Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rise Of The Soapmaker!

Or, "Is That A Sliver Of Soap In Your Sock, Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?"

My regular minions will remember I am constantly looking for ways to save money by reducing waste and finding new uses for used "disposable" items.

(On that note, did you know you can wash and hang-dry a paper towel an average of three times? But before I digress too far . . .)

With that in mind, slivers of soap have long vexxed me. I tried the Lisa Simpson Method -- smashing them together until they looked like a special effect from the movie Leviathan -- but they would never stick together long enough to wash oneself.

So I gathered up an old sock and put the soap pieces in it, tied up the end, then hung the thing on the shower caddy. My thinking there was to use the apparatus like one would a loofah or a bath scrubby. But it would never put out enough bubbles. Lawrence Welk would suffer an aneurysm waiting on bubbles from that thing. Plus, untying the knot every time I wanted to add a new sliver of soap was a pain in the ass.

Bored a couple of days ago, I found myself leafing through one of my mother's housewife magazines -- Woman's World.

There was a page on urawaza, the Japanese concept of secret tricks to save money, waste, or time.

One of the hints therein was "Turn soap pieces into new soap."

Basically, you throw the slivers into a saucepan, cover with water, and leave them to soak/soften overnight. You might want to crumble them up into really small pieces first (maybe a cheese grater?) or they'll likely turn out chunky and looking like novelty plastic vomit like my first effort.

The next morning, bring it to a boil and stir in two tablespoons of olive oil (I substituted canola oil.).

Pour the mixture into greased muffin tins and let them harden.

If the thought of putting into your saucepan something you have rubbed in your nether regions makes you go "Ewww!" you can pick up an old pan and muffin tins at a yard sale or flea market for, like, a quarter or 50 cents and use those only for soap recycling.

I made the equivalent of about four bars of soap this morning. I don't know if the boiling put more air bubbles in them or what, but they seem to have about double the volume than the size of the ingredients would suggest. (And no, that doesn't mean they shout really loudly.)

And the substance seems to be slipperier than white-market soap, perhaps because of the canola oil. But other than that, it seems pretty similar to normal soap.

I don't know how much money it saved me, when you factor in the water, canola oil, and the energy to boil it, but every cent saved is a cent Queen Borg Barack Obama's economy doesn't get. You also have to factor in the space the soap doesn't take up in your garbage anymore, so that's a plus. If I had a wood heating stove or radiator heater I could boil the concoction on, it would be almost costless.

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