Friday, June 21, 2013
Ivory Soap Clouds and Homemade Soaps
Very few projects I do with my kids excite me as much as they do them. This one did. I could repeat the first step of our latest project all day long.
When I went to the lake as a kid, one of the greatest treats was a lake bath. A lake bath--at least in our family--means you take a bar of Ivory soap into the lake with you, soap up, rinse off, and consider yourself clean. No showers for a week. My son thinks every day should be like this and is now a fourth-generation lake bather when we vacation in the summer.
Notice that I didn't say "a bar of soap." I specifically said "a bar of Ivory soap." There's a reason, and it's not brand loyalty. Ivory soap floats. It floats because Proctor & Gamble pumps air into it during the manufacturing process. That air makes for a mighty nifty kitchen experiment.
Put a bar of Ivory soap on a paper towel or sheet of wax paper and microwave it. I'd recommend removing the microwave carousel first to reduce the potential mess. Set the microwave for 2 minutes, although in our experience the smaller Ivory bars will take only about one minute. Gather the gang around the microwave and watch.
The soap will erupt, forming a big soap cloud. If you want to make a lesson out of it, you can explain how the air bubbles in Ivory cause that reaction. You can read the full scientific explanation in Soap Souffle at Steve Spangler Science.
We didn't bother to learn anything. We just kept microwaving Ivory soap. It's fantastic. Unfortunately, it's not going to occupy everyone for very long.
After the soap cools for a few minutes, start step two--soap making. Put each soap cloud into a large bowl and have the kids break it up. When it's mostly dust and flakes, put the soap in your food processor. Add water a little bit at a time until the soap is soft and able to be molded.
If you're feeling fancy--and we were--dump the soap back into your bowl and add some food coloring. Mold it into fun shapes. We made spheres and cubes freehand, then molded some into fish and flowers using IKEA silicon molds. The family at Our Best Bites molded their soap into cookie cutters.
Set the molded soap out of sight (and out of antsy kids' minds) for a few days. When the soap has dried, pop it out of the mold and use your new soaps in the shower. Or the tub. Or the lake. Actually, it probably won't float anymore, so scratch the lake. If your kids don't want to shower, hand them their new soap and turn the hose on them. They probably will think it's a hoot.
Clean-up tip: Be sure to sweep and vacuum as much of any spilled soap flakes as you can. If you wipe it down, you will have a seriously soapy mess on your hands.