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Local soapmakers teach basics of craft

Soapy Soap Company owners host event at The Venue


By Makenzie Holland

Three months ago, IU grads Mohammed Mahdi and Anthony Duncan had no idea that making a few batches of soap for fun could eventually turn into a small, local business.

Mahdi and Duncan are two entrepreneurs who took a chance on soapmaking and created Sabun soap by Soapy Soap Company, located on the southeast side of  Bloomington.

“We like doing things on our own,” Mahdi said. “We dabble in a lot of different things — soap is just one we have become dedicated to.”

On Tuesday, The Venue Fine Art & Gifts coordinated “The Art of Soapmaking” featuring Mahdi and Duncan. The pair demonstrated how to make soap with their own personal twist.

“Most people use hot process to make soap, but we use what we call the volcano process,” Duncan said. “We experiment a lot and it’s interesting the way our soap turns out sometimes.”

One characteristic Mahdi said their soap had which other soapmakers really appreciate is flotation.

“We came up with our own method of soapmaking which sets us apart from other soapers,” Mahdi said. “The majority of our bars float, which we didn’t intend, but it’s still really cool.”

Mahdi and Duncan have been making soap for about three and a half months. Throughout the learning process of making soap, they have discovered that there are a lot of intricacies involved with making soap. For example, putting sugar into soap makes it very bubbly and most herbs turn black when added to a soap

They value a soap’s quality more than how it smells.

“We believe in function over fragrance,” Mahdi said. “Whether it’s a moisturizing soap, a shave soap or even our dog wash soap — it might not smell very strong, but it is beneficial.”

Due to legal standards, Mahdi and Duncan are not able to put words such as ‘moisturizing’ on their soap without paying money.

“It costs thousands of dollars to get your soap tested to prove that it actually does what you say,” Duncan said. “As a small business, we can’t afford to pay that.”

Though their soap may not carry a stamp of approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, it carries approval from local Bloomington businesses such as Bloomingfoods Market and Deli, the Venueand B-Town Flea Market.

Recently, Soapy Soap Company has been making its way to different farmers’ markets, causing a rise in demand for soap.

“We make soap pretty much every day,” Duncan said. “Mohammed’s mom got him this huge bowl from India which we mix it in. We make 30 pound batches, which is about 120 bars. We’ve had to make more lately due to the farmers’ markets and such.”

Mahdi and Duncan plan on experimenting with their soap and adding different types of bars.

Each soap recipe is unique and handcrafted, which is the way they plan to keep it.

“Our soap is 100 percent vegan friendly and we use only natural ingredients,” Mahdi said. “We enjoy making it and though it isn’t what we expected we would be doing, it is turning out quite well.”

How to: Make your own soaps

1. Make the recipe and measure ingredients.
Mahdi and Duncan create recipes that are animal-friendly and 100 percent vegan. The soap requires specific ingredients, such as olive oil, almond oil and coconut oil.

2. Combine water and lye.
After heating both to extreme temperatures, the lye is poured into the water and mixed vigorously.

3. Heat it up
Everything is heated again to temperatures reaching 200 degrees. The first mixture is then combined with their oil of choice and mixed until it resembles honeycomb.

4. Let cool
The soap mixture is allowed to cool, but not harden. Additives such as oatmeal, fennel seeds, bentonite clay, cornmeal and other similar ingredients are mixed in at this point in the process.

5. Pour into molds, cool and cut
Mahdi and Duncan hand-cut each and every bar once it has cooled sufficiently.

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