Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Burning Joanna

Today was the stupidest day.

Scratch that. Today I am the stupidest soap maker on the planet.

I know I had plenty of coffee but not too much too make me jittery, I don't have a head cold, I'm not on drugs, I am clear headed, and was raring to go with some major soap production this morning and - W-H-A-M-! Disaster.

I have a number of heavy duty plastic pitchers to mix my lye and water in. Well, I needed to make an extra batch, so I found a nice thick glass container I could use and I started adding my water, doo doo dooooo, then I pour in my measured lye and start stirring. Explosion. Lye water goes everywhere. Did I say everywhere? Uh-huh.

First thought, was you stupid cow, of course the heat would break it! But before that I was thinking oh, it's natural and thick and what could go wrong....with music in the background and my head all going back and forth, doo doo dooooo. Happy go lucky me. Not anymore. So my lab is like this. Formica top, shelves in front of me, but no wall, so anything that spills, goes straight down and on the floor behind it. And pools and poisons, god only knows what's behind and underneath those shelves. Nothing important, I'm thinking. Thinking too fast... clean it up, clean it up. I scream my husband's name like 5 times. Where the hell is he? He runs in barefoot. I scream GET OUT! I'm like a lunatic at this point. I have a half gallon of lye water in a pool on the counter top, dripping behind, in front of and in my cabinets....let's not even mention (no, let's) the drawers! All this time, I am thinking, cow, cow, cow. Stupid head!

Now let me say this about lye water. It does not want to be absorbed that readily. It wants to do damage. It likes to destroy. Because I normally use SO many paper towels while I make things in the soap lab and I need them to work, I can't buy the cheap crap because it's like using copy paper which is useless, I buy Bounty select-a-size. Well, my selected size today was three feet. Luckily I had kitchen gloves and my goggles on when this explosion occurred, but because it's 90+ degrees F in Florida, I was wearing a tank top and short shorts. A little lye here and a little drip there. The clean-up took me 90 minutes with two rolls of paper towels and a bottle of vinegar. I also had a huge sink load of stuff I had to sanitize because lye water got on them.

So AFTER the clean-up, I needed to get the lye burns off of me. No direct splash, which I'm thrilled about, but I felt little stings all over, like a little drip got here there and as I was cleaning up perhaps and drip got back there , oh and there.... dreadful morning to say the LEAST.

After my shower and utter disgust with the whole thing, I went to one of the super mega shops and got myself three more super duper plastic pitchers for mixing my lye and water. No more glass. If you didn't get this great piece of knowledge from my story: Do not mix lye and water in a glass container, no matter how politically correct and non-plastic-ey you are. Be safe and don't put everyone and everything at risk for chemical burns. What a horror.

Damage to items that got touched by the lye:
  1. Laminate counter top got a few raised lesions.
  2. Hand blender's cord got a superficial burn. A brown mark.
  3. Me. A few superficial chemical burns (it has been my week for chemical burns).
  4. Scale has some visual marks...can't read any of the buttons and the tare button doesn't work, but the scale still works! Need a new one.
Later in the afternoon, I go back to making soap. I have my lye mixtures ready for me from before my accidental glass breakage situation, I get my oils weighed and ready to go. I make my first batch of Orange Lemongrass soap. Ahhh, success. I get my second batch ready to start, pour my lye mixture into the oils, and just when it usually goes to trace I pour my fragrance in, but then I notice that it looks really white and it doesn't seem to be going to trace. Hmmm. Straaaaannge.... Getting nervous because this has never happened to me before. I keep blending, and blending, and stirring and blending, and then it occurred to me that maybe I never put lye in that batch of water. Oh lordie! I took my glove off, dipped my finger in the pitcher to see if my finger starts to burn (what?! I had been burned so much already, how brave is that really? Not.) Then, since it didn't burn, I licked it. Nothing. I just poured water into oils and fragrance and now what? More mistakes, what?!

So thinking quickly on my feet, I thought to add another batch into this one, but add 3x the lye amount. I certainly thought it would work. Why not? Seems logical to me, doesn't it? I had 2 batches in that one and was adding one more. That makes 3! Well, the chemical reaction it created made it sort of lumpy and then it turned pasty. Then I thought I'd just fill a wooden mold to see how it would come out. And within 3 minutes that soap turned into a volcano. That was crazy. My husband came in and asked me why I was baking bread in the soap molds (ha ha, not funny).

All that soap is now in a crock pot, hopefully turning into hot process soap. I don't have crazy notions that the soap will end up okay, but I am hoping for it. I need a little magic.

I'm a bit grumpy right now. And stingy. And more grumpy because I can't stand the words, "Mom, I'm bored, what am I supposed to do?" It's summer vacation, go find friends and figure it out. My son has camp for the last 3 weeks of the summer. He's going to kill me if the first 8 weeks will be like this.

Yesterday, my daughter got sunburned so she asked me to buy her an XL soft shirt from Walmart, and I did. Just now she walked in with the shirt. She cut it all up to make it like the old movie, Flashdance, and cut the bottom, too.

