Posts tagged "soap"

What can I reuse or recycle to make soap moulds?

I made my first batch of cold-process soap earlier in the year – it took FOREVER to trace, but we’ve loved the resulting soap so I need to make some more.

Ever since I made that first batch, I’ve been on the look out for what I can use as moulds this time around. Last time, I had two old food trays for bar soaps, but when I ended up making a lot more soap than I’d originally intended, I grabbed whatever else I could find – some shaped fruit trays (small hand soaps), an old round ice cream tub (too wide when sliced into discs so had to cut them into semi-circles, which was a bit odd) and the square edged plastic bottles the olive oil had come in (nice size hand soaps, but it was awkward to get it out). (The latter two can be seen in the picture.)

All sorts of packaging has been subject to my “would it make nice soap?” eye. A few weeks ago, I was reading about someone else’s soap making on Simple, Green, Frugal and she mentioned using poster tubes (with the bottom sealed up) to make nice sized round soaps. As we’ve not had any posters or the like delivered recently, we haven’t got any of those but it got me thinking about similar cylinders: a litre-ish, straight-ish juice or pop bottles would probably about the right size, although it’d probably be awkward to get out like the olive oil bottle. That led me down another juice line: John has got a bit of an obsession with chocolate soya milk at the moment which comes in tetrapak containers – that would be a nice size for square bar soaps and be easier to cut out…

Anyway, long story slightly shorter, what else can I reuse or recycle to make either interesting shaped soaps or simple practical ones? If you make your own (cold-process) soap, what do you use?

Do you have any upcycled moulds that you can reuse again and again rather than destroying (like would happen with the poster tube or my juice containers)?

Or on the flipside, anything you’ve used that you’d urge other people not to use?

(A few notes for non-soap makers: the soap mix at the point of pouring is about body temperature for “cold-process” soaps so plastic melting is not usually an issue, but it is incredibly caustic at this point, and will react to metals other than stainless steel. It’s poured into the mould when it’s hit “trace”, a gloopy rather than full liquid stage, and left to set in the moulds for a few days, then popped out of the moulds to continue “curing” for a few weeks before use.)

How can I reduce the amount of toiletries I use?

showeringWe’ve had an email from Di:

Every week I have to buy more shampoo, more conditioner, more shower gel… for my family and want it to stop. It’s so expensive, all the bottles are such a waste and I hate the idea of all those chemicals. I don’t know if we’re brave enough to go no ‘poo but want to reduce our use all the same. Any ideas?

I’ve heard lots of good things about going down the no (sham)poo route but it does take some perseverance – the first few weeks are usually pretty horrible while the hair/scalp adjusts from being regularly doused in chemicals to managing itself. For some people, it quickly settles down and is better than it was before, for other people it takes ages to work itself out and sometimes never does.

There is plenty of middle ground though – try reducing the amount of times you wash your hair. I think we’ve been convinced that hair needs washing regularly by shampoo producers – I’ve spoken to older people about the issue and they think it’s madness that we wash our hair so often – they go for shampoo-and-sets once a week or even less frequently and that’s more than enough. (I suspect we also generally have a somewhat broken notion about what smells clean because we’re so used to perfumed soaps and the like.) After leaving my job to work for myself a few years ago, I halved the amount of times I wash my hair and I think there is scope to scale it back even further.

Cut down the waste produced by the toiletries by buying bigger containers of things – bulk-buy if you can and decant it into smaller, old bottles for ease of use – and consider swapping to solid shampoo & soaps instead – less bulk to be transported around. Of course, you can make your own shampoo, liquid soap and bar soap too – then you know exactly what’s it in and don’t need tons of packaging.

Any other suggestions? What have you done to cut back? What works? What doesn’t? Any particular shampoos that aid infrequent washing?

How can I reuse or recycle bits of old soap?

SoapWe’ve had an email from Chris Slowe about soap:

It’s unwieldy at the best of times but when you get near the end of a bar of soap it starts falling to pieces and is practically unusable. Even worse a friend of our bought us a cake made out of soap! It’s finally being used for its inherent properties but is falling to pieces. Now if there was only some way of reconstituting all those bits into a new bar… Can it be squashed, melted back together again? Any ideas?

We had some soapy suggestions back on the old tights post which made me think we’d covered this already – so good call Chris for noticing we hadn’t.

I know it can be melted back into a single bar or made into liquid soap/laundry soap but I’ve never done that myself – any soapmakers got any advice?

Or anyone got any other reusing or recycling ideas for the slithers?

Best Suggestions

  • Reuse: Soap is a useful addition to tool boxes, sewing kits and bike repair kits as it’s a good lubricant. Keep an end of soap in each in case you need it.
  • Recycle – in the home: Collect the ends of several bars of soap and grate them up (or break them into small pieces) then gently heat them until they’re malleable. Finally squish them into a mould (see our page on mould ideas!) and leave them to resolidify and there you go, new soap. You can also grate them up to make laundry soap – a frugal alternative to washing powder.
  • Recycle – in the garden or garage: Place the stubs of several soap bars into the foot of an old pair of tights/stocking/thin sock or a fine net bag (such as an onion or garlic bag), then hang them near an outdoor tap for when you. The fabric/net will keep much of the dirt/grim away from the soap itself and help increase lather too.
  • See the comments below for more suggestions and ideas

(Photo by mfrietsch)

How can I reuse or recycle shower gel bottles?

shower-gel-bottleOk, we’ve already covered shampoo bottles and plastic drinking bottles but I think shower gel bottles are a little different.

The ones I use have got a little, I don’t know, valve thing on the top to stop the gel falling out while they hang upside down in the shower. I don’t know whether this would stop anything as wet as water but the liquid gel stuff stays put.

So could this be used for anything else? I guess I could refill it with liquid soap for sink-based handwashing – either commercial stuff I’ve bought in bulk or when I get around to make my own from soapnuts – but any different, non-soapy suggestions?