Late last year Ali received in the mail "Flat Oliver", a laminated photo of her eldest grandson who was then in Pre-Primary at Broome Primary School. As Oliver's Nanna she was asked to send information or stories to share in Oliver's classroom, to enrich their learning experience. Ali decided it would be fun to show Flat Oliver just how we make soap, and to give a little soap to each of Oliver's classmates. Katrin & Sabine took lots of photos...
Soap at Hidden Valley in Broome is made the old fashioned cold process way... when oils and fats like olive & coconut oil are mixed together with a strong chemical called lye, made from water and caustic soda or sodium hydroxide (NaOH). It’s quite a dangerous process, too dangerous for little kids to watch. Katrin and Sabine had to wear plastic gloves and aprons to protect their skin. But Flat Oliver is laminated with plastic, so he was perfectly safe.
Here are the “rockets” (they used to be hot water systems) where Hidden Valley store the fats and the lye. The fats are in the big one where Flat Oliver is standing. These have taps on the bottom and warming elements inside. First they put a big soap pot on the scales – can you see it? Then they open the tap on the fats rocket and pour in exactly the right weight, through a sieve to catch any solid bits.
Next they pour in exactly the right amount of lye from the smaller rocket, and mix it all together. Nanna says it’s really important to get the measurements on the scales just right. Next Katrin or Sabine said a little quiet prayer that this soap would help clean away any fear and plant love in anyone who was using it.
Here is the soap starting to form in the soap pot. It starts off like runny honey, but after we stirred it a while it slowly got thicker and whiter, like thick custard. But don’t eat it – YUK!
Next we mixed some colours to make it look beautiful. Here you see Katrin & me making yellow and orange for the Happy Soap. Also here is Sabine and me mixing blue for the Fisherman’s Soap.
When the soap was thick enough, we poured a lot of essential oils in the pot, to make the soap smell really nice.
And at last the soap is ready to pour into the big moulds. See how the bright colours are swirled in to make beautiful patterns in the soap. And last of all the insulation box is put over the mould to keep it all warm while the soap continues to form and to set.
The soap sat in the moulds for two whole days until it was set firm and ready to cut. How did we cut it?
We took the big block of soap out of the mould, scraped the top off and put in on the cutting machine. The cutter has a boat winch to pull two different ropes. These move the soap through some very strong steel wires to cut it. They are actually piano wires from Germany!
See how this pretty Fisherman’s soap is pulled first sideways through the wires, cutting layers of soap. Next they used a different rope to pull a cutting frame down from the top, cutting the soap into squares.
But it’s still not finished!
The soap is put on trays going into the soap coolroom. Here it sits for at least 3 weeks, getting hard as the water in it evaporates. And all that nasty chemical is gone, changed into soap. The girls cut hearts and stars and other shapes from the thinner top layers of soaps.
Katrin and Sabine love to play with colours and smells for their soaps. See this beautiful rainbow soap! It’s such fun to experiment.
Nanna said each of Oliver’s classmates could have some soap to take home – a tree and a star.
And she said if any kid is interested in making soap, they could learn it properly in high school, in Year 12 Chemistry class. Nanna loves to show the big kids and give them a good recipe.
Flat Oliver learned a lot! It was such fun! A bit like cooking but don’t try to eat it!
Thank you Katrin and Sabine!