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French Milled Soap - what you can do with all those waste soap bits and ends!

We managed to collect a whole bunch of those types of mini soaps that you get at hotel. You know the ones that are too small to do anything with but are too big to "throw out" and so they just get collected... I have done the wet 3 or 4 and press them together thing to make a bigger, more useful bar of soap but I figured there had to be a better way. I had heard of grating soap and melting it and remoulding it but I didn't realise it had the lovely name of French Milling!

My home made French Milled Soap!

Here's what I did...

First I made sure that all my wee soaps were dry - much easier to grate them dry than wet and sticky!

And then as I'm sure you have guessed - I grated them. The smaller the bits you make the easier the next step will be.

If you wanted it, you could sort your soaps into colours and make white and yellow French milled soap or you can go the rustic (who can be bothered separating the soaps) type look and just mix in all the bits of soap for a more random home made look!

Dry soap crushes up quite well if you sort of rub it with your hands. the smaller pieces will melt down better than larger ones.

Now for the fun part - pop an inch or so of water in the bottom of your microwave proof bowl and pop the whole thing in the microwave for minute blasts...

The idea here is to get the soap to melt with the minimum amount of water. If you add lots of water, I takes a long time for the water to evaporate and the soap to set in the final stages.

The soap rises and bubbles in an alarmingly quick sort of a way so don't walk away from that microwave! When it seems to be bubbling like this, take it out of the microwave and give it a stir trying to get the mixture to a melted consistency.

This took longer than I had time for and I think is one of the reasons that this didn't work as well as I had hoped. I got impatient that I was running out of time and didn't melt the soap as much as it needed to be done. I did wonder if this couldn't have been done double boiler style and if the result might have been more consistent?


Next, I divided the mixture into two lots when it looked more like cottage cheese than cream cheese and I coloured the soap with a few drops of food colouring. This also might not have been a great idea! It seemed to seize the soap or maybe it was too cold or I was to impatient (My husband is voting for the latter option!) But I laboured on figuring I was learning something and soap can always be remelted at a later date if I don't get something useable out of it!

I used two clean empty cans with the white linings as my soap mould.

Using the spoon, I pushed the soap into the can as hard as I could.

I filled up the cans and left them on a shelf in a warm dry place for about a month (I totally forgot about them rather than that is the recommended time!)

I had this vision that I could cut the ends of the tin out and slide/push the soap out but the soap had shrunk and pulled away from the side of the cans and just slid out!

You can see that as the soap was too cold / not melted enough / seized by the food colouring, that it hasn't filled up the can to make nice smooth ends or edges. I think more melting and different colourings may have made a bit of a difference here!

I used my biggest knife to attempt to cut up the soap. I cut off both ends to make them even and then divided the soap into 2cm slices.  It wasn't the worlds sharpest knife, but as the soap was full of holes, it was crumbly and some bits fell apart when I cut it.

You can see the different shapes of the unmelted soap in each slice.

Well, it certainly made a rustic looking soap with a definite home made feel!
I found that French milled soap seems to last a bit longer in the shower than a usual bar but Im not sure why... It could be that I'm watching my home made ones more carefully than the "shop" bought ones...

Once they have been used a few times, they smooth out into a more uniform bar - I'm sure that's just the effect of water and use rather than anything else.

Next time I would make the effort to melt the soap more and to pack it into the containers tighter. I wondered if I used cardboard milk containers if I could put it in the microwave after I had packed in the soap and melt it further in the container. I would also use more water and see if that made a smoother soap.

It was a fun experiment and one that Id certainly try again the next time I find myself with a small soap bar collection. I used these as part of a rustic basket of home made gifts and they were received well

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for not wasting something that often ends up in the bin
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for making something out of scraps destined for the bin at no cost
Time cost: Fair bit more than I expected. Probably an hour for the grating, melting and moulding. A months drying time in my case and 10 minutes cutting time...
Skill level: Mixing and stirring (I'm good at both!)
Fun-ness: I'd say it was more of an interesting experiment than a joy filled activity!


Janet Camilleri said…
You could always grate using a food processor. This post brought back so many memories - my mum used to save all the leftover slivers and make little cakes of soap out of them, using a cup cake tray as the mold. It was before microwaves though so I've no idea how she did it!
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