Natural Soaps from “Sielanka Raciąż”
Historically, first soaps were made of animal fat combined with charcoal which produced a highly alkaline reaction. Nowadays animal fat is substituted for plant oils and charcoal is replaced by sodium hydroxide. When making soap in a “cold fashion” all types of plant oils are used. The most popular is olive oil which is mixed with oils obtained from sources such as coconut, various nuts, sunflower, evening primrose, black caraway, or pumpkin seeds. Each one of them has applications in the food and beauty product industry.
Ms. Marta Łach makes soap and similar items individually from natural ingredients on agritourist farm “Sielanka Raciąż”. She divides these products into two categories:
1. Soaps requiring more elaborate techniques. These pieces have medicinal properties, anti- wrinkle qualities, astringency features, etc.
2. Glycerin soaps obtained in a simpler fashion and used in workshops with children within the educational panel “Aromas and Soaps”.
I. Soaps made with plant oils
In order to transform liquid into a solid state and maintain foamy and cleaning properties of soap, sodium hydroxide has to be added, and here is where the fun begins. Sodium hydroxide in itself is an extremely caustic substance which combined with water, produces high temperatures in the vessel and creates lye. Subsequently, lye is mixed with oils and other ingredients such as dry flowers, essential oils, clay, mica, etc. These are combined in specific proportions determined by soap calculators which give the amount of water and sodium hydroxide to be added, depending on the amount of oils used in the recipe. All ingredients are blended in specific temperatures and in order for the soap to be properly cured, it has to rest for about 4 to 6 weeks. Only after that time sodium hydroxide oxidizes, loses its caustic qualities and becomes mild.
Soaps produced this way are a balm for the skin. The oils in the ingredients contain lubricants and nutrients and have soothing and healing properties. These products can be used as baby soaps because they are very mild and have no artificial dyes or scents. They are also recommended for people with skin problems such as acne, psoriasis, scars, burns and other ailments. They are ideal for mature skin because rose oil, for example, has strong anti-aging properties.
Ms. Łach adds to her soaps other ingredients besides oils. She collects them out in the field, in the woods, or in her herb garden. These are, for example, dry calendula petals, blackcurrant leaves, ground blackcurrant seeds, rose petals, poppy flower petals, cornflower, lavender, young birch shoots and fennel flower seeds. She also enhances her soaps with herbal distillates from pine and mint and other brews. Moreover, she makes macerates out of ingredients found in the meadows such as mullein, nettle, elderberry flowers, wild rose petals, calendula, linden leaves, etc.
Soaps produced by Ms. Łach are cured for several months, the longer, the better. In the meantime, they lose some of the essential oils’ scent, which had been added previously. The more neutral the scent the more delicate the soap, and it is recommended for people with different allergies. One needs to keep in mind that essential oils, although produced by natural methods, can cause strong allergic reactions. Since these are 100 percent plant products, they should never be applied directly onto the skin, but instead a few drops ought to be diluted first in olive or other oil. Ms. Łach sometimes puts oatmeal into her soaps due to its natural antioxidant properties and she also mixes in different clays and butters such as cocoa or shea, or adds bee pollen. Due to the fact that her soaps are packed with 100 percent natural ingredients, they have to be wrapped in paper in order to “breathe”.
II. Glycerin soaps
It is easy to make this kind of natural soap at home. Such products are much more beneficial for the skin than the store bought ones.
Glycerin can be obtained naturally by milling plant oils or synthetic ones. Ms. Łach buys glycerin only in stores with high reputation that sell certified items to people making natural cosmetics. This type of glycerin is plant based and dermatologically tested. She often purchases it with oil components, for example extracts from cucumber seeds, goat milk or olive oil.
Colored glycerin soaps are produced by melting the glycerin base and pouring it into moulds. Once the product cools off, it is ready to be used. This process is taught at educational workshops given by Ms. Łach for kids. She also makes natural cosmetics that are offered as gifts for guests at the “Sielanka Raciąż” agritourism.
Ms. Łach does not stop at making soaps and cosmetics. At “Sielanka Raciąż” she started an educational panel called “Aromas and Soaps” where besides making glycerin soaps, kids learn about plants, herbs and natural ingredients used in beauty products. During her classes she talks about herbs and medicinal plants, scents, aromatherapy and properties of different ingredients added to soaps such as petals, seeds, salts and other. She takes kids into the woods and meadows to collect plants, determine their properties and then use these finds to decorate soap packaging.
Kids learn about the production of essential oils, how one can cure with scents and how these affect the body and the brain. They are also presented with previously collected and now dry ingredients to smell them, taste them and apply them to make their own creations. They explore the natural world as the source of ingredients that can be used in everyday life.
Ms. Łach showcases her natural cosmetics, including soaps, at the yearly Raciąż Fair.
Artist: Marta Łach
Location: Pólka-Raciąż, Raciąż municipality
Contact: ph. 601 611 513, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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