It burns! It BURNS!
Anyway! To make soap, true soap, bar soap, one has to use lye. Nope, there’s just no way around it. There are a few things one needs to know about lye before using it, but the most important thing to note is:
DON’T GET IT ON YOUR FREAKING BODY, YO!
Now, it’s been a good long while since I’ve been around any toxic substances… like, not since college Chem 102. And I spent most of that class fantasizing about my professor and flirting shamelessly with my T.A. So, I want to preface the next paragraph by saying that I might not be the bluest burning Bunsen burner when it comes to handling toxic chemicals.
The first time I made soap, I got a teeny-tiny drop of the milk and lye mixture on my wrist. REALLY, it was tiny! TINY, TINY, TINY! SO, instead of treating it promptly, I thought to myself, “Meh, it’s just a wee drop. I’ll let it sit so I’ll know what I’m dealing with.” I know, I know. In retrospect I’m shaking my head and rolling my eyes too.
So the lye burned a stinging hole right through my skin and a black blister developed! At some point I realized it might be wise to treat the burn by pouring vinegar on it (lye is a base that’s neutralized by vinegar, an acid). So no permanent damage done and lesson learned. Except… I did it again the next time I made soap, BUT NOT ON PURPOSE! Lesson actually learned now, and I have elbow length gloves to make sure I don’t burn myself again!
On a side note: Is there a name for soap makers besides “soap maker?” Something official sounding and a whole lot nerdier? Like, “saponifist,” or something?