What is Soap?

All soap is made with two ingredients: oil (fatty acids) and lye (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide in a solution with water). Lye on its own is a harsh, caustic and highly corrosive compound, but when lye and oils are combined a chemical reaction called saponification occurs. In the reaction oil and lye are spent and the outcome is soap and glycerine. This means that even though lye is used as an ingredient in soap, it does not remain in the final product.

All soap is made like this. If a product is not made from oil and lye it is not, by definition, soap.


Bombay Blue Handcrafted Soap by Auntie Clara's


What is Handcrafted Soap?

Handcrafted soap is made by an artisan soapmaker, often in small batches with a stickblender and a scale being the only electrical appliances used in the process. The soap is typically cast in larger moulds where it sets up and becomes firm. It is then cut into individual size bars which are placed on a curing rack for the following 4-6 weeks. During the curing time water evaporates from the soap making it harder and longer lasting. The lather and general feel of the soap also improve with cure.

From weighing out oils to handing the wrapped and labelled bar to the customer, each of our soaps goes through a process of at least 15 operations – all done by hand.

One of the main differences between industrially manufactured soap and handcrafted soap is the glycerine content. In industrial soapmaking the glycerine is removed. This makes the soap hard and long-lasting but it also means that the skin conditioning benefits of the glycerine are lost. Industrial ‘glycerine soap’ is made like any other industrial soap, but at the end of the process glycerine is added back to the soap – together with copious amounts of alcohol for a transparent look. In handcrafted soap all the glycerine is retained making for a gentle, conditioning product without additional alcohol.

Well-made handcrafted soap is formulated with a specific purpose in mind. Different oils, amount of superfat and additives all bring different characteristics to soap and the artisan soapmaker will compose a blend of oils and additives suited for the intended use. Bath and toilet soap is formulated to be mild and conditioning for the skin whereas laundry or cleaning soap is formulated to effectively remove oil, dirt and stains. The formula for a baby soap will be quite different from the formula for a mechanics hand soap etc. Because handcrafted soap can be made in small batches it is also possible to custom formulate the soap to meet the specific needs and preferences of an individual user.


Basil Castil Handcrafted Soap by Auntie Clara's


Why Choose Handcrafted Soap?

The skin is our largest organ and we need to take good care of it. Using well-made handcrafted soap is a gentle way of caring for our skin while using ingredients from nature and steering clear of extra fillers, preservatives etc. Handcrafted soap is good and feels good and that may well be reason enough.

But our choice of handcrafted soap also makes us part of a highly respected craft with ancient traditions. Handcrafted soap has been made, used and highly valued for centuries and it is a privilege to be able to support and continue that tradition.

By choosing handcrafted soap we also support the individual artisan soapmaker who generously added his hard work, high standards, experience, hard-earned knowledge, artistic flare and passion to each and every bar of soap he makes. A handcrafted bar of soap is always a reflection of the person and personality behind it.


The Frog Prince Handcrafted Soap by Auntie Clara's


How To Care For Your Handcrafted Soap

Your bar of handcrafted soap is precious. It’s a luxury product made with high quality ingredients and you want the most out of it. By taking proper care of your soap you can add a lot to its lifespan.

Handcrafted soap is rich in glycerine. Glycerine is conditioning for the skin but it is also hydrophonic, ie it attracts moisture. A handcrafted bar of soap sitting in a puddle of water will soon become soft and mushy. So, the trick is to keep the soap as dry as possible making sure that it air-dries between uses. Never let the soap swim in the bathtub or lie in a pool of water in an undrained soap dish. And don’t keep it where the shower head can spray water directly on it. Use a draining soap dish (a slatted wooden dish is good or stand the soap on a soap save with nobs. You can also pull a rope, ribbon or string through the soap and hang it in a well-ventilated spot between uses. Alternating between a couple of bars letting each one dry completely between uses is ideal.

Unused soap should not be stored in a bathroom but in a cool, dark and dry place, a linen closet or a panty drawer being perfect options.