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Why do soap bars made from soap noodles get such a bad rap from hand made soapers?

July 15, 2014

Basically (a little lye joke for you) soap is soap is soap bar the funky stuff.

It has been bugging me for some time that the hand-made soap community seem to love a good bagging out of the soap finisher/ soap noodles market.  Now if I was a zen monk nothing would bug me but I’m not, I’m a chemist and when it comes to soap chemistry I hate to be the one who says ‘the emperor is naked’ but he is.  The soap in noodles IS the same as the soap that you make in a bucket in your kitchen/ garden/ basement.

Put simply: Fats + Lye = Soap.

Heart soap

Take the bar of soap that you just made and grate it, shred it, extrude it and you get soap noodles.

Then you can take those soap noodles and put them through a big soap finishing machine and turn them into bars of soap.

That’s the basics but as I can hear your eyes rolling (is that even a thing)  here’s some more devil in the detail stuff and soap finishing:

  • It is possible to get cheap shite noodles that contain all manner of stuff from the non-biodegradable chelate EDTA to titanium dioxide to make it whiter than white to fillers and goodness knows only what to make the noodles cheaper and……… well just cheaper really.  This can be turned into really bad soap.
  • It is possible to get very high quality noodles that contain just noodle form soap (the fat + Lye stuff).  You can get it to varying superfat levels, can get it from sustainable palm sources and can even (shock horror) find soap noodles that are made with exotic oils such as Olive, Coconut and whatever else you fancy  (including that golden oldie or baddie if you are a vegan – tallow) if you look hard enough. You can even get organic soap noodles.
  • You can take these soap noodles and add other stuff to them during the finishing process – clays, more oil, butters, colourants (natural or otherwise), actives, granules, micas, toenails……

So, to recap my annoyance at the ‘soap noodles are just sooooo rubbish and we are soooooo superior’ is not because I hate and have a secret wish to kill all hand-made soap makers. That is rubbish although I’m sure someone will re-name me ‘Amanda the hand soaper hater’ and I will be forever barred from taking to ‘them’ .  No, my annoyance is because yet again people are using nonsense and ignorance to sell their products.  I may be wrong but I doubt  that many anti-noodle soapers have had much experience of soap finishing and noodle sourcing.

For the record I love hand-made soap and enjoy the artisan nature of it all. I am actually trying to learn how to make it myself as my attempts at creating soap bars has, to date been pretty lacklustre and no, I am not just jealous.  And neither am I saying this because at Realize Beauty we do have a soap finishing client on board at the moment.  They don’t need any help in selling the product from me although working with them has really opened my eyes to the creativity that can come with soap finishing.

So let me re-cap just one more time.

Soap is soap is soap be it hand-made or from noodles.  Yes there are different ‘recipes’ out there and some are better than others but essentially you are looking at the same thing.

Soaping is an art and I appreciate the artisan approach and feel that it does bring a certain X-Factor of difference to the table that soap finishing just can’t achieve in the same way that nobody can make an Apple Pie like my Grandma but that doesn’t make everyone else’s apple pie bad.  It just makes it different.

And different is good.

Vive le soapers, all of you, the big, the small and the wannabees.

PS: Soap finishing can ONLY be done on a large-scale due to the fact that the machinery required (triple mills etc) costs a couple of hundred thousand dollars and requires a decent amount of space to set up.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Jane permalink
    July 18, 2014 5:31 pm

    I really hate soap snobbery!

  2. September 22, 2014 4:12 pm

    Yes, there is soap snobbery. I mentioned to some other soapers that I was going to work with soap noodles and all the “superior” attitudes came out. Goodness! I won’t have to work with lye fumes, wear long sleeves of safety googles to protect myself from the lye! I don’t have to stock all the oils! It’s done already! I can rebatch, add my “stuff” and glob it in to molds. And, it’s ready quicker. Love it!

  3. March 19, 2015 5:12 am

    How right you are. Its like anyone who makes a cake. Many people buy cake mixes, example of Pillsbury or Sarah Lee, then make a cake. Few people make cakes from scratch. Well, this is the same with soap making. Some people and companies make soap with soap noodles and some people make soap from scratch adding lye.

    In the end you have similar products that are just as good. If you want to make better or special soaps then all you have to do is add fragrances, and other special ingredients out there or all your own.

  4. March 8, 2016 2:42 am

    It’s not the same, though, as the noodles contain preservatives that are completely unnecessary if made start to finish by the end soapmaker — Tetrasodium EDTA, Tetrasodium Etidronate. I make cakes from scratch, by the way, precisely to avoid unnecessary preservatives. So if similar function (or taste) is the goal, they are similar. If lack of superfluous (perhaps unhealthy) ingredients is the goal, then by scratch with everything is the way to go — which is why many soapmakers get into it in the first place is my guess.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      March 8, 2016 5:12 am

      Not necessarily though, it is possible to buy noodles with no preservatives or ‘superfluous ingredients’.

  5. Kristy Benson permalink
    April 21, 2016 7:17 am

    I am searching out soap noodles. Anyone know where I can get natural (no cray cray chemicals)?

  6. August 30, 2017 10:11 am

    We supply small Soap Finishing Lines as well as single Small Soap Machines to small Companies and Artisans. This lines and machines are studied to work with Soap noodles, perfumes and colours.

    We developed different solutions for low capacities, up to 25 – 50 and 100 Kg/hour, but with a similar technology of our industrial soap machines; in fact our Small Soap Machines are built following the mainly concepts and specifications of industrial soap machines.
    We supply Small Soap Mixers, small Soap Extruders/plodders, small Soap Presses, and all the small soap machines required by Artisan Companies.

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