Whole Life Soaps

July Soap Challenge Club

Bill McConnell5 Comments

For the month of July, the members of the Soap Challenge Club were tasked with making a pointy layer soap. Honestly, I had never heard of this style before, so I was eager to watch the tutorial.

The gist of the technique is that you need a stable, yet fluid soap batter taht has just a hint of trace to it. Using a funnel spout container, you need to pour the soap quickly and from a low height so that the soap drops into the layer below it, but also pushes it up into a tiny point. If you pour too high, the soap just drops through and creates giant tear drops. It still looks cool, but it is not the correct result for the technique.

I prepped my soap batter and I prepped my 15-pound loaf mold. Because I run a business, I like to try techniques that make my soap look unique and inviting. I am always of the opinion taht if I can do it with my larger equipment, and with my standard recipe, I can use it in my business.

I started off by emulsifying my mixture to keep it thin (but incorporated) and separating it into four separate batches. I added color and fragrance to each batch. This is batch #1, by the way.


As in the tutorial, I used a lazy Susan cake stand to help with moving the soap around so I coudl evenly pour it. I do believe I had to sneeze here.


After I cut the soap, I was not happy with tis first attempt. Although it looked good and smelled awesome, I wasn’t happy with the contrast in the colors and with the quality of my pointy layers. See for yourself. The brown layer is what didn’t work out. It was supposed to be a peach color, and the label said it stayed true in cold processed soap, but it turned this sad tan. I think the other colors were okay, but I decided to try again.


The next batch I did looked good, but the loaf slipped off the lazy Susan and I lost about a third of the batch to the floor. It turned out nice looking, but it’s shorter than my average bar and the pointy layers are more like swirls.


Finally, I shifted gears and made a Eucalyptus Tea Tree soap. I used three colors: Teal Mica, Blue Mica, and Titanium White.

Upon cutting this soap, I was immediately pleased. The contrast seemed right, and the soap itself had great pointy layers (at least I think they’re great).


So, the third time was the charm. As you can see in the above image, the blue and white both make perfect points going upward into the layer above. I feel I was a little heavy handed with the white pour, as can bee seen on the left side of this image. The white goes a little farther down than I wanted, but overall, I think this loaf turned out great.

Here is a video of my first try: https://youtu.be/1-PKErDxEKs

Here is a video of the other attempts (only the cutting of them): https://youtu.be/o-fU2D1QRbc

Anyway, here is the finished product:


This was a great technique to learn. I am super stoked to see how I can use it in my other soaps.

June Soap Challenge Club (Attempt #2)

Bill McConnell5 Comments

Recently, I had posted a blog detailing my creation of wine, yogurt and coconut milk soap. You can read about that experience here. I had posted it erroneously to the Soap Challenge Club’s Facebook Page not realizing that my social media post was my entry. For some reason, I thought a photo would be the entry, and we all just shared our blog posts to learn from.

Before I took the post down, Amy reviewed it and told me that if I am going to enter the advanced category, they need to be fully incorporated. So, this is my attempt to fix that.

Overall, the concept is the same. I’m using a sauvignon blanc as my water replacement. I’m using 60.8 ounces of white wine. I boiled down four bottles to get enough liquid. I bought the cheap stuff. Unlike the red wine, the white wine took on a much lighter tan when I added sodium hydroxide to my frozen pucks of wine. Unlike the red wine version, this tan color was much easier to attempt to color. In the red wine attempt, I chose to leave the color as natural because I had no way to alter such a dark caramel color without adding titanium dioxide or other lab produced pigments.

After allowing my lye and oils to cool, it was time to mix my soap batch. I added both the lye solution to my oils, as well as yogurt (my edible component). My oil batch was 160 ounces. if I were to divide this into eight parts ( 1/8 = .125. 160 x .125 = 20), then my food portion would need to be at least 20 ounces. The yogurt I bought weighed 24 ounces, so I just used the entire container. I then mixed my batch into a simple, emulsified state. My recipe tends to harden faster, probably because I like to use more coconut oil, but when I just emulsify it, it stays fairly stable and allows me to work with it over a longer period of time. I also added my scent at this time. I chose to use Frankincense oil from bulk apothecary. I enjoy the subtle woodsy smell it gives.