I'm burning now in more then a few places.

Get me out of here.

I'm done soaping for the day, too.


Anonymous said...

Holey moley, Jo! What a day to forget, huh? It was painful to read, so I'm sure it was much more painful to live through. I'm glad that the physical injuries were minor. Everything else is replaceable (though still a PITA to deal with). ((hugs))

Heirloom Natural Soap/The Soap Sister said...

Yikes! I'm so sorry to hear about your mishap -glad you didn't get (badly) hurt. Such a bummer, though. I hope your next batch makes up for all the aggravation you went through today!
I'm going to have to take your advice Jo & get some plastic pitchers.....(I've always used Pampered Chef batter bowls, but I think I need to change) any recommendations on brand or other specifications you use?
Take care! -Becky

TeresaR said...

Oh sweetie! It's like that book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day"...sending some virtual hugs your way and hoping that things will go much smoother tomorrow. Thanks for sharing your story so that we can learn something from your pain.

Will said...

Holy smokes, I hope your burns heal quickly. That's terrible.

I've always been paranoid so I both weigh and mix my lye in a sink.

Stupid, but it works.


Michelle said...

Ohhh, Ouch! You are having your share of burns lately. Are you using a vinegar wash after the cold water? Good to read that there wasn't too much damage.

I've never heard of glass breaking when mixing lye and water. I've used only glass for 9 years with no issues. You must have used a weaker type glass similar to those that can't go in the microwave. I've had a couple of those break on me when pouring boiling water into them. There are glass containers that can tolerate high heat if you want to avoid plastics.

Donna OShaughnessy said...

First. Thanks for sharing. Never easy to admit mistakes but I learned from you doing so and am very appreciative.

B. SHE CUT UP A NEW SHIRT ?!?!? I say you make her stay up all night sewing it back together. That will show her.

III. You need a break. All alone. Somewhere with a cold pool, a hot pool boy and an even colder umbrella drink. Go now.

Miss Polly said...

Gosh, what a day you've had! That could have been so much worse, The main thing is that you are ok, scales and jugs etc can be replaced. And Donna;s 3rd suggestion is a great one, I could do with doing that myself lol.
Glad you're ok xx

Jennifer Young said...

Jo, Thank you for sharing your horrific day... it can only get better. I also had a lye water glass story. But instead of breaking suddenly it was seeping slowly out of a crack. Never used glass again for mixing lye water. I use stainless steel. Sounds like you could use a peaceful evening with a fat glass of red wine... do you ever get those?? xoxo Jen

innerearthsoaps said...

Oh dear, what an awful day you've had! You poor thing.

I've used glass before for mixing lye, but only the microwave-safe stuff, like pyrex. These days I use heavy plastic buckets.

Soapchick said...

Poor Jo, the day from Hell! I hope that by writing in all down and sharing it with fellow soapers has made you feel a little better - we have all been there! Such a good tip not to use glass - and yet so many books on the subject say use glass measuring jugs - Crazy!! I hope you had a large glass of wine and a huge cuddle after all that, there is always tomorrow XX

Celine Blacow said...

Bloody hell woman... that was a nightmare! I was reading this through squinty eyes cos I was expecting the worst. Thankfully it wasn't soooo bad - not so good either but at least you didn't get it all over yourself. Good Lord. I'm going out on Saturday and buying new PLASTIC jugs now too - I normally use a ceramic jug in the kitchen sink full of water (the sink, not the jug... you know, to cool and for just in case too) but I'm thinking ceramic might not be the best idea. Eeeeekkkk... thinking that pool boy might be a VERY good idea!!!!

Cocobong Soaps said...

It's all been let me just add that I hope hellday burned off enough bad karma so that the next few months will be nothing but graceful and good

Amy Warden said...

Feeling your pain as well, friend. I hope today brings you many blessings!! My girls have cut up t-shirts too, but usually they are their dad's old ones and they have permission! :)

Anne said...

Sorry about the bad day Jo! I have had a few similar ones myself over the years, including a glass lye container explosion. I hope your burns heal up quickly. At least you got a great story out of it all!!

Joanna said...

Oh, I love you all!

Thanks for your support, love and kindness.

Sirona: Thanks. hug you too.

Heirloom: Don't get flimsy ones. They get too hot too handle. Rubbermaid or Walmart sells their brand, but it's not their lower end stuff. It's thick and sturdy. All range from $3-$4 each. Not bad.

Teresa: Hug to you too. You are always so honeyesque.

Will: I think mixing in the sink is the smartest thing to do. So, Will, it is SMART, not dumb.

Michelle: I didn't use Pyrex, that would probably be fine. I used a a container that was made for containing, not cooking. I feel so stupid.

Donna: funny girl, what nice way to find a solution to my problems. Cheers!

Miss Polly: Come with me. ;)

Jennifer: I used to love a glass of red wine. They give me migraines now so I can't drink wine. I can drink a Bloody Mary, but it just doesn't have the same effect, and I never feel like it. Thanks for your words. x

Innerearth: I'm with you :)

Soapchick: There is always another day. I am ready to clean up that horrid mess and try again.

