Sweet Pea's Groceries

Commercial VS Handmade Soap

handmade soapPeople often ask me what the difference is between commercial soaps and handmade soaps. I also get the question of why handmade soaps don’t last a long as “regular” soaps. Well the easiest thing to say is that they are almost completely different animals that cannot be accurately compared or put into the same category.

Here is the ingredients list for Irish Spring: sodium tallowate (animal fat), sodium cocoate (coconut oil), and/or sodium palm kernelate (palm kernel oil), water, sodium hydroxide (the saponifying agent otherwise known as lye), hydrogenated tallow acid (skin conditioner), coconut acid (skin conditioner), glycerin (skin conditioner), fragrance (of unknown origin), sodium chloride (table salt to increase the hardness of the bar), pentasodium pentetate (an agent that improves the bars performance in hard water), pentaerythrityl tetra-di-t-butyl hydroxyhydrocinnamate (an antioxidant that prevents the soap from becoming rancid over time), titanium dioxide (a mineral whitener), D&C green No. 8, FD&C Green No. 3 (dyes).

Here’s the general list of ingredients I use to make my soaps: distilled water/homemade beer/pure carrot juice/organic coconut milk; olive, organic coconut, castor, rice bran and avocado oils; sodium hydroxide; herbs/oats/coffee grounds; and essential oils.

Clearly, there’s a lot more going on in the Irish Spring. It’s animal fat based and they’ve added hardeners, conditioners, fragrances, dyes and other ingredients that make it vastly different from a handmade bar. Keep in mind, your skin is your largest organ and what you put on it does seep into your body and is processed internally. I think we conveniently like to forget that. I can’t say which you will or should prefer. That’s completely up to you. But for those who are looking for the longevity of a commercial soap but want to go handmade, here are my tips:

* Keep bar soap away from water when not in use. If your soap dish does not have drainage, throw it out or make some sort of craft project out of it but certainly don’t use it for handmade soaps. Standing water will most definitely turn your soap to goop and waste your hard-earned bucks.

* Ask your soapist how long ago the soap was made. Generally speaking, most soaps are considered cured and ready to sell and use in four to six weeks. This waiting period is mostly to let the excess water evaporate and allow the soaps to shrink. After that time it’s safe to package them without the labels getting dewy and not fitting properly. I find that the longer the soap is allowed to sit, the harder the bar is and the longer it lasts because even after six weeks it’s still losing some moisture. So letting soap sit for a few more weeks is certainly not the worst idea if you’re looking for a harder, longer-lasting bar. There is a threshold here though. I wouldn’t let it sit for too long because: 1. the excess oils may turn rancid and 2. those skin-benefiting oils may be drying out. So store your soaps in a cool, dry, dust-free location and aim to use them within a few months of purchase. Honestly, I’m still using soaps that I made a year ago with no problems. They’re super hard and lasting me forever, however, I’m creating a trade-off because I’ve more than likely lost some of the benefits of the excess, superfatted oils drying up over time. I try to tip the scales back in my favor though by slathering my body with a lotion or butter after my shower. My advice is to figure out where your sweet spot is and go with it.

* Consider the base oils. 100% olive oil soaps take a long time to fully cure, months in fact, and will remain softer compared to a coconut oil/olive oil combo which takes only a few weeks to cure. Compared to olive oil, coconut oil is a lot harder and will lend itself to a longer lasting bar with a great lather, however, saponified coconut oil is nowhere near as conditioning to the skin and will often give you that tight feeling if it’s present in too high of a concentration. So there is a trade-off. It just depends on what you’re looking for.

* Salt. I was taught that adding a little bit of table salt to the mix creates a harder bar but due to my general disdain for the stuff, I’ve yet to try. Commercial soaps use it as a hardener and it certainly can be added to any handmade recipe. Gourmet salts, such as Himalayan pink salt, are now all the rage so you can easily find a wealth of luxurious handmade salty soaps on the market if you do a little exploring.


Meet the Artists

The Treehouse.
The Treehouse.

It’s that wonderful time of year when The Treehouse has it’s semi-bi-annual Meet the Artists Reception and Preview. Now is the time. Today is the freakin’ day people. Let’s do this! From 6 pm to 8 pm at 5 North Front Street in New Paltz, you can enjoy some snacks and beverages with the artists that make The Treehouse so darn eclectic and awesome. Come visit me. I would love to talk to you about what I do and answer any of your questions. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, and we’ll have a great time doing it.

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The last reception was a hoot! I got to meet so many wonderful people and I can’t wait to do it again!

Also, this Saturday is the last outdoor Saugerties Farmers Market of the season. If you hear some disembodied whimpering right now, don’t worry, that’s just me crying. The indoor winter market will start up at the end of October but sadly, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it. We shall see. In any case, please make an extra effort to come see me this Saturday if you need to purchase anything before the holidays. I will have more $2.00 soaps and $4.00 Halloween soaps, plus $1.00 soapy sticks. Concentrated liquid soaps are also back in stock: Lavender & Tea Tree, Lemongrass & Tea Tree and Sweet Orange & Tea Tree–8 ounces for $8.00. These liquid soaps can be diluted and used for dish washing, body washing, hair washing, dog washing, laundry washing, washing out someone’s dirty mouth…pretty much any washing need you may have. Plus, dilute a little bit in water, add some vinegar and lemon juice, and you have a fantastic household cleaner. And behold the awesomeness that is the $6.00, 2.25 ounce deodorant made with beeswax; neem oil; lemongrass, sweet orange and tea tree essential oils; olive oil infused with herbs; and shea & cocoa butter. This is some seriously good stuff here–it’s like a salve on steroids–and I will have it available. It can be used as a lotion, as a solid perfume (because it smells fantastic!) or a deodorant. And if none of this sounds even remotely appealing, remember, I don’t just sell soaps in my booth. Heck no! I also sell bags, table runners, tea cozies, and jewelry so there’s lots of shopping to be had.