The next step in my process was to separate the entire batch into three batches. I decided that for the bottom layer, I would color it with spirulina powder. This food grade powder is an excellent additive to smoothies, but it also creates a brilliant green, and it adds an exfoliating quality to the soap.

10. add more spirulina.jpg

For the second layer, I chose to color it with french green clay. The top layer, I chose to use white kaolin clay powders. Just like I did when I made my red wine solution and used various shades of caramel, I’m trying to move from a darker green to a lighter one.

In between each layer, I added a pencil line. I love the look of a pencil line in soap. Between layers one and two, I used cocoa powder. In between layers two and three, I used paprika powder. Both turned a dark brown in the final soap after absorption into the layer.

Using spirulina and paprika as colorants in my soap proved challenging. Both powders caused an enormous amount of sweating after the initial cut. The paprika was especially problematic. At first I thought I would have to redo the entire batch, but I decided to lay the soaps out for a few days and let them sweat and dry. It is also extremely hot where I live (100F everyday from now until fall), and every year, the heat is another element I must contend with in my soap process. The building my store is in has no air conditioning, so I try and work early, but the heat still presents many problems and can cause batches to cure in unusual ways. When I unmolded my soap, I had to wipe down the paprika sweat before cutting, then I situated the bars on paper towels to collect any excess. With 48 hours, they seemed stable.

After a few days of drying out, the soap actually looks really good. Here are a couple of cut bars that have been edged and photographed for display.

If you’ve enjoyed this post. you can watch the video of how I made it here.

The Soap Challenge Club for June 2019

Bill McConnellComment

Often, I scroll the internet and wonder how some of these inventive-looking soaps I see are created. I mean, I look at the concept of rimmed soaps or kiss pours and I wonder what inspired soap makers to challenge themselves to create these difficult designs.

Recently, after watching a few videos on youtube by Holly from Kapia Mera Soap, she sent me the link to Amy Warden’s Soap Challenge Club, and I decided to jump in.

This month’s challenge is a food challenge. I often soap with food ingredients (goat milk, beer, buttermilk, pumpkin, to name a few ingredients), so I was enticed by this particular challenge.

June’s entry requires the following components: an edible component and a drinkable component. To make it more difficult on myself, I am doing the advanced challenge. This means that my lye for the drink component needs a 100% water substitution component. The food item needs to be 1/8th of my total oil batch. In addition, advanced entries must only use natural colorants (like clays and plant powders) and natural scents (like essential oils).

So, I have chosen to make a soap from wine, yogurt and coconut milk.

I don’t use small molds. I run a pretty bumping business, and I make my soap in 30-50 pound batches. My attitude is always go big, so I prepped my recipe.

I used 3 separate batches. The first batch was a wine batch. I had to make my lye solution using wine instead of water. I made enough for a 15-pound batch that I would pour as a bottom layer into three separate soap molds.

Boiling off the alcohol. This process takes about 20-30 minutes.

Boiling off the alcohol. This process takes about 20-30 minutes.

I started my boil with two bottles of wine, but since my recipe calls for 60.8 ounces of liquid, it took four bottles wine to create enough alcohol-free liquid in order to make my lye solution.

After the boil off, I had to freeze the wine so that it would work better with sodium hydroxide I planned to pour all over it.

To freeze my wine, I poured the cooled liquid into a silicone mold that I use for melt and pour soaps. This created frozen pucks of wine that were 3.5 ounces each in weight. That meant that for my lye solution, I would need 17.3 pucks of wine to make my soap. I made sure to do this the night before, so the pucks of wine would be good and hard.

The next day, at my shop in Wrightwood, CA, I measured out my lye (my usual recipe takes 710 grams of lye), which is specific to the oils I use. I added a few frozen pucks, then a little lye, and so on until all of the ice wine was in the bowl with the lye, melting into a lye solution for soap.

Ice pucks being melted into lye solution

Ice pucks being melted into lye solution

I made sure to do this in the sink. Had there been any alcohol left, I was worried about it erupting everywhere. I did this mistake once with beer—that is, not using the sink—it was an amateur mistake, and it burned me pretty badly, so I did not acre to repeat that incident.

