Over the past few years, we’ve trialled many different methods and recipes and now that we’re proud of the finished product, we’re happy to share some of the tricks of the trade…
Firstly, we believe that to create an excellent soap, you need to use top quality ingredients. At Valley Mill, the mixtures we create are 100% natural. Nothing artificial is added to our soaps; no chemicals, parabens or animal products. They are even free from artificial colours – which is impressive considering how good they smell and look!
If you haven’t tried our natural soaps yet, we really do recommend that you give them a go. But before you do, if you’d like to know more about they’re made, here’s our step by step guide…
At Valley Mill, we use the “hot process” method, which involves melting all of the soap’s oils together at around 60 degrees. Once our blend of shea butter, coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil and castor oil are liquefied, we add a lye solution to help with the solidification.
The lye is added to the hot oils and then blended for about 6 to 8 minutes, until the solution resembles a thick Vaseline. This is the first crucial part of the process, which is called reaching ‘trace’. The lye must now be entirely cooked off – which will usually take about an hour.
We must keep constant watch over the soap, continuing to stir while it cooks. The mixture tends to expand rapidly without warning, which can leave us with an expensive mess on the bench!
To make sure the lye has completely cooked away leaving behind pure soap, we check the PH level with Litmus paper. Valley Mill soap is always PH neutral.
Each bar of natural soap is made up of two different fragrances and two different colours, which have been painstakingly tested to complement each other. Colourants we use include herbs, spices, coffee and even charcoal!
We add half of the mix to a bowl, add the fragrance and natural colourant and give it a good stir.
We can then pour the first half of the mixture into our silicone-lined mould, spreading it out evenly and making sure the edges are full of the natural soap mix.
We then pour the second half of the mixture into a bowl and add the other fragrance and colourant. Again, we fill the mould to the top, spreading the mix evenly before covering it all with grease proof paper. We then use a rolling pin to ensure the soap bars have flat, even edges.
We need to leave the soaps for twenty four hours to ensure they have set. Once the time has passed, we flip the moulds and drop out the big bars. We then slide them in to our ‘bar cutter’ and then our ‘loaf splitter’, ensuring they’re all of a consistent size.
Once the bars have been cut, we carefully put them into our signature Valley Mill packaging – and they’re ready to retail!
Our handmade soaps are available in seven different varieties:
- Bergamot & Basil
- Grapefruit & Fennel
- Orange & Cinnamon
- Rosemary & Lime
- Tea Tree & Witch Hazel
- Lavender & Citronella
If you’d like to try some for yourself, you can buy our natural soaps online or at our shop in Neath. We also have a number of stockists up and down the UK, so keep your eyes peeled for our Valley Mill labels! To see our natural soaps being made, take a look at our step-by-step process video on YouTube – it’ll let you in to a few more of our trade secrets!