Have you noticed this trend in making your own cleaning products at home? When my friend developed a skin condition, she too threw away every harsh-chemical-based cleaner and scrubber in her house. Her hands reaped the benefits. Containing fewer ingredients such as that miracle helper vinegar, homemade cleaning products are cheaper, often as effective and generally better for the environment (especially since you are not purchasing new plastic bottles every month).
While I often do use baking soda, vinegar and lemon to clean around the house, I am much more interested in homemade soap. It follows to me that a general revival in DIY home products would extend to soap. Unfortunately, I’ve found that inquiries regarding the availability of lye, the essential ingredient of soap, at your local hardware stores and supermarkets incur a great deal of suspicion. “Been watching too much Fight Club?” Not recently.
Evidently, supermarkets stopped carrying the major lye product, Red Devil, three years ago. Some hardware stores still carry Roebic Crystal Drain Opener, which is actually 100% lye, but they probably aren’t aware. Online soapmaking sources such as Lehman’s and Camden-Grey do sell lye, but you generally have to buy in high quantities. In addition, you have extra charges for shipping the hazardous materials and many companies require a signed “Hazmat Waiver Form.” Pretty intense stuff right?
Of course, these companies are right to be cautious. Lye is indeed a dangerous substance. You cannot handle lye without protective gloves and goggles, and it should never, ever be kept in a house with young children. In the process of making soap, lye must be added slowly to cold water. A chemical reaction heats everything up quickly. This mixture is then mixed with fat, classically olive oil to make soap.
If you find this all a bit daunting, as I certainly did at first, check out this shortcut for adding homemade touches to cheap, plain store-bought soap. Also, check out this great video for making soap in your crock-pot. (You’d want to buy a desperate basin for making soap and never, ever cook in the same basin after.)