I allowed the lye to cool to about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. While that was happening, I mixed my oils together and also cooled them down to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, I mixed them together. I had initially planned to add some kaolin clay to whiten it up, but the caramel color of the wine in the soap was so pretty, I chose to leave it natural. I added lemongrass and patchouli to heighten the woodsy and spicy notes of the red wine.

Using the back of a spoon to add textures and layers for a more interesting design

Using the back of a spoon to add textures and layers for a more interesting design

Once poured in the mold, I allowed it to setup some, and then using the back of a spoon, I made a series of wave patterns along the soap. I did this because my intention was to add a pencil line to differentiate the layers. This was definitely going to be the darkest layer fo the three.

Creating a pencil line from Moroccan Red Clay

Creating a pencil line from Moroccan Red Clay

A pencil line is not difficult to make. You can make them straight, or you can add textures, as I did above, to make more inventive lines. In hindsight, the clay powder created a very dark brown line. It is noticeable in the final product, but I should have used a french green clay or perhaps kaolin clay so that the line stands out more. I am not unhappy with it, but it’s an artistic note that I could have developed better. Regardless, to make a pencil line, just use a small sifter and sift the powder of your choice over the soap. The wet soap will absorb it, but just beneath the surface. This way, the line remains rather than being incorporated into the soap.

The next step involved making a yogurt layer. To add a food puree to yoru soap, you need to know the total weight of all your oils in the batch. You then divide that into eight equal parts, and then your puree should be the weight of that eighth. You can certainly add more, but you risk rancidity of you use a food item that is too fatty.

I chose nonfat greek yogurt without any additional sugars. My total oil weight for this layer was 168 ounces. 1/8 of that (.125) is 21 ounces. I added this directly to my heated/cooled oils. I was sure to disperse it with my stick blender before adding a traditional water lye solution.

For color, I added safflower powder, and I scented it with lavender. I poured it as above, added the additional textures, and then amde a second pencil line from unsweetened cocoa powder.

After I finished with this layer, I used a third food/liquid component. I used 100% organic coconut milk. I used the same ratio taht I used for my yogurt layer— 21 ounces. Only this time, I discounted my lye solution by that much so that I would not have an excess of water in my soap. It would have been a bummer to get to this third layer and make that rookie mistake. Anyway, I thought I added a color component to this level. After going back and looking at my notes, the only color comes from white of the coconut milk.

I did make a video of my experience if you care to watch it.

So, how did it turn out? Let’s take a look.

Well, I think it turned out awesome. As you can see, the red clay line is a little harder to see, but it’s definitely there. The cocoa powder amde a fantastic line. I love how each layer is a different shade of taht caramel that the wine inspired.

Overall, win or lose, this is a great lookin and great smelling soap, one that I will not be ashamed to sell in my store.

To Reduce Plastic Waste, Use Bar Soap.

Bill McConnellComment

Reducing plastic in the environment is something, I’m sure, we all agree needs to be done, but being mindful and purposeful about it is often daunting because when we don’t see the problem, we forget it is a problem.

I’m sure you’ve seen those pictures of whales with plastic pouring from their mouths.

I’m sure you’ve seen those pictures of sea turtles with their waists constricted by plastic and rubber bands.

I’m sure you’ve seen those photos where marine life is choked by the plastic ring holes from your six-pack.

And, I’m sure you’ve seen photos of that huge plastic garbage patch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

That’s what we contribute to the environment when we use plastic, unfortunately. And we have all added to it—through tooth brushes, plastic bags at the grocery store, straws at restaurants—because any one-time plastic use item will end up in the middle of the ocean or in the middle of the forest or in the middle of a landfill where it stays seemingly forever. To us, it goes in a trash can and gets hauled away, literally to places like China, because American problems are generally solved when they are considered out of sight and out of mind.

That’s why we, at Whole Life Soaps, are committed to easing our (and by default your) reliance on single use plastic containers.

It’s why we don’t make liquid shampoo or liquid conditioner or liquid dish soap.

It’s why we wrap our bar soap in biolefin, a 100% recyclable plastic shrink-wrap that degrades within six to twenty-four months.

