, so I always write that in as I am in the creation process. I’m not sure how they come up with a maximum allowable amount for a base, but the government has a percentage allowance for each ingredient dependent on what you’re using it in, and then I refer to a cheat sheet percentage conversion chart that lists 3% of 8 Oz equals 7 ML allowed, etc. I also have a secondary conversion of ML to teaspoons for the micas and such. Did I mention that periodically they love to change those allowables and so I have to go back through previously made formulas to check if they’re within the new allowable. Sometimes I’m creating products when I really shouldn’t be because my hamster wheels aren’t quite running right in my brain and I forget to write down what mold I’m using or how many mold cavities my new formula holds. Those can be interesting to run across when I sit down to type up everything in my computer. *grin*
Next I move on to laying out the molds and setting up all of the tools in the areas I will use them, plus getting my trusty scale out to make sure I’m going by weight instead of volume, which I learned to do after my first year of creating products and running into a problem with figuring pricing due to volume since those weight to volume conversions don’t usually work out right. *laugh* If I am using a scent that requires stabilizer I need to pipe in the amount of scent I want to start with and then mix in an equal amount of the stabilizer, and then thoroughly mix and let sit for at least five minutes, but no longer than fifteen, so I have a maximum of fifteen minutes for finishing prep and getting to the scenting stage when I make soap. Thankfully it’s not an issue I deal with in any other product (mostly because scrub is all ready a mucked up color and bubble washes are used up way before a color change could ever take place, but soap color changes happen a LOT faster). I mix the FO and stabilizer in these little shot glass sized measuring cups, and yep, it almost always looks like a frothy odd color of urine for some reason. *laugh*
I move on to weighing, cutting, and warming up the soap base (which was previously created in bulk), almost always in the microwave in a business dedicated measuring cup, although I also have a bulk soap heater, which is kind of like a specialty crock pot. I like having more control over each step, and the individuality approach, so I prefer all ingredients for a soap in a single large measuring cup instead. Although there are differing “must follow” instructions for which comes next, I then start adding color after the base has melted, and once the preferred color is reached I add the scent mixture, and stir the tarnation out of the concoction. If the scent doesn’t seem like enough it seriously sucks, because I need to recheck the allowables, add scent into the emptied cup and then blend with stabilizer again, and try to keep the soap warm while waiting for the blending time frame to finish. I honestly seriously suck at this part. I almost always either warm it too much and it boils a bit (which isn’t great for the mixture and it dilutes what scent is all ready mixed in), or I get caught up in another task and the soap sets up partially in the measuring cup and it’s a pain to try to reheat that since it’s not a stage that I can cut up or remove from the cup. I’m learning to quit trying to multitask and just mother hen during the warming process, which totally goes against my grain. *grin* And then I cross my fingers and add the scent blend when it’s time, hoping that it comes out smelling just right. At times the maximum allowable just doesn’t allow for enough scent if it’s a delicate scent or one with mixed notes, while other times some scents just go funky once added to a base. Like I said, it’s basically a chemistry experiment. *smile*
Once it’s as good as it’s going to get I pour into the mold(s) and if I have extra (what I call overpour), I hurriedly grab a random clean mold and pour the extra into that. *laugh* Spritz the top (which is actually the bottom of the soap) with some Isopropyl Alcohol (yep, the stuff you use for antiseptic), which actually causes most, if not all, bubbles to pop and usually the smell fully dissipates. Then I cover with wax paper, since I don’t have a separate building to be doing this and who knows what could get into the air or splatter since it’s a kitchen in a lived-in house! And following that is the dreaded clean up process which is usually killer on my Fibro, since I’ve usually used up all of my energy on the creative part (thankfully I have help sometimes that handles that for me! Bless you guys!). The worst part then follows. Waiting a day or even a few before the product sets up and I can see how it turned out. I am so impatient with creative endeavors, plus the scent tends to fill the house, and if I created several products with varying scents, sometimes we have a headache inducing, nasty blend of smells filling our house. *laugh* Once set it is time for packaging, altering it as needed if being used in other ways, or bagging it up to deal with later if I’m kind of lost creatively at that point. I can’t tell you how many bags of product I’ve had to toss that I just couldn’t figure out what to do with or wouldn’t work in the concept I had originally came up with and can’t come up with an alternative use. People have gotten tired of my giving them these soaps, since there are usually several soaps and don’t get used up fast enough to need more soap dumped on them *grin*, and I’m in a location that isn’t that great for donating. I’ve shipped lots of this soap to emergency areas, but can’t always afford the shipping or run out of room to hold them while waiting for a chance to donate. The efficient and reduce/reuse/recycle side of me goes ape over this, I assure you.
After this I figure up the pricing of the ingredients in the formula (subtracting the amount of overpour when I figure up the pricing, of course), add my 55% labor charge (yep, I don’t do like most people and have a markup of 100 or 200% since I want to keep the price points lower, and just mostly someday make enough money to cover the costs so that I can keep getting to be creative), and add the tax. I hate as a consumer trying to figure up and set aside tax for a purchase, so I decided a long time ago to just add it to the product cost and then I’ll just take the extra tax needed out of my profit, if applicable, or get that tiny extra percentage added for a little more profit that I can turn around and spend on more ingredients. And then quarterly I get to pay my quarterly profit tax or notify them I had no sales for the quarter. So. Much. Red. Tape. Almost every stage has something I need to keep track of or watch for changes. *laugh*
So, in almost full detail, that’s a pretty good look at what goes on for basic mold poured soaps. Manipulated soaps are a lot more complicated and I’ll tell you about that another day, unless someone comments that this was super boring, because I really don’t want to bore you! I really hope that it was kind of neat to know what is going on to deserve that labor mark up. Until tomorrow, have a warm and happy day, and don’t forget to find a few moments to pamper yourself. You always deserve even just a few moments!