This week is Hemp History Week. Because I so strongly believe that allowing American farmers to grow this incredibly versatile plant could make a huge difference for our planet and for all of us, I’ve posted a blog each day in celebration.
So this week's weekend project is, naturally, DIY hemp soap. Take a cue from Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, which uses hemp oil because its high proportion of poly-unsaturated fatty acids makes the soaps milder and less drying. More than 75 percent of the essential fatty acids in hemp seed oil are poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), known for their excellent emollient and lubricating properties, according to Lotion Source Underground. Hemp seed oil contains ideal ratio of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids, perfectly matching the human body’s needs.
You can find basic instructions for making soap using hemp oil and hemp meal at Hemp.com. You can find more tips and help with soapmaking techniques via the Mother Earth News archives (here’s a great article from 1972), at TeachSoap.com and at SuperSoapmaking.com.
Hemp Soap Recipe
5 kilograms coconut oil
1.9 kilograms water
.67 kilograms sodium hydroxide
67.5 grams oat flour
50 milliliters hemp seed oil
25 grams crushed hemp meal
1. Melt oils in a double boiler and let cool to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Pour sodium hydroxide into water and carefully stir until it is dissolved. Let cool to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Pour water/sodium hydroxide mixture into the oil in a thin, steady stream, stirring slowly. Stir for about 2 hours, until the fat offers resistance to the spoon. The liquid will become honey-like as the lye is incorporated into the fat.
4. Add oat flour and hemp meal just before the mixture reaches trace, the point when the oils or the fats have successfully mixed with the lye solution, turning the lye into soap. (The mixture will have a thick consistency similar to cake batter and will leave behind a “trail” that takes a while to sink back into the mixture if you spoon some out and drizzle it back in.)
5. Once trace is reached, pour mixture into molds or a wooden box that has been soaked in water and lined with a clean, slightly damp cloth. Place molds in a protective pan and cover with cardboard or a board, then with a rug or blanket to retain heat while the soap is texturing out. Let the soap remain undisturbed for 24 hours.
6. Uncover and let cool 12 hours.
7. Lift soap from the mold by grasping the ends of the overhanging cotton lining. Cut the soap into bars by wrapping it once with a fine wire or string, crossing the ends of the thread and pulling.
8. Let dry for 3-4 weeks. Place newly cut soap so that air (but not drafts or cold) can reach it. Never let the soap freeze during its first two weeks. Fresh soap may never lather well if exposed to drafts and may become hard and flinty if it gets too col. Much like us, homemade soap improves with age.
Irena Marchu's hemp soap was made using Hawthorn Bay’s soap molds. Photo courtesy of Soap Naturally