It’s why our scrubs, face masks, tooth powders, and deodorant pastes come in glass jars.

And by purchasing our products, you are minimizing your impact on the environment because you are purchasing items that are packaged in 100% recyclable materials.

We are not perfect in our endeavor, either, but we are trying. We still sell lotion and lip balm and beard oils and stick deodorants and body sprays that use plastic containers, and it kills me to put them in such containers, but I have not yet found a durable and quality alternative container for them. But I am actively searching for affordable, non-plastic packaging solutions for those items; and as soon as I find them, I will be using them. Perhaps I will stop making these in the future if I cannot find a replacement container, but for now, I’m still searching.

In advance, you have our thanks for buying bar soap. Please know that the plastic wrap that protects it will deteriorate quickly. Please know that it won’t choke a seal or a whale or a dolphin.

Reducing plastic in the environment is something, I’m sure, we all agree needs to be done, but being mindful and purposeful about it is often daunting because when we don’t see the problem, we forget it is a problem.

Just remember that even small changes in your lifestyle can make a difference over time.



Bill McConnell

Owner, Whole Life Soaps


Meet Kyra McNally Albers: 2018's Haiku Soap Winner

Haiku SoapBill McConnellComment
Kyra McNally Alber’s Poem embedded on a bar of    Cranberry Fig Soap   .

Kyra McNally Alber’s Poem embedded on a bar of Cranberry Fig Soap.

Once again, we are publishing the winner of our annual haiku contest onto our soap. In year’s past, we have printed the poem on every bar we sell, but due to increasing number of bars that move trough our store, this has become impractical.

This year, we have moved to having a specialized soap for the winner. We are offering our Haiku Bar with scents of cranberry and fig. It is currently a light rose color with golden swirl, but look for that color to darken to a deeper red and cappuccino swirl in future renditions.

We will carry this soap until July 31, at which time we will start our poetry cycle anew.

As with every winner, when we announce our publication release, we like to reach out and get the winner’s perspective on the contest, on writing, and on being published on a bar of soap. Really, though, we just want to put a face to the winner. So, without further ado, here is our winner, Kyra McNally Albers.

Her winning poem is as follows:

The dewdrops have a cherry scent

On the crooked tree branch

Where you used to sit

Kyra McNally Albers at her home in Texas

Kyra McNally Albers at her home in Texas

We reached out to Kyra and asked her a few questions about writing. The results of our interview are below:

WLS: What type of writing do you specialize in? Is it generally poetry, or do you write other genres?

KMA: Poetry is not my usual type of prose; I focus on screenwriting and fiction, but this soap poetry caught my eye!

WLS: What factors did you consider when writing this particular Haiku?

KMA: When writing haiku, I consider how the third line can introduce a surprising image or twist while still transitioning smoothly from the first two. For my poem, I visualized pink-tinted dewdrops in the crook of an oak tree on a summer’s day, a special tree that triggers the narrator’s memory of an old friend or lover who’s left.

WLS: What other publication experience do you have?

KMA: I don’t have a whole lot of experience [being published], but the way I see it, being published on a bar of soap is the highest form of publication. It's sweet and creative and handy. I’m excited to say this is my first time being published!

WLS: How does your environment shape or influence your writing? Do you consciously consider it?

KMA: I didn’t--and usually don’t--consciously think about my surroundings while I’m writing, but rereading the haiku I absolutely see the element of Texas. The Texas landscape is what I know best, so that’s what I naturally visualize while writing. 

WLS: In what way(s) is your writing a reflection of you?

KMA: My writing, just like me, is all over the place. I mainly write lighthearted stories, but I also have an interest in poetry and have been considering horror stories for a while. 

WLS: Who is your favorite author and what is it you enjoy about their writing?

KMA: I couldn’t possibly tell you my favorite author, but a few I’ve enjoyed recently are Garth Stein (The Art of Racing in the Rain), A.S. King (Still Life With Tornado), and Elisabeth Tova Bailey (The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating). They each find ways to weave light, fun themes with heavy themes.

WLS: What are some of your writing goals, either now or in the future?

KMA: I hope to keep my spontaneity. I’d like to be able to write more happy-go-lucky, casual stories, even children’s books, and still write somber pieces.

