Saturday, January 18, 2014

Making Super-Fresh Dog Soap

My "Wall of Soaps"... a giant stack of the soaps I made
for my sister's wedding, including 12 different varieties.
I've been enjoying soap-making for several years now.  I sold bars at a local farmer's market, at the
Stanley-Whitman House Museum in Farmington, Connecticut, and I made over 250 bars to give as guest gifts at my sister's beautiful wedding.  (That was quite an undertaking... although fun, my kitchen became a soap factory and my dining room table became a wrapping station, complete with yards of white netting and satin ribbon!)

However, I got into soap-making when my Black Labrador-mix dog, Brodie, developed skin problems. He was constantly scratching himself until he had bald patches and had even developed a skin infection.  We had many trips to the vet and tried a variety of medications including Frontline for fleas, antibiotics, antihistamines, and Prednisone.  While these helped, they did not solve the underlying issue and we decided to test for allergies.  As it turned out, my poor boy had a lengthy list of both seasonal and household allergies, although spring and fall seasonal allergies like grasses and tree pollen, were the worst culprits.  We had a special allergy-shot serum made up to target his specific allergies and I started giving him a shot once a month.  What a difference!  As the next pollen season rolled around, there was a marked change in his health.  No skin infections, no incessant scratching, and a decreased need for medication.
Brodie with his favorite kitty, Smokey.

Despite our great results with the allergy shots, I still needed to try to keep his skin clean from pollen, dander, and oils.  During his worst seasons, I give him a bath once a week.  I developed this soap for him which includes tea tree oil (it's a natural antibacterial and fresh-smelling), vitamin E (for skin healing), and a gentle glycerin soap base.  Vegetable glycerin is easy to use (melt-and-pour), a natural vegetable product, very moisturizing, and extremely gentle on sensitive skin.  In fact, I left an extra bar in our shower and my husband and I used it... very gentle and fresh!

My Wagging Tail Dog Soap with tea tree oil,
Vitamin E oil, and cilantro in a glycerin base.

Bathing Tips:
*As with most soaps, this is not tear-free so don't use above the collar-line and keep out of eyes.  For Brodie's neck and head, I use tear-free Johnson's baby shampoo.
*Only use on healthy skin; don't use on infected or broken skin.
*For allergies, I alternate using this soap with Neutrogena T-Gel shampoo (or I use the CVS generic brand).  My vet recommended T-Gel to combat excessive skin oils.  Leave on for 5 minutes before rinsing and avoid face.
* After going outside during peak allergy seasons, I wipe Brodie's fur and face off with a damp hand towel to remove pollen.

Brodie, Benny, and Bear in 2008.
Directions: Wagging Tail Dog Soap

- Melt-and-Pour vegetable glycerin soap base (Essentials by Catalina has the best prices I've found and have a lot of other fantastic products.  Sign up for emails to get sale info.  A 20-lb. block will let you make some soaps for yourself, too!  Craft stores, like Michaels, will also have it.)

- liquid Vitamin E oil (found at pharmacies and natural health stores)

- tea tree oil (found at pharmacies and natural health stores)

- soap molds (small yogurt containers, the bottoms of cardboard milk containers, or any flexible container will work.  I use shoe-box-size Rubbermaid storage containers because the sides are straight and I can cut nice straight bars.)

- Optional: pretty additives, such as marigold petals, rose petals, cilantro leaves, etc.

- Optional: cosmetic-grade soap coloring (not food coloring, which can stain sinks)

- Optional: rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle (for reducing surface foam/bubbles on bars)


1. Melt soap base on the stove using a double-boiler.
2. Pour base into your first mold.
3. For each bar of soap, add a few drops of Vitamin E oil, tea tree oil, and coloring.  Add petals or leaves.  Stir into melted base; work quickly to stir in before a skin forms on surface.  Try to avoid stirring in air bubbles.  Lightly spray rubbing alcohol over surface to reduce foam/bubbles.
4. Continue pouring and mixing for each mold.  (You can also add ingredients to the pot of melted soap base and then pour all molds.  I prefer to mix in the molds so I can reuse the leftover base for other kinds of soap.)
5. Allow to cool and harden for several hours at room temperature.  I don't put them in the freezer or refrigerator because condensation will form.
6. Remove from molds.  Flexing the mold and then tapping upside down on the counter should work.  If using large molds, cut into bars.
7. Wrap in plastic wrap or store in a sealed plastic bag or container.  Glycerin will "sweat" during humid weather if not wrapped up, which doesn't affect its usefulness but is not so pretty. It's the same principle that draws moisture to your skin after using glycerin soap, so it's actually a good thing!

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