Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Zero Waste Wednesday: "Homemade" castile soap

You know what I love? A theme. And do you know what else I love? Eric. I'm also kind of into zero waste, except that's a little trickier because I tend to get bogged down in the mire of failure instead of celebrating my (usually minimal, maybe that's fitting) successes. Or not successes. Sometimes all there is to celebrate is the fact that you tried.

And since I'm also a fan of alliteration, I present Zero Waste Wednesday, which I hope to make a monthly or bi-monthly kind of ordeal to step up my zero waste game and to share what I've learned. Fun fact: We live in a tiny tourist-trap of a town with limited options. Realistically, we're never going to reach zero waste, but hey, we do what we can do, right?

Here's a project I've been meaning to try for ages: Turning a bar of castile soap into a gallon of liquid castile soap. I first read about this insanity in Bea Johnson's Zero Waste Home and I haven't been able to get this idea out of my head.

Final result looks suspiciously successful.
Spoiler alert: Don't get your hopes up.

Maybe because I tried this several months ago with an unwrapped bar of organic olive oil soap that smelled like sandalwood, and let me tell you, it was a disaster. It smelled amazing, but it was the consistency of thick snot. Also, it turns out that sandalwood is not really the scent I'm going for when I'm cleaning. I don't particularly like smells, and that one just did not do much for my general constitution. It was all wrong.

I chalked that failure up to the brand of soap I purchased. Maybe it just wasn't meant to be anything but a bar? I used the entire gallon up, of course (because that's what a responsible person does when she's pissed off at snot soap) and then bought a nice bar of Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castile Soap because hello, this dude also makes liquid castile, so logically this should work, right?

You guys, I am a huge fan of Dr. Bronner's liquid peppermint castile soap. It's one of the few smells I like, and at this point in my homemade cleaner career, I now associate peppermint with cleanliness. True story. But Dr. Bronner's liquid soap is expensive--even when I buy it in bulk. And the bars, comparatively ounce for ounce, are not.

Or maybe they are. I never claimed to be a math genius.

Yadda yadda yadda, that bar has been sitting in my kitchen for literally six months. During my blogging break, I decided it was time to quit looking at that thing and just get 'er done already.

Also, I was completely out of liquid castile and needed to fill up our soap dispensers.

I didn't bother to get out my copy of Zero Waste Home because I was pretty sure I remembered the directions and also because Johanna was on my iPad, where the book resides. (It's also on my Kindle, now that I think about it, but it's not as pretty.) Eh, what could happen?

So I grated the soap. I had to do it by hand, which wasn't actually all that hard, but I was kind of regretting throwing away the shredding attachment on my food processor, even if it did almost take two of my fingers off this summer.*

When I was done, my bar of soap looked like cheese:

It's the cheesiest. Just kidding. Don't eat the soap!

Carefully** following the directions I thought I remembered, I added some water and then let that whole ordeal sit overnight:

I was supposed to add a gallon of water, but who has time to
measure? From making iced coffee all summer, I have a pretty
good estimate of what a gallon looks like in my favorite pot.

Then all that was left to do was walk away. The next morning, I checked my pot and found this:

Not the most attractive concoction ever.

I know this is completely disgusting, but my heart lifted a little bit when I saw this because my last attempt did not look like this at all. I mean, it was kind of looking like liquid castile already, which is most of the battle right there.

Next you're supposed to use an immersion blender to get it all nice and mixed, but I don't actually own an immersion blender, so I just got out a whisk and did the best I could. Which sort of worked. And then I went to pour it into my containers.

Which is when I discovered that this soap was also the consistency of thick snot. "Pouring" it into my jars created a pool of snot on my counter. Ah, well. So I got out my ladle, which would slink back to half-filled every time I dipped it into the pot.

So it took a while is what I'm saying.

Hey, though, the real test came when I poured said mixture into our foaming soap pumps. With Snot Soap I, there was no foaming action at all. Would Snot Soap II be any different?

Nope. And I tried various rations of soap vs. water, but to no avail.

So the moral of this rather longish tale is that again we have liquid castile soap failure, and I'm not going to go for a third attempt because:
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no use being a damn fool about it. -- WC Fields
I mean, it's not a total failure because I've been using Snot Soap II to clean my dishes in the sink, and it works pretty well, although news flash: Castile isn't really the foamiest of soaps for that kind of thing, so if you're used to a sinkful of suds, this might be a bit of a stretch for you. Having used castile before for dishes, I'm fine with it.

Oh, and P.S. I thought maybe I just needed to add more water to make Snot Soap II not quite so snotty, but those attempts haven't been successful, either. But maybe that's just because I have limited patience and at this point, I honestly don't care anymore. My liquid castile soap dreams: Crushed.

To recap:

Recyclable wrapper on Dr. Bronner's bar
Zero waste all the way around
Gets dishes squeaky clean

Doesn't work in my foaming soap pumps
Bruised ego

The end.

*Well, more like almost took two fingers off, if by "almost" you mean "took about ten layers of skin and bled like mad." I seriously thought I was going to need a transfusion, that's how much blood loss we're talking about. Also, it was rather terrible timing because Abby had a friend over and they were in the kitchen checking on the progress of dinner and all of a sudden I'm bleeding all over the floor and that kind of killed the moment. Anyway, I threw that blade in the trash ASAP. I need my fingers, that's why.

**Just kidding. "Carefully following" and "directions" are not words that usually meet in my world.

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