Home-made olive oil soap
Dionysis Anemogiannis

Olive oil dips, explosive alchemies and housewives not desperate at all, in the Frown Tails workshop.

Frown Tails is an underground shelter in the labyrinth of Keramikos. It is situated in Paramythia’s pedestrian street, surrounded by imposing neoclassic buildings and a godforsaken toy’s factory with broken windows, reminding you of a horror film’s setting or the absolute party spot, and offering unique experiences. Its name means nothing [something like the ough! thing]. Frown Tails, is founded by four girls whose common dream is art without mediators. It organizes various activities, from performances and workshops to yoga classes. It is situated in a tavern’s semi-basement that was transformed to a simple but cleverly decorated multiplex, containing furniture made of wood, paper or every possible material.

Photos: George Seirinidis

The public: daddies- mammies- children, residents of the area, grannies, curious young people and housewives were ready for the last seminar “Learn to…Art” which begun the winter of 2011 in Frown Tails. The ough! team arrived late as always, namely the moment when the seminar was about to begin. The wannabe-soap- makers came close to the counter, took their pens and pads and got ready to learn all the secrets of the traditional process of soap making. The smiling Georgia Tzivara, explained in detail the process, even to the worst students – namely the ough! Team- she answered all the questions, she wore her safety goggles and filled the packed room with the aroma of levanter and chamomile.

We followed the cold method [and not the hot one]; a process that demands much time for the soap to mature and does not reach high temperatures during the production, maintaining the substances of the olive oil and herbs that add cosmetic qualities to the soap. Our goal was the traditional production of olive oil soap, adding extra virgin olive oil and essential oils, a natural, organic soap as our grandmothers made it. The counters were full of oil produced in Kranidi, by Georgia herself, in her ranch in Iliokastro Ermionis. It had a strong aroma that made you wanna dip bread in it. 

It was not only a precise but also a dangerous process as lye was used. Protective equipment was necessary; rubber gloves, safety giggles and vinegar [as lye is very hazardous in case of skin contact]. To protect ourselves from the poisonous fumes, we went out in the street and Georgia mixed lye with water, while the residents of the area were astonished, watching the process from their windows. Things seemed even more surreal, as it was dark and rainy. Seven stressful seconds later, our notes were wet, a baby cried and Georgia wearing her blue protective goggles mixed up the ingredients and the mixture was ready. At that moment, the ladies who attended the seminar took their blenders and started stirring gently the liquid mixture. Girls had fun, they started to feel more comfortable and use more the stick blender introducing us to the soap production process. Well done girls, let’s make bubbles!

Georgia explained that we can add synthetic colors but she actually prefers the natural process, so she proposed us to use spices, herbs and essential oils to give aroma and color to the soap. She underlined the fact that we must use small amounts of some of the ingredients, as cinnamon, to prevent skin irritation. We decorated our soaps with levanter, chamomile, chocolate and citrus-fruit oils.

People were excited and forms were ready for use as they were already filled with herbs. Meanwhile, a second mixture of soap and chocolate was also ready and everyone waited impatiently for the moulding. Some people, like me, were smiley and others frowned. I knew that the first ones would take the soaps and run and that they would never try to make soap again. As we are lazy and lovers of Papoutsanis, only few of us would try to repeat the soap making process. Maybe if someone rented a shed in the countryside, found some free time, some animal [or vegetable] fat and NaOH could so. But which was the goal of the seminars “Learn to.. Art”? If nothing else, an addition to our set of skills, drawn out of the Greek tradition. The olive oil soap, without colorants and chemical additives is the ideal solution for those who want to know the exact substances which they use to wash their body and cloths and don’t want to harm the environment using non- biodegradable products [it’s a natural, ecological process].

After taking the soaps that we had made in Frown Tails’ lab [the soap needs about two and a half months from the day that it is produced to be ready for use], people dissolved. Saying goodbye to our new friends and holding a bar of soap in my hand I observed the others who were carefully holding their moulds and I unconsciously moved my head to smell mine. The sky was clean and the whole area smelled beautiful. Smiley people left the building after having produced something special, a bar of soap. 


Olive Oil Soap

Necessary equipment:

1. Weighting scale

2. Stick blender or mixer

3. Heat- proof container

4. Pot or stainless bowl

5. Stainless ladle

6. Moulds or baking tins


Protective equipment:

1.       Rubber gloves

2.       Safety goggles

3.       Vinegar


1000 gr. Olive oil

330 gr. Distilled water or rainwater or source water

127 gr. Lye which is chemically pure (also called Sodium Hydroxide NaOH)

Optionally: Herbs, spices, essential oils

Put the safety goggles and rubber gloves on. Keep children and pets away.

Weight the ingredients.

Prepare the liquid mixture of water and NaOH

Put the heat- proof container under the hood or outdoors. Pour the distilled water and then add the lye, little by little. Continue stirring with the stainless ladle until you make sure that the ingredients are well- mixed. (Always pour lye into the water and not the other way round! Danger of explosion!!!). As the lye will be dissolved, fumes will be produced. For this reason you have to stir the mixture from a certain distance and open a window. The temperature of the lye- water mixture will be increased, reaching almost 90°C, so set it aside to cool off.

Pour the olive oil into the pan and then add the lye-water mixture -that has now reached room temperature- into it, very slowly, stirring all the while.

Use your stick blender until trace has occurred.

You can optionally add herbs, spices and essential oils.

Pour the mixture carefully into the molds and let it set for 24- 28 hours.

Pop the soap out of the molds and store it in a cool and dark place until its ready.

Maturation time: 8 weaks

For any information or clarification you ask Georgia on agricaltura@hotmail.com

More recipes soon on agricultura.gr http://www.facebook.com/#!/frown.tails and http://www.frowntails.com

Attention: Keep Sodium hydroxide NaOH away from children and pets.

For more details on Frown Tails workshops click here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/frown.tails and here http://www.frowntails.com

Georgia’s website, containing soap making recipes: http://www.agricultura.gr

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