IMG_20130907_134315As always, I will be available via Etsy (and I’m working on adding a store to this site) but my vending schedule is still being worked out. If you know of any events that you think I’d like to attend, please let me know. I want to do as many shows as possible this season. Ling Ling is getting her scarves ready to sell (she outsold me last week…jerk!) so we’ll be able to divide and conquer the craft show circut.

Essential Oil Deodorant & Solid Perfume Bar: infused herbs, beeswax, neem oil, butters, tea tree, lemongrass, sweet orange, salve, body bar


More market action to be had.

I will be at the Saugerties Farmers Market tomorrow for your shopping pleasure, from 10 am to 2 pm. My usual sales will be in full effect. In the meantime, enjoy some photos from last week’s Farm Animal Day. What a blast! The event was not short on humorously incongruous moments. For example, there was a petting zoo filled with wholesome families and then there was a hula hooping station right next to it that was blaring 50 Cent, Baby Got Back, rave music and other inappropriate tunes. It was perfectly delighful! The only downside was the chickens squished together in a cage. This I am not a fan of at all. One chicken in one cage, maybe, but not ten chickens in one cage. Me and some other vendors were making plans to free them but we were afraid we’d be banned from the market. So let me say this now for the record, if I see such foolishness next year, I’m putting on a disguise and springing them. Done deal.

Life & Times

Among the rest of the animals

You can find me grazing about with the rest of the creatures this weekend at the Saugerties Farmers Markets’ annual Farm Animal Day. Last year was nuts (in a good way) so don’t miss it! I will have my regular sales going on (except I’m almost out of my $2.00 One Delicious Buzz soaps) plus I will be selling a whole slew of new lotions, butters, scrubs, liquid soaps, and body oils.

The sales are as follows: $1.00 soapy sticks, $2.00 bars of One Delicious Buzz and Benjamin Button, $4.00 glycerin soaps and $5.00 salves.

Oh, and I’d be a jerk if I didn’t mention that another wonderful vendor bought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Shoving Leopard. This was week #2 of having fresh flowers given to me. I love the people I vend with. I just can’t say that enough. Here’s hoping for week #3 of fresh flowers…



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Happenings this Weekend

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This Saturday, I will once again be at the Saugerties Farmers Market from 10 am to 2 pm so please stop on by. I’d be honored to see your beautiful, smiling mug. The sales are as follows: $1.00 soapy sticks, $2.00 bars of One Delicious Buzz and Benjamin Button, $4.00 glycerin soaps and $5.00 salves. And let me just take this opportunity to express how much I enjoy meeting and hanging out with my fellow vendors. Last week I was happily sandwiched between Grey Mouse Farm and Shoving Leopard Farm and we had way more fun than should be allowed. At the end of the market I gifted Marina from Shoving Leopard one of my salves because some of her garden weeds had done a number on her arms. In turn, she ended up giving me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers and a huge hug. I was so touched that I walked away almost in tears. What she didn’t realize was that I had been eyeing her beautiful flowers for the entire market. Early on I pondered buying a bouquet but decided that I couldn’t afford such a splurge on myself. So for the rest of the day I dreamed about someday receiving such a nice a gift and how they would brighten up my new apartment and how someday I hope that I can make enough money to enjoy fresh flowers all the time…the daydreaming goes on and on.  And voila, the world listened! Thank you! Thank you! She was even nice enough to snap the above photos of my booth without giving me a hard time for making such an odd request. Ahh…the world is full of wonderful people and the farmers market has many of them!


I’m Back!

As of this Monday, I will be back in the Hudson Valley and ready to rock! That means my Etsy shop(s) will be reopening soon, I will be off hiatus with the HV Etsy Team, and I will be back at the Saugerties Farmers Market every Saturday starting August 10th. So mark your calendars because good times are afoot! In the meantime, enjoy these photos that the uber-talented Nancy from Draped in Jewelry took at our last event in Fishkill. Also, if you weren’t aware that I even left you for two months…well I did. Check out my other blog to see what I was up to.


The perfect Sunday

Thanks to all my wonderful friends and customers for giving me one of the best days of my life yesterday at the Cayuga Nature Center’s Maple Festival. I haven’t felt such love in a long time. It was great being home, eating too much food, drinking too much great beer, holding babies and catching up with all of you! This needs to happen more than once a year.

A huge thanks goes out to:
● Matt for making sure the event runs smoothly every year. You did well my friend, you can relax now.
□ Kevin for being so darn sweet and for having a birthday at the exact same time so we have even more to celebrate.
♥ Alicia for giving me such a lovely handmade bag. I love it and I love you!
○ Nate and Elana for being such great company.
■ Leona, my angel…and the only person alive to witness my close call with a bandsaw.
⊙ Jeff, my future boss, you still are the nicest person I’ve ever known no matter how hard you try to provoke me.
¤ Maureen, my job could not have ended up in more capable hands. I admire your dedication.
♡ My extended family: Emily, Amy, Sara & Sofia. You complete me. I’m not joking.
* And I must give props to Brent, the brewmaster at Wagner Valley. You are trouble and you make a mighty fine brew….the perfect man!