Cynthia Siemens-

Please contact Dr. Sarah Prescott for any questions on this content.

What is natural soap exactly, you ask? The ingredients are really what separate natural soaps from unnatural soaps. The rule is this: if you find yourself having a hard time pronouncing or understanding some of the ingredients it contains, you shouldn't buy it. The ingredients of natural soaps are easy to pronounce and are familiar. We will explain this some more later on.

To show how simple the process of making natural soap is, we created some by using different essential oils. These essential oils include lime, rosemary, lavender, and calendula. As we discovered, these essential oils contain different roles and purposes. Anyone can pick and choose which they want according to one's needs and skin condition.

Lime, as it turns out, is a wonderful degreaser. This is great for dirty dishes, the house in general (bathroom, kitchen, etc.), and even for acne. For the first part of our project, we created a dish washing liquid soap (by using the lime essential oil).

Before we began, we found someone who is very knowledgeable in making natural and organic soaps. Our number one reference for this project is Karen Clough. She helps run the Rocky Soap Works company and she guided us through every step in our hands-on portion of our project.

First, we grated cured castile soap (4 cups) into our pot. This "castile soap" is made of palm oil, coconut oil, and olive oil mixed together, boiled down, and molded into a bar of soap and dried out. The video below shows the ingredients of castile soap in its beginning stage:

Permission to take video granted by Karen Clough. Video taken by Cynthia Siemens.

Here is a video of us taking turns grating the finished castile soap:

Then, we added two tablespoons of palm oil into the pot, one tablespoon of glycerin, and five cups of water. After that, we let the mixture boil for a few minutes.

Permission granted by Karen Clough, videos taken by Cynthia Siemens and Ashley Tourville.

After it boiled for a few minutes, we added emulsifying wax so the water and the oils could mix together. Then we took the pot outside to cool down.
Photo taken by Cynthia Siemens

Once it cooled to roughly 84 degrees, we added a few tablespoons of lime essential oil into the mixture. Not only does the essential oil make the soap a degreaser, but it also adds a nice scent to it. Believe it or not, we just finished making our first soap.
Permission granted by Karen Clough, photo taken by Cynthia Siemens

For visual appeal we added Forest Green Jojoba beads (made of jojoba oil which acts as a moisturizer).
Permission granted by Karen Clough, photo taken by Cynthia Siemens
Photo taken by Cynthia Siemens

In summary, this liquid dish washing soap only has six simple ingredients: water, castile soap (palm oil, coconut oil, and olive oil), glycerin, emulsifying wax, lime essential oil, and forest green jojoba beads.

As mentioned before, unnatural soaps contain numerous unnecessary ingredients that can't even be pronounced half the time. Take the Dawn dish washing liquid soap for example, it is made up of the following ingredients:
"water, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium pareth-23, sulfate C-12-14-16, dimethyl amine oxide, SD alcohol, undeceth-9, propylene glycol, cyclohexandiamine, polyacetate, protease, fragrance, FD&C blue, no phosphate." Other ingredients are confidential.

In reality, all it takes is five natural ingredients to make this kind of liquid soap and it is just as effective!

Part 2

For the second part, we're going to show you how we made our two natural bars of soap.

The first one we made was lavender based. This essential oil acts as an antibacterial and anti-fungal-- yes, antibacterial soaps can also be green!

The second bar contains rosemary and calendula essential oils, and they act as an anti-inflammatory (this is great for people with arthritis and tendinitis). Calendula also works as a great healer by stimulating cell growth (this is great for people who are bald or have sores and cuts on the skin).

Since both soaps are going to be bars, the beginning process is the same. First, we mixed 97.2 oz of water and 37.2 oz of Sodium Hydroxide to make lye. Though Sodium Hydroxide is a harsh chemical, it acts as a catalyst and it is absolutely necessary to make soap (all soap-makers will tell you this). In the end, the Sodium Hydroxide will be used up within 24 hours of the reaction.

This is a video of us making the lye:

Once the water and Sodium Hydroxide were mixed, we put it aside to cool down (since the exothermic reaction was 187 degrees). Our next step was to make sure the oil mixture was ready (boiled down olive oil, palm oil, and coconut oil). Since the oil was ready, we slowly added the lye to it, and the mixture slowly thickened. The video below demonstrates the complete mixture of the lye (acid) and the pot of oil (base). We poured the mixture into a pitcher to make our first soap by adding lavender essential oil and some "dark lavender mist" dye for color. Then the mixture was poured into a container, where the bar of soap will harden into its shape.

