Stand Back While I try Science!

Everyone always talks about the beautiful crafts they make, but one rarely hears about the mistakes. I can say that when it comes to crafting mistakes I’ve had some doozies over the years, and last night was no exception.

Yesterday I tried making my first batch of home-made soap. Not the melt-and-pour kind, but the real deal. Now we all know that working with lye is extremely dangerous. After years of college chemistry I was ready to take that seriously. I suited up in some old clothes and grabbed my goggles and my gloves. Looking like a mad scientist who’d just woke up for the day (the old clothes just happened to be jammies) I set out to do what I needed to do.

I gathered all my ingredients and measured them out before starting into the dangerous part. Then came the lye. It was actually not bad to work with. I was really surprised. I made my lye water and left it to cool while heating my oils. The oils heated to quickly so I had to cool them down a bit, but that was to be expected for a first attempt. Then I was ready to combine the lye water with the oils. All good, everything was a go. I started stirring my cloudy little mixture and watching saponification set in.

After a couple minutes the mixture started to get foamy. I don’t remember anyone mentioning this, but it’s soap right? And a chemical reaction. I figured a little bit of foam was to be expected. Well, when a little became a lot I walked the mixture over to the sink. It was just in time too, as it proceeded to foam over the top of the pan.

I let the mixture continue to foam over into running water (and flow down the drain). At this point I figured the experiment was a botch, and slowly poured the rest of the mixture down the drain. That’s when I noticed what the problem was. There were little bits of what looked like metal in the bottom of the pan. It seems that my “stainless steel” pan was not really stainless or was only plated. The lye reacted with the underlying metal easier than with the oils.

I proceeded to rinse the pan until all the mistake was down the drain and then tossed out the pan. Mental note: next time, don’t believe that the pan is stainless steel until you see it.

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