Celine: If you like that ceramic jug, I wouldn't use it. You can come with me to the pool. I have one in my backyard. Brad can be the pool boy LOL!

Cocobong: I truly hope so, Jules. I have had my run with soap fairies and I have really had it. I am ready for soap production without anymore glitches. (love)

Amy: Ah, have good children, mine are evil, what can I say?

El Sapone said...

Oh poor thing :(
That sound awful. Can I ask you something? My english is not so good.
Did you stir the water in the lye or the lye in the water? Because glass is no problem but water in lye is here in germany a absolut no go. I saw in US youtube videos that many people do it the other way. Is there a reason for it? I want to ask this many times and your story remembers me.
Hope you´re ok?
XOX Sannyas

Suzanne T. said...

I am sorry you had a crap soap day. But something good came from it reminded lots of soapers that the basic rules of soapmaking are important, no matter how long you have been soaping. Since my last batch of soap curdled, seized, overflowed the mold and came out so ugly it couldn't be looked at it with a human eye, it was good to realize no one makes a perfect batch EVERY time!

twobloomsdesignstudio said...


What a terrible no good horrible day. There is a book title with a similar name. I was in shock reading this post and felt so bad for you.

Hope you are somewhat healed up from your skin burns.

I just switched from glass pyrex cups to thick plastic but still use them for smaller batches. I always mix in my sink though in case of disasters. Note to self to note use them again.

Some days we just need to go back to bed and start all over again.


Artisan Soaps said...

Oh My, I don't even know where to start?!

Yes I do - I'm soooooo glad you had glasses on!!! But what's with the putting your finger in to test ?? Forgive me but 'brave' isn't quite the word I'd use .. Oh Joanna {{{HUGS}}}

And as for the Flashdance T.shirt lol - well I expect DD won't be bothering you so much in the near future .. Assuming she's anything like mine she'll know to keep well out of arms reach :P

Artisan Soaps said...

PS: Will - it's not dumb, I always do mine in the sink too!

Erica said...

Sorry your day was bad and you got those burns! But trust me, we've all been there. Last month I was making a batch of shave soap and had it in a tube mold which I had up against the back of the counter. I decided to swirl it a little more and went to shift it back and the bottom popped off and 5lbs of soap came pouring over the countertop and behind my stove. I was scooping it up with my hands (gloves on), but I too live in FL with tanks and shorts. Luckily I managed to keep from getting burned but it's scary when that happens and no one can help you. Thankfully you aren't injured too badly. Hopefully the burns will go away quickly.

Just a note: I find that if something major goes wrong - that's enough soaping for the day. After the first incident it will continue until you give up and try another day.

velveteensoaps said...

I'm glad your okay and all is well, It must have been a nightmare to clean up. I'm sorry I had to laugh when you screamed for your husband to come in and help and then when he did you screamed at him to get out.

Joanna said...

Let me tell you all, Pyrex glass probably is FINE. I used some thick glass container from Pottery Barn or some container store, really, there are perfectly heat tempered glass out there. I was just shocked and amazed for some delusional reason.

El Sapone: Thanks, I'm ok. And I ALWAYS pour lye into water.

Suzanne: This is why I posted. Why let some poor sap learn the hard way. Don't use something that can't handle the heat. Think ahead. I've been soaping for years now, and my head just wasn't thinking. I was IMPROVISING. duh.

2 Blooms: Yes I feel like Alexander this week. & yes, went to bed after this post.

Artisan: Brave: yes, not stupid. I HAD to know. Ah, what's another burn at that point. ;)

Erica: Oh, that is just horrible. Fresh soap is SO hot. I had to move my soap into the crock pot with gloved hands and my hands still hurt from being burned through the glove. Not chemical, wither. I will totally take your advice. Next time a big screw up happens, I will stop for the day. Scouts honor (even though I am not a scout)

Velvet: It's funny looking back. When I saw him barefoot, I couldn't have him near the stuff. Didn't want him to hurt his toes!

Thanks all. <3

Burnt Mill Candles and Soap said...

yikes!!! Now you have me thinking because I always use a glass pitched for my lye water.

Glad you got some soap out of the whole day.

Marga said...

I'm going to make my first soap ever, next week. Plastic it will be!Hope everything is allright with you now?!

Sarah said...

This is something out of a science fiction movie! The Blob has formed!

Gosh... those burns! Will Aloe Vera gel help for chemical burns?

Platypus Dreams said...

I always have 5 or 20 litres of vinegar on hand. The moment lye is around that needs to be neutralized it's vinegar for me. My bore water is slightly acidic so that helps if I get any on myself, I just keep washing the area and then slather on olive oil or any oil you can get your hands on and then keep the skin well oiled all day and slather it with Rosehip oil.

Patrick said...

Patrick here... I hope you recover quickly - lye burns are so nasty.

Will gets my vote for the smartest idea ever. I don't know why I never thought of it. From this point I mix my lye in the sink. Woot, Will!