WLS: Are there any final thoughts about winning the contest?

KMA: The runner ups' haiku are amazing! And thank you so much for this opportunity; I’m looking forward to reading next year’s poems!

Kyra McNally Albers is a writer in the great state of Texas. We look forward to seeing what she accomplishes in her career. Congratulations, again.

Winner of the 2018 Haiku Soap Contest

Bill McConnell

Each year, as Wrightwood tries to solidify itself as a place where arts thrive, we sponsor our soap haiku contest. We appreciate the writers who visit our small village for the annual writer’s festival, sponsored by Rattle Magazine, and it’s apparent that the beauty of the San Gabriel Mountains rubs off in their prose.

This year, we had over 500 entries in our little poetry contest. To put that in comparison, we only had 26 entries the first year we started, so it’s becoming a popular annual event. I’d like to thank poetry editor Timothy Green for including our contest in Rattle’s newsletter. So many of our participants came from across the US and the globe, with entries coming from as far away as Nigeria, Thailand, and New Zealand.

There were a lot of really good poems, and although there can be only one winner, I’d like to share the top 15 poems. Numbers 15 through 6 are honorable mentions; numbers 5 through 2 are the runners up, and number 1 is the winner. We will begin with the honorable mentions. I hope you give all of these poems your consideration before scrolling to the end.

Honorable Mentions

#15 Kim Mannix

House hunting

in a stranger’s bathroom

we kiss

#14 Susan Whitley Peters

I bought you two bars

of soap—it smelled amazing!

I used the other one.

#13 Catherine Young

Cleano! one boy, once small

sang as we marched to the tub

to scrub mud pie play.

#12 Emily Dalton

Think how the shore feels,

scrubbed clean everyday by waves

of raw emotion.

#11 Daniel Kahan

The right smell can heal

anything. Somewhere, there’s a

smell to wake the dead.

#10 Emily Davis-Fletcher

Your eyes whisper to me

across a room trembling poetry.

The flower picks the bee.

#9 Michael Stalcup

let me love you like

soap does—give myself to you

until I am gone.

#8 Joyce Ray

My skin, your skin

scrubbed into one people—

Clean living.

#7 Melissa Dearden

You left a bad taste—

I washed my mouth with soap

like a naughty child.

#6 Lisa Periale Martin

Dig, desert woman—

yucca roots for washing

that man out of your hair.

Runners up

#5 Hilma Wolitzer

That irony of

old age, knowing far more

than you can remember.

#4 Jim Daniels

Even when we had nothing,

sheep scratched themselves against

our dead car rusting in the weeds.

#3 Nadia Hutton

Lovers always smell

of sandalwood and I have

never understood why.

#2 Marc Nair

Some things cannot

be saved by soap; heavy hands,

the lost ends of love.

The 2018 Soap Haiku Winner

#1 Kyra McNally Albers

The dewdrops have a cherry scent

on the crooked tree branch

where you used to sit.


I have emailed the winner. Please check yoru spam folder in case it did not go through.

Thanks for your participation. Even if you did not win, all of you are talented writers. Thank you for sharing your words with us.

A special line of soaps featuring this poem will be available by Mid-December to early January and be on sale through June 30, 2019.

Haiku Update

Bill McConnellComment

Hi Everyone,

I know you are anticipating the winner. We had a huge number of entries—as a result, it’s taking me longer to get through them. The winner will be up by Wednesday.

I do apologize for the delay.

Bill McConnell,

Owner— Whole Life Soaps

Winner of the 2018 Haiku Contest

Bill McConnell

The Wrightwood Literary Festival has come to a conclusion. All contestants will be notified of the winner of the Whole Life Soaps Haiku contest by November 1, 2018 via email

Thanks for participating. We look forward to reading your work.

We have over 500 entries, so please be patient with us as we sift through the emails and entries submitted via the festival.

Good luck to you. Check back here for updates.