Permission granted by Karen Clough. Video taken by Ashley Tourville.

Permission granted by Karen Clough. Video taken by Cynthia Siemens.

For the other soap, we used the same process except we added "royal blue" dye for the color and rosemary and calendula essential oil into another pitcher. The video on the right shows us adding some dried calendula petals to the lye oil mixture and pouring it on top of what was already in the container:

Permission granted by Karen Clough, video taken by Cynthia Siemens and Ashley Tourville (both videos).

We covered the boxes up to trap as much heat as possible since the reaction was still taking place. Within the first twenty four hours, the sodium hydroxide is used up and the color begins to settle. It takes a few days for the soap to dry out.

Permission granted by Karen Clough, photo taken by Cynthia Siemens

The pictures below show the final products (the rosemary-calendula soap is on the left and the lavender soap is on the right).
Photos taken by Cynthia Siemens.

In summary, the rosemary-calendula soap is made up of the following ingredients: water, palm oil, coconut oil, olive oil, rosemary essential oil, calendula essential oil, dried calendula petals, and royal blue dye. We did not include Sodium Hydroxide as an ingredient because it was completely used up in the reaction.

Let's take a look at the ingredients the Dove Pink/Rosa Beauty Bar contains:
Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate, Stearic Acid, Sodium Tallowate, Sodium Palmitate, Lauric Acid, Sodium Isethionate, Water Agua, Sodium Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Fragrance Fragrancia, Sodium Chloride, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Red 17 CI 26100, Titanium Dioxide CI 77891.

None of these ingredients are natural (unless you want to count water as one)! We can safely say that it probably doesn't contain glycerin since Dove adds moisturizing cream to their soaps. Glycerin acts as a natural moisturizer for the skin (adding any more moisturizer to soap isn't necessary ), and the reaction of our natural soaps automatically creates glycerin. Soap companies, a lot of times, extract some (sometimes all) of the glycerin from their soaps to sell to other organizations for profit.

The (antibacterial) lavender soap contains water, palm oil, coconut oil, lavender essential oil, and dark lavender dye.
Let's compare our soap to Dial Complete Antibacterial Foaming Handwash. The packaging says the following:
Active Ingredients: Triclosan 0.60%, Other Ingredients: Water Aqua, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Dipropylene Glycol, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Fragrance Parfum, Disodium Phosphate, Citric Acid, Red 4 CI 14700, Yellow 5 CI 19140.

It turns out that the active ingredient, Triclosan, is the antibacterial chemical ingredient. According to an article written by Andrew Martin, a journalist from the New York Times, the studies of triclosan shows that it may cause antibiotic resistance and even alter hormone regulation in the body (these results came from lab animal testing). Some members of Congress feel that it is necessary to have triclosan banned from products such as hand soap. On top of that, the F.D.A. has confirmed that regular soap is just as effective as washing hands with triclosan. So, why use such a chemical when lavender is a natural antibacterial and anti-fungal essential oil?

Quite frankly, natural soaps contain such simple, easy ingredients compared to unnatural soaps!

After completing this project, we found that we have followed two of green chemistry's basic principles: (1) we're designing safer chemicals by using ingredients that minimize toxicity to people's health and the environment, and (2) we're completely avoiding the use of any potentially harmful chemicals.

Before we began this project, we had no idea just how important natural soaps were for our skin and how different each essential oil can be. We'd like to give a special thanks to Karen Clough for everything she's done. We could not have done this project without her help.

Works Cited

Clough, Karen. Personal Interview. 15 Nov. 2011.

EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Environmental Working Group. n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2011.

Martin, Andrew. "Antibacterial Chemical Raises Safety Issues." Destination Green. 19 Aug. 2011. Web. n. pag. 16 Nov. 2011.

Rocky Corner Soap Works. EzBuilder. n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2011.

Suzi. "Dawn Dish Detergent- Great For Dishes, Hands, and Ducks!" Epinions., Inc., 23 Jan. 2003. Web. 16 Nov. 2011.