I'm inviting you into my studio to see how I make our all-natural soap following the same methods from the Victorian era!
Our soaps begin with a base of olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, sweet almond oil, and shea butter. Victorian soap recipes often included tallow which can be quite greasy. Instead, I improved upon the 19th century recipes with my own unique blend of botanical oils and butters which is much more pleasant to work with and creates an exceptional bar of soap with a wonderfully bubbly lather and superb moisturizing and hydration for your skin.
To turn the oils and butters into soap, I follow a method very similar to how the Victorians made their soap. Known today as "hot process" soap-making, lye is added to the oils to create a process called saponification. (To learn more about saponification, visit the Soap Queen blog for some fun articles.)
The Victorians typically made their soap in large pots over a fire. I've modernized the process a bit by using a crockpot, but I still follow the same process our Victorian ancestors used over 100 years ago!
After the soap has "cooked", the lye is now completely worked into the oils and is not present in the finished soap, making it safe to use right away...and perfectly soapy!
After the lye has done its job, I blend herbs and flowers into the soap mixture to add a bit of gentle exfoliation. (Psst...If you prefer a soap without exfoliation, try our Lemon Zen soap; it's my favorite to use as a facial soap, too!)
Now it's time to add the essential oils that give our soap the wonderful Victorian-inspired scents you know and love!
After mixing everything together, I pour the soap into molds and finish it off with some fun swirls because, well, why not? 😉
After leaving the soap to cool and solidify for at least 24 hours, I remove it from the molds, individually cut each bar, and set them to cure. During the curing time, any water used in the recipe evaporates to create a harder bar of soap that lasts longer...which means more soapy goodness for you!
Finally, I wrap each bar in beautiful linen paper and affix it with a lovely label. I like to do this step as I while away the time in the company of friends while enjoying a good period drama (Downton Abbey and Outlander are my two mainstays...).
And now the soap is ready to to be packed up and sent off for you to enjoy!
And that, my dear friends, is how Willow & Birch Apothecary soap is crafted. I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into my studio. I certainly had fun sharing the process with you! I'd love to hear what you'd like to see next from behind the scenes! Leave me a comment and let me know!
And click here to see all of our soaps!