Friday, February 3, 2012

Soap [Success]

Months ago, a group of women in another aldea (village) asked that my site mate and I teach them to make soap. We agreed, and went through a series of hygiene charlas (talks, trainings, activities...) with them as we did the research to teach ourselves how to make it and how to manage the logistics of doing it with them in their community.

At first we gathered the supplies and tried doing it on our own to iron out any kinks in the process. Good thing, too, because we were going based on phoned in advice from another volunteer, and something crucial was lost in the process and our soap did not turn out. At all.

So we jumped through some hoops to import our very own soap making expert volunteer to show us how it was done. It turned out that we'd done everything right, but just needed to stir a little faster, and voila! Success!

Day 1:  Boil 5 gallons water.  Mix it with 5 gallons used oil (we bought from a fried chicken place).  Add 7 bottles of lye.  Mix rapidly stirring only clockwise for one to three hours, until the mixture is thick enough that it doesn't drip off your stirring stick when it is pulled out.  Cover the mixture, let it set for 24 hours in a cool dry location.

Our cautionary warnings of wearing protective materials (left) 
and the steps to make soap on the first day (right).

Our host, Maria, all suited up to take her turn at stirring.

I stirred with another woman, so she could get the idea of the speed and rhythm needed.

My site mate whipping up the mixture toward the end of the process.

Our soap, left to set up over night.

Day 2:  Uncover the soap and pour off any excess oil that remains in the mixture. If the soap set hard, cut it into bars/chunks and wrap them in newspaper.  If the soap remains like a cookie dough texture, ball it up and wrap it in newspaper.  Leave wrapped in a cool, dry location for 4-6 weeks to cure.

It felt wonderful to finally be able to deliver on our promise. To successfully make it through the two day soap making process while teaching in Q'eqchi'. And, to share a bit of our site with a friend from training.


  1. Ta da! You did it! I bet you never look at a bar of soap the same way again! You should probably do the process AGAIN before departure so that the lesson "sticks" with the women. Think about it. Maybe while I'm there??????

  2. Yay, success! Grats, it seems like a lot of work, but it also seems very useful and kinda fun to at least learn.