Continuing a Family Tradition of Soap Making

My great-great grandmother’s name was Alice Ross. She was born in upstate New York in 1887. She raised my mother from the time she was 18 months old until she was nine years old, in Coxsackie, New York. My mother remembers at home her great grandmother always wore a bib apron safety-pinned onto her cotton dress. Her daily life was busy and uncomplicated — no television with endless programming; no social telephone calls. Rising with the sun, Alice Ross’s day began early — to get the wood stove lit for the days meals.

Every meal was homemade from scratch — breads, cakes, roasts and stews. Everything was cooked and baked using her wood burning stove. As a result, there were always ashes from the stove and rendered lard from the fat of cooked meats and these were collected in an ever-present container kept close to the stove. From these two ingredients, ashes and lard, Alice Ross made brown household soap. The brown soap was always available for cleaning. Her laundry was done mostly by hand. First using a big round tin tub filled with water, she would rub the wet items with brown soap then scrub them on a wood framed washboard. After that everything went into an old washing machine with rollers to wring out excess water before being hung outdoors on a clothesline to dry.

I got into soap making in part because of the stories my mother told me about watching my Great-Great Grandma Alice make soap. Having a science background, my curiosity led me to experiment with making my own soap. The first time I witnessed the reaction of the oils and lye, then waited for the curing time to be over, I was rewarded with a nice homemade bar of soap – and I was hooked.

I’ve been making soap for almost 10 years and I appreciate the soap making tradition in my family. Soap making became a hobby that would also remind me of the stories I heard about my great-great grandmother who was kind, resourceful, and knowledgeable about so many things.

Now Annie, aka Annalisa (I have called her Annie since I was 3 years old), and I make soaps with the same resourcefulness, love, and kindness as my Great-Great Grandmother Alice.

~ Halima Da Costa

Packaging: Minimal Yet Thoughtful

Halima and I are lucky, we are best friends who started a small business together making products that we love. Fortunately we were on the same page when it came to figuring out how we wanted to package and ship our creations. From the get-go we knew we wanted to avoid excessive use of packaging materials and look for alternatives to plastics as much as possible, but we did not want to compromise on the aesthetics or attention we give each customer.

 

We love creating and making our soaps and lip balms so much and we want our packaging to reflect that as well. That is why just like the ingredients we choose with intention, we do the same with the packaging, from the simple Kraft paper we use for cigar band labels around the soaps to the handwritten and wax sealed note card we include in each order. We are happy to handwrite personal notes at the customers request for gift orders.

 

We pack each order with as little fill as we can get away with so the receiver has very little to throw away and it is our hope that whatever is not kept is recycled by the customer. We realize the importance of a pretty package and we want our customers to feel the appreciation we have for them and that is why we take our time packaging each order with kindness and intention.

~Annalisa

 

Soap is Soap, Right?

Soap is soap, right? Wrong. Not all soaps are made the same way. We make soap using the cold process method. This method allows us to choose the plant-based oils and butters that we want in our soap. We combine these oils and butters with lye (sodium hydroxide) and a chemical reaction known as saponification takes place.

Once the soap has gone through saponification, there is NO LYE left in the final product. Through saponification, the lye and oils create glycerin. Glycerin is a wonderful humectant for the skin and a major benefit to the cold process method of making soap.

In the commercial soap making process, glycerin is removed and replaced with synthetic ingredients. Most commercial soaps are actually detergents with synthetic lathering agents, preservatives and other chemical additives. Detergents can strip the skin of natural oils and as a result can be more drying to the skin and may even be irritating for some people. 

Natural handcrafted soap made with the cold process method retains glycerin which is nourishing for the skin. These soaps need to cure for 4-8 weeks before they are ready to use but once the soap has cured it will be longer lasting especially if the bar is allowed to dry between uses.

Since we make small batches, we are able to choose quality ingredients with beneficial properties for the skin. We are especially proud of the natural soaps we make and enjoy creating soaps that we feel are more nourishing to the skin. We enjoy including special oils we infuse with particular plants we forage or herbs we grow as well as adding essential oils that give our soaps aromatic benefits. We choose these ingredients with intention and consider the benefits they may lend to skin and hair health.

Why we choose not to use palm oil

Greenhouse Fusion has chosen not to use palm oil in any of our products. Palm oil is a popular ingredient in many handcrafted cold process soaps. Palm oil comes from the fruit of palm trees. It is popular in many beauty products because it is easy to produce, has a long shelf life and has hydrating and nourishing properties. Unfortunately, it is harvested from tropical rainforests resulting in habitat loss to the detriment of many indigenous human populations and species including orangutans.

Fortunately, there are excellent alternatives to using palm oil and that is why we choose to use shea butter and coconut oil in our handcrafted soaps. 

 
We are doing our best to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. This includes our approach to packaging which we will discuss further in our next post. Stay tuned!