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Archive for Monday, August 3, 2009

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Rub-a-dub-dub: Locally made soaps aim to leave you squeaky clean

August 3, 2009

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Debi Taylor, Lawrence, cuts a brick of chocolate coffee soap that she made in her rural Douglas County home. Pictured above, Taylor offers a variety of smells, including one called Shoe Bug, which helps fend off mosquitos.

Debi Taylor, Lawrence, cuts a brick of chocolate coffee soap that she made in her rural Douglas County home. Pictured above, Taylor offers a variety of smells, including one called Shoe Bug, which helps fend off mosquitos.

Kris Grinter, of rural Lawrence, makes and sells homemade soaps. Among her varieties: honey almond oatmeal, peppermint, tea green cucumber, lavender and rosemary patchouli.

Kris Grinter, of rural Lawrence, makes and sells homemade soaps. Among her varieties: honey almond oatmeal, peppermint, tea green cucumber, lavender and rosemary patchouli.

Kris Grinter, of rural Lawrence, works up a new batch of her homemade soap.

Kris Grinter, of rural Lawrence, works up a new batch of her homemade soap.

Where to find homemade soap

Rangeland Herbs and Grinter Farms both sell their soaps at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market.

In addition, Rangeland’s Web site is www.rangelandherbs.com or can be reached at 842-3392, and Grinter Farms can be reached at 749-1325.

For Debi Taylor, you’re not fully clean unless you’re locally soap clean.

“After you use homemade soap, you will come out feeling clean for the first time,” Taylor says.

Taylor should know. She’s owner of Rangeland Herbs, a farm north of Lawrence that, in addition to other products, makes homemade soap.

Grinter Farms, owned by Kris Grinter, and Rangeland Herbs are among businesses providing Lawrence residents an option for local lathering.

Grinter describes the process this way: “It’s like baking a cake from scratch, rather than a boxed cake.”

Here’s the basic process:

• It starts with the correct amounts of lye — or sodium hydroxide, made from hardwood ashes — and cold water. These are mixed.

• Next, they melt oils and fats that are then added to the oil/lye mixture. Taylor uses coconut oil and soybean oil. Grinter uses a variety, including palm oil, coconut oil, olive oil, soybean oil and corn oil.

• Then, the stirring process begins. This can take anywhere from an hour to 24 hours.

“This is where saponification takes place,” Taylor says. “This is where it changes into soap. It is no longer lye and no longer oil.”

• Once the stirring is done and the correct consistency is found, “fillers” are added to the mixture. Those can include anything from oatmeal to lavender to freshly grated coffee beans. These fillers add nutrients, fragrances and colors to the soap.

• The mixture then is poured into molds. Taylor uses wooden boxes that are lined with plastic to create 212 bars of soap in each batch. Grinter makes 12-pound batches inside an oak box that are later cut.

• As the soap cools, it hardens into the consistency we recognize as soap. It must dry three to four weeks before it’s ready to be used.

Grinter says she has one base recipe she follows and changes slightly to create around 10 varieties of soap, with her favorite being rosemary patchouli.

Grinter says locally made soap is better for you than its generic counterparts because it contains glycerin, a component of fat that leads to moisturized skin. Glycerin is extracted from store-bought soap so it will have a longer shelf life, she says.

“Homemade soap is more processed,” she says. “A good bar of soap should have excess fat.”

Taylor says homemade soap just feels better, too. And although the local variety may cost more — many of hers start at $3.75 a bar — she says they last longer.

And this time of the year, there could be even another added bonus — Taylor makes a soap called Shoe Bug, which contained citronella oil to fend off mosquitos.

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