2018 Soap Haiku Contest

Bill McConnell

Once again, Whole Life Soaps is a proud sponsor of the Wrightwood Literary Festival, which is held every September. This years literary festival will be held September 29th and 30th. Registration for the literary festival can be found here. https://www.wrightwoodlitfest.com/

Entry is simple.  If you plan on attending the literary festival, you can submit a poem at the event, or you can stop by in person and submit a poem at our storefront in downtown Wrighwtood, CA. We are located at 6013 Park Dr. across the street from The Village Grind and Pacific Crest Zip Line.

If you are unable to attend the festival, you may email your haiku submission to wholelifesoaps@gmail.com

Please write Haiku Contest 2018 in the subject line. Please submit only one entry per person. Entry is free, although we do encourage you to buy some soap as a way to support this fun contest.

Entries must include the following:

  • Name
  • a valid email address
  • a valid mailing address
  • a valid phone number
  • one haiku poem

Past winners are ineligible.  Winners will be notified by October 31, 2018, but all participants will be notified regardless of whether they win.

Winners will receive a $50 prize and publication on one of our lines of soap. In the past, we stamped poems on every bar we make, but as we continue grow and expand, this becomes logistically difficult, so we will create a special line just for your poem that we will carry  throughout the six months between January and June of 2019.

I just want to say how I view a haiku and what I look for in submissions. According to poet Ken Jones, “Many of the best haiku present unexpected and contrasting images. These can arouse profound and subtle emotions and can convey layers of subtle meaning. The Western convention is to write haiku in three lines, but haiku of one, two or four lines are acceptable where that makes the best “fit”. Often the first line sets the scene, within which the second line makes an observation. The third line then presents an image contrasting with the second line, throwing our normal expectations out of gear, as it were, and opening up a wider perspective which may be both allusive and elusive.”

I look for that elusiveness, that contrast between joy and grief. When I started this contest, I made it a point to look for those layers of meaning. I also look for Haiku’s that aren’t simply about my soap, but use natural elements to express an emotional contrast.

Good luck, and I look forward to reading your submissions.

What's the Deal with Activated Charcoal?

Bill McConnellComment

Currently trending in the soap world is the addition of activated charcoal to the natural or commercial soap base.  Activated charcoal has many uses in medicine and skin care, but more and more soapers use the ingredient for its health and beauty attributes, especially its ability to lessen the effects of oily skin and acne.

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is made from wood, coconut husks, and other traditional forms of burnt coal.  When it is activated, the material is superheated to expand the surface area of the fine ash grains so that their absorptive power is expanded in relationship to their size.  This is important because food grade charcoal (activated charcoal) is used to absorb toxins both internally and externally.  Activated charcoal is effective at absorbing certain poisons, and it can also be used in air purifiers to pull toxins out of the air people breathe in their homes and offices.  Topically, it can remove toxins, like dirt and bacteria, from the hair follicles and pores.

Why Use It In Soap?

Activated charcoal is an excellent additive for soap.  Taking a natural cleansing agent and adding to it the oil absorbency power of activated charcoal makes for a super skin purifier.  For example, if you take a small amount of activated charcoal, add it to a cap full of your regular shampoo, and rub it into your scalp during your shower, you can help your body eliminate excess oils in the hair, giving your hair bigger body and shine.  It’s messy, but it works (although if you have blonde or dirty blonde hair, you should test it out to make sure it won't stain your hair). If it’s in a bar of soap, this becomes an easier element to use on the skin.  For oily, acne-prone skin, the activated charcoal will pull excess dirt and oil from the pores and leave the skin healthier.  Activated charcoal soap is an excellent soap for teenagers and adults who have acne problems or excessive oil in their skin and hair.  Removing this excess oil and dirt generally provides users like yourself more confidence because your skin will appear cleaner and blemish-free.

How Does Whole Life Soap’s Activated Charcoal Bar Compare To A Popular Brand?

So, who makes the best activated charcoal soap for the price?  The trendy, hip beauty store Lush sells a brand of activated charcoal soap called Coal Face, which retails for $7.97 USD and weighs 3.5 ounces.  It contains rosewood oil, licorice root extract, charcoal powder, coconut oil, and rapeseed oil.  These are healthy and lovely ingredients.  But their soap also contains sodium lauryl sulfate (foaming agent), sorbitol (humectant), EDTA/Tetrasodium Editronate (prevents color/fragrance changes).  I consider these ingredients to be not so lovely.

