February 5

Published by Panetary Health Initiative on

Today my new action was to turn used olive oil & ashes to soap

It’s been such a cold wet week that we’ve resorted to hot chips and log fires. That’s meant, however, a big jar of used olive oil that I couldn’t bear to just throw out.

I’ve always wanted to have a go at making soap from used oil, so the impetus of A Year in a Day motivated me to give it a shot. I didn’t want to buy lye, or caustic soda, because the point was to use up what we had, not buy anything more. So I did a bit of googling and realised I could use the ash from our fire, and the rainwater that we have an abundance of at the moment, to make our own lye.

Campers often add ashes from their fire to their greasy frypan after a meal to clean it out … oil and ashes make a rudimentary soap. I figured it’s not rocket science so I may as well try. Nothing to lose but time – and that’s never lost anyway if you’re learning something. You can watch my attempt here

I found instructions for making lye here and a basic olive oil soap recipe here

What I learnt that the instructions didn’t tell me:

  1. Sieve the ashes to get the charcoal out first (takes longer later but not impossible if you don’t … it rises to the surface as you boil the ash)
  2. I made it with 600gm of olive oil and 220 gms of lye water and added one teaspoon of salt
  3. I followed both recipes and that may have been a mistake because I had a nice light creamy mix following the olive oil soap recipe, but then put it back on the stove to boil, thinking it might thicken (according to the lye recipe). Instead it separated. I nearly gave up but then just blended it with the stick blender for ages until it reconstituted. Will wait and see tomorrow if it sets.
  4. No need to buy moulds if you have long life containers for stock or milk or juice!

The most interesting aspect of this experience was stirring a boiling pot of ash that felt like a witch’s cauldron. It made me think about bubbling volcanoes, chemical reactions and the basic processes of life I know so little about. It felt good to actually discover, in a very hands-on way, what soap actually is and how it’s possible to make it so easily.

It also felt really good to get another use out of our oil, our ash and our long life container.

Waste and Recycling Workshops and Events

If you’d like to explore more ways to transform waste into a resource, Blue Mountains City Council has just announced its free online workshop dates for February and March. You can book here

Join #AYearInADay Citizen Science Project to see if we can all inspire one another to do more to restore planetary health

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