Monday, November 5, 2012

3 Tips to Maximize the Shelf Life of Handmade Soaps

Lavender Patchouli Mint Hemp Oil Soap

Do you love handmade soaps?  I'm happy to share my tips for making them last as long as possible. Since soaps are made from natural oils and fats, they are vulnerable to oxidation (becoming rancid) just as food oils.   Handmade soaps are also rich in Glycerine (unlike commercial soaps in which the Glycerine has been extracted) they need to be allowed to dry out completely in between use.

1) First, start out right by buying soap from a reputable seller.  If you live in a humid or hot climate you need to be careful buying soap at a Flea Market or other outdoor selling venue.  It is possible to get good soaps at a flea or farmer's market, but often times the soaps that are sold are over exposed to the elements which can shorten the shelf life.  If you are living in a cold and relatively dry climate, then you should have no problem finding good handmade soaps at a market.  Here in Florida, I do not to take my soaps out into the elements most of the year.  Soaps I have seen in Florida out at markets or pow wows during during the hot part of the year show signs of damage from the elements: oily off-color patches, dust or general yellowing which is a sign of oxidation.  In the past when I tried taking my soaps to outdoor summer markets in Florida, the soaps always suffered the consequences oxidation and a shortened shelf life.  There is one exception I have found, which is that sea salt soaps do not suffer from oxidation due to the preserving properties of the sea salt.

Lavender Spearmint Sea Salt Soap

2) When you receive your soaps, unless your soap is completely sealed off from the air with a layer plastic (I don't use plastic packaging with my soaps), then you should take them out of the box or cigar band-type packaging.  Store the soap that is not in use naked and not touching other soaps in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.  This will allow water to continue to evaporate from the soaps.  The soaps will become even harder.  The harder and drier the soaps, the longer they last once they are in use.  Some people like to store their soaps in linen or clothes drawers.  This is a great option.  Soaps should still be used within a reasonable period of time 1-2 years, since they are made with perishable vegetable oils.

3) Dry soaps completely in between use.  A Cedar soap deck such as the ones I recently added to my shop can help dry out soaps quickly and completely.  If you have a lot of people in your family using soaps it can be hard to dry out soaps completely, even with a wooden soap deck, so consider having a dedicated soap and shampoo bar in the shower for each person.  The more the soaps are allowed to dry in between use, the longer they will last.

Western Cedar Soap Decks 

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