At Whole Life Soaps, we use the following ingredients in our activated charcoal soap: coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter, and castor oil, activated charcoal, and green tea extract. Our natural oils provide a rich creamy lather.  The castor oil and shea butter provide the humectant qualities for the skin.  As for color and fragrance changes, well, since we are a handmade product, each batch is unique, which is how soap should be in our view.  By the way, we retail our 5 ounce bars at $7.00, so you are also getting more bang for your buck.

We’d love you to try our soap and realize ours really is the best.  Please visit our online shop to buy one today for yourself or as a gift fro someone else.









Vinegar: Nature's Fabric Softener

Bill McConnell

Vinegar is probably one of the best natural substances you can have in your home.  It can clean, it can act as a pesticide, it can act as a weed killer, and it can even unclog those slow to drain showers and sinks.

But did you know that vinegar has a couple of other uses?  In our home we use it as hair conditioner and as a fabric softener.

To use it as a fabric softener, you’re going to need the following items: distilled water, apple cider vinegar, and hair conditioner.  The distilled water is recommended because it prevents extra mineral deposits from getting into your washing machine’s lines.  Natural hair conditioner that do not contain sulfates are preferable, but if you are on a budget, and are not as concerned about other chemicals, you can buy Suave, or any other cheap brand of conditioner for this process.

First, take a large mason jar with a plastic drinking lid.  I like these ones, because I can cover the hole to shake my jar and easily pour the contents through the straw hole.

Second, mix your ingredients in a 1:1:1 ratio.  That’s equal parts water, conditioner, and fabric softener. If you would like, use an unscented conditioner and then put fifteen drops of your favorite essential oil in the mixture.  I prefer lavender or lemongrass, but that’s me.

Use this mixture in the wash phase of your laundry.  My washer has a container for liquid fabric softener.  This stuff works great and will save you a lot of money, because you are using ingredients you’ve already got laying around your home.

Some Changes for 2018

Bill McConnell

Price Changes

 As much as it pains me to do so, I need to increase my prices. Several factors have led to this increase including the rising cost of ingredients (which have tripled for me since 2015), a higher minimum wage (which is now at $11/hour), and increases in other costs of operation.

The products affected are listed below. These modets price increases reflect changes to our base prices, so they do not include tax. Current California sales tax rates will always be added at the register, just as it is now.

These prices will also be what we offer at local farmer markets.

Remember, this is a handmade product. It is a natural product, and we feel it's worth your continued support. I know you can buy Dove, Ivory, Irish Spring, or even Nutragena for less at any local grocery store, but our quality is superior, and our products are chemical-free. These other soaps simply aren’t as good as ours. And if you are a repeat customer, you understand that.

All changes take effect on Monday January 1, 2018 both in-store and online. Thanks for understanding. I hope to continue to see you as a customer.

Bar Soap: increased from $6.50 to $7.00

Liquid Soap: increased from $7.50 to $8.50

Beeswax Lotion Balm: increased from $8.50 to $10.00

Shaving Soap Pucks: increased from $10.50 to $12.00

Shampoo Bars: increased from $7.50 to $10.00

Dog Shampoo: increased from $7.50 to $10.00

Hand and Body Lotion: increased from $12.00 to $13.00

*Soap Shavings: increased from $3.00/Bag to $6.00/Bag

*Friday 4/$20 Deal: increased from 4 Bars for $20 to 3 Bars for $20

* indicates not available online

Out with the Old and in with the New

Due to certain fragrances and essential oil blends being discontinued, we will no longer be making the following items:

·      Tea Rose Soap (after March 2018)

·      Avocado Mint

·      Pumpkin Spice

Of course, if our suppliers are able to find new sources for their scents, we will make these again in the future.

Our Avocado Mint soap will change to something else. It’s an avocado oil soap, so that’s easy enough for me to continue, but scent profiles for it will take some testing. Keep your eyes and nose peeled for its replacement this year, likely in the spring. Perhaps it will become the new base of our popular summer soap, patchouli spearmint.

I just made a 30-pound batch of tea rose, using my last bottle of scent, so it will go online and in-store as soon as it cures (likely in middle-end of January), but once it sells out, that’s it for a while. Pumpkin spice is holiday soap only, so once it’s gone, you will have to wait until November of 2018.

