Tuesday, May 10, 2011

ABC.4.2.8 Q Quandary

OK, Here it is, ABC Wednesday time again. This is the day to join in the ABC Wednesday Challenge, and share a little bit of our world with friends all over the world, and learn about them as well, one letter at a time. You can participate too, in either the sharing, or the learning, or both, by visiting ABC Wednesday,Where this week, the letter is

But first, several people have told me that they like the little letter signs I make each week, and are saving them and using theme in teaching, so since I was away from my files last week and couldn't make the letter "P", I promised I would do one this week. So here it is:

Now, back to Q.

I am in a bit of a quandary and I need advice from my loyal readers.

I recently got some new herbs to add to our garden, among them soapwort and some medicinal herbs that are good for skin conditions: Feverfew, Lamium, Yarrow, along with the Comfrey we already grow.

So I wanted to make some herbal soap and shampoo to sell at the Farmers Market.

There are a couple of different directions I can go with this, and I need some advice.

Traditional soaps are made by adding Lye to fats and oils. This causes a chemical reaction, called saponification, which makes the oils water soluble and solidifies them so the can be molded into bar form.

A by product of saponification, should one choose to take the steps to separate and reclaim it, is s substance called glycerin, which is used a lot in making clear soaps and liquid sops.

Soaps made from glycerin, or saponified fats have a very low water content and are relatively shelf stable.

But they are made with Lye, which is a harsh chemical. Although the lye is no longer present in finished soaps, it is, nevertheless a component of the process.

However, using soapwort root, I can make a soap and a shampoo that are lye free and chemical free. I can use herbal extracts and tinctures to add the herbal elements.

These are a water based solution, and as such have a short shelf life. They should be kept refrigerated and will last for about 2 weeks. Or I can add a chemical preservative, glycerin based, that will prolong the shelf life substantially.

So that is my QUANDARY.

And here are some QUESTIONS:

Do I sell a chemical free soap product, that has a short shelf life, or do I add preservatives?

Or, do I sell a dry package that can be added to boiling water, allowed to stand for several hours and then strained? Kind of a do-it-yourself shampoo kit?

Or do I just go ahead and use traditional saponification methods with lye and oils to make bar soap?

Would you rather buy a completely natural chemical free product, that must be refrigerated and will only keep about 2 weeks, or would you rather buy a product that is mostly natural, but has a few chemicals to prolong shelf life?

This is my QUANDARY.

I need your help...


  1. Quite a quandry, but I am the quintessential city girl and can be of no help. Still, wonderful post and I love your signs.

  2. well, as a business librarian, two things come to mind: your marketing plan - is it that you want to be known as a lye-free producer? The second, and you may not know this, is how many units do you think you can move? Can you sell the lye-free at great enough quantity, given its shelf life, to make it worthwhile.
    Seriously, you should go to your local SBDC - find it here: http://www.asbdc-us.org/ The service is free and confidential.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  3. Interesting Q.

    Please find out what my Q is at Nostalgic Marveling