The timeless tradition of soap-making

“You don’t make soap today and use it tomorrow,” Sophia says when asked about her soaps and methods. “It’s a 5-6 week process from production to sale.”

Granny’s recipe

She spent many long hours experimenting, beginning with a recipe her grandmother used. This entailed cooking the mixture on the stove before pouring it into a mould. But – and with all due respect to grandma - she discovered over time that the cold-process method was far superior, preserving the natural properties of the oils.

soap pouring

In the making: Desert Secrets’ fragrant, moisturising and deep-cleansing soap created with Marula, Tsamma Melon Seed and Namibian Olive oils.

It didn’t come easily, however, as the process requires that the oil and water mixtures blend at similar temperatures between 35˚ and 40˚ Celsius. She also had to pay close attention to a ‘soap calculator’ to ensure that her measurements would be correct for the desired consistency. She finally got it down to a fine art, mastering the tricky process, first blending her base oils with a water and caustic soda mixture (carefully monitoring the chemical reaction) and then adding her chosen essential oils. She has three soap recipes she has created especially for the Desert Secrets range using Marula Oil, Tsamma Melon Seed Oil and Namibian Olive Oil, as well as Coconut and Palm oils or Shea Butter, which harden the soap.

soap drying

It takes 4 to 6 weeks for the natural soap bars to harden to perfection.

Distinctive scents & sparkles of colour

After the essential oils have been blended – giving the soaps their distinctive scents – and a smattering of crushed leaves, dash of paprika or sprinkle of golden resin have been added for colour and texture, the mixture is poured into wooden moulds– or ‘soap beds’, as they are called, lined with baking paper. The lids are screwed down tightly to keep the mixture warm. The beds are then wrapped in towels and left for 24-36 hours while the ‘saponification’ process takes place.

Adding desert essences to the home

The soap has not yet set completely at this stage and can be cut into bars and placed in soap racks. It will need a further drying time of 4-6 weeks before it is ready to be attractively packaged for sale, bringing touches of beauty, nourishing indigenous oils and desert essences into the home.

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