I don’t know about you, but for me, part of making soaps is taking my customers requests and creating new soaps for everyone to enjoy. I have discovered so many great soaps this way and made so many people happy along the way, too.

Three new soap scent profiles I am adding to my collection are Sandalwood Rose, Lemon Lavender, and Citrus Mint. The Sandalwood Rose scent is woodsy and sweet. The sandalwood pairs with the rose amazingly well, creating this earthy yet fragrant bouquet. It strikes me a s gender-neutral soap, much like our Patchouli Sage and Lavender Patchouli soaps are appealing to all genders.

The lemon lavender is a subtle blend of lavender and citrus. It stimulates the skin, wakes, you, up, clears your sinuses…it’s a pleasant soap to use on a daily basis. The Citrus Mint soap will cool the skin, yet the citrus will wake up the senses. Look for all three of these new scents in February.



2017 Soap Haiku Contest Winner

Bill McConnell

Read about our annual Haiku contest.  This year's winner is Cheryl Heineman, a graduate from San Diego State University's MFA program in creative writing. She has published two collections of poetry, Just Getting Started and something to hold onto. Both are available on Amazon.  Her poems have appeared in the San Diego Poetry Annual, San Diego Writer's Ink, 8West Press, 1001 Journal, the Magee Park Poets 2017 Anthology and the Round Top Poetry Festival Anthology, among others. She has won several awards from the Palm Springs Writers Guild.

How About a Bar of Beer?

Bill McConnell

Twice a year, I make beer soaps. I usually make them around St. Patrick's day and Fourth of July. I do this because it's my contribution to two holidays that seem to revolve around drinking. Whether that''s a good thing to promote is a a matter of opinion, but as a businessman, it makes sense to offer a seasonal product.

I always make my beer soaps out of whatever beer I happen to be drinking. I like to think I drink good quality beers. For beer soap production, I enjoy using IPA and stout. Both have exquisite, aromatic properties that provide the soap a woodsy, aromatic tincture.

This past February, I made two batches of beer soap (128 bars total). The first batch is an IPA beer, made from Stone Brewery's traditional IPA (the one in the green can...yum). This is a simple process. I gather all of my oils (a proprietary blend of coconut, olive, castor, and Shea butter) and when I make my lye solution, I substitute the water for beer.

The beer must be prepped, though. The beer must boil for about 20 minutes at a solid, rolling boil. When the beer comes to a full boil, that's when I start my timer. About five minutes into the boil, a thick skin of foam starts to build up on the surface. This is the alcohol burning off. It takes about ten minutes for this to completely happen. After ten minutes, I vigorously stir the pot and within a couple of minutes, a new head of foam starts, but this one continues to rise. This is the yeast burning off. It can fill the pan (and I use a 20 quart pot). I boil a 12-pack down to about 72 ounces (a 50% reduction). If I boil it too long and find that I need more liquid, I'll add a little distilled water to compensate.

Once the liquid has cooled, I add it to my melted oils, thicken it to trace with a stick blender, add any scents, mold it and wait for the magic to happen.   

This year, I added a blend of cedar and vetiver oils to my IPA soap. I found that the woodsy scents of these two oils complemented the slightly toasted scent of hops that remains in the finished product.

My stout soap is comprised of a blend of three stouts: American Stout, Coffee Milk Stout, and Xocoveza Stout (all by Stone Brewery). For scent, I add only a small amount of vanilla, as these beers have a natural chocolate-like, almost caramel scent to them. They are sweetly aromatic, not cloying. And, they have a faint spice texture to the nose.

The colors are just the natural color of the beer--nothing more. 

Aside from all of this, the benefits of beer soap include better lather, better hardness, and better oil-fighting ability.  A beer soap can fight off acne, soothe slight skin irritation, and can function as a shampoo.  The natural wheat proteins in beer are good for both the hair and the skin.

If you'd like to check out my IPA soap with cedar and Vetiver, or if you'd prefer our Vanilla Stout Soap. please click on our shop now link above, where you'll find these soaps as well as a bunch of other great products.

Thanks for stopping by.