Introduction: Sauna Smoke Soap

About: Tate is an artist, occasionally a curator, author, social designer as well as a frequent workshop facilitator focusing on utilization of available materials, tools and site specificity.
I really enjoy a quality soap: something sweet but not overly perfumed, few ingredients and handmade.
I spent a month experimenting with this recipe over a few batches and this last has turned out really nice, simple to make, with only 5 ingredients and you can make it over a campfire if you wish. The recipe will require some patience to complete but will leave you with a sweet and woody naturally scented soap.

Take a 30 seconds to watch the following fake commercial:

For this recipe you'll need:
  • Gloves/eye protection are a must and a smock would also be helpful to cover up any exposed skin because we will be working with one possibly dangerous chemical necessary to soap making.
  • 66 grams of Lye (chemically known as NAoH and commonly found as crystal drain cleaner).
  • 190 grams of Pine Reduction (I'll explain this in the next step).
  • 250 grams of pure Pine Kernel Oil.
  • 175 grams of Sunflower Oil.
  • 75 grams of Olive Oil.
Let's get started by making your pine reduction...

Step 1: Pine Reduction

The first thing you'll need to do is to go pick some pine needles, cones and branches. Put your pine parts in a big pot, place a heavy stone on them to weigh them down, fill the pot with water until the pine is mostly submerged with water and let it boil for a minimum of one hour with the lid on the pot.

*You can complete all of the heating processes for this recipe on a regular stove or over a campfire, it is your choice.

Remove the pot's lid after the pine has boiled for an hour and reduce the liquid until you have 200 grams of a substance which should look something between chocolate milk and thick balsamic vinegar. 

Set aside to cool.

Step 2: Chemistry

After your pine reduction is cooled:
  • Pour your pine reduction into the pot (if you had removed it from the pot).
  • Don your protective gear and measure 66 grams of lye.
  • Slowly pour the lye into the pine reduction and stir until the lye has dissolved.

Step 3: Fats

At this point there should be a chemical reaction happening between your pine reduction and the lye causing the mixture to become warm/hot. While this is happening, gather your fats:
  • Combine 250 grams of 100% palm kernel oil (this should be solid at room temperature), 175 grams of sunflower oil and 75 grams of olive oil in another pot and heat on a medium temperature until all are liquid and combined.

Step 4: Saponification

  • Add liquid fat mixture to the lye/pine reduction  in the large pot and turn the heat back on.
  • Stir the mixture until it starts to boil and turn the heat off while continuing to stir until the mixture begins to saponify
(A reaction between a base, usually sodium hydroxide, and a triglyceride, which is an ester of a fatty acid. The triglycerides are hydrolyzed to form the sodium salt of a carboxylate)
  • When you can see a lasting trail from your stirring utensil in the soap mixture, pour your mixture into your molds...

Step 5: Molds

*At this point you can remove your safety gear if you wish although things are still hot and could splatter but you will not get a chemical burn.
  • You can use many things for a soap mold but basically you want something non-stick (with silicone or something which has wax paper or plastic between acting as a barrier between the mold and soap) or something which you can cut off of the soap.

*For my soap I'll use whatever but I think used disposable coffee cups are a good solution as generally they are non-stick, they are good for putting hot things into and they have already been used once so you are giving them new life. I also like to use the plastic containers which food comes in, sometimes they can give really nice shapes.
  • Allow your soap to solidify for 24 hours, remove from your molds and cut into equally proportioned bars.

Step 6: Patience

  • The last step of the soap making process is patience: place your soap somewhere for 4-6 weeks while it completely cures. You can use it right away but it is very soft before it has fully cured and will wash down the drain quickly.
Enjoy your homemade Sauna Smoke Soap!

When fully cured this soap this soap has the following values:
Quality / Value / Typical Range
Hardness / 51 / 29-54
Cleansing / 33 / 12-22
Conditioning / 45 / 44-69
Bubbly / 33 / 14-45
Creamy / 18 / 16-48
Iodine / 69 / 41-70

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