Plan to pamper AZ Diest’s hard working hands

Thank you AZ Diest. You truly are amazing.
Je bent fantastisch.
Tu es incroyable.
Du bist fantastisch.

Thank you. Dank je wel. Merci beaucoup. Danke schön.

Wash your hands!” is smart advice. However, the hardest working hands during the Covid-19 pandemic are being constantly stripped of the skin’s protective oils every time they wash and sanitise their hands to protect patients, peers, and the public. This is our effort – The Croft and Toreon – to pamper those overworked hands with glycerine rich, skin-pampering soap.

Soap bars wrapped and ready to go. My children hand wrote thank you on every soap box in 4 languages. We truly can’t thank our hospital staff enough.

The Croft and Toreon teamed up to provide every member – doctors, nurses, cleaners, food preparers, administrators, all of AZ Diest hospital staff – with glycerine-rich handmade soap in an effort to help ease itchy, raw, or inflamed skin.

Made locally – from scratch – using 40% extra virgin olive oil plus coconut, palm, sunflower oils, fresh spring water and a specialty oil of either jojoba or macadamia. Tussah silk and essential oils have been added to enhance the soap. We hope this gift will help hospital staff members to look after their caring hands.


27 March, 2020: Started production in 1,200 handmade soap bars, with 2 kinds/box (600 boxes) for all the staff at AZ Diest hospital to thank them for holding the front line. We hope these bars will give their overworked, overwashed hands a break.

Today, it’s lavender & rosemary essential oils made with specialty macadamia nut oil and silk. The scent combination should help sooth and rejuvenate. The specialty oil and silk should pamper their skin. Just 4 batches a day, for the next 8-10 days, and all should be made. Drying and packing after that! #forgetclappingdosomethingtangible #supportourfrontline

Accuracy in soap making is crucial. Everything gets weighed to the gram.

28 March 2020: unmoulded yesterday’s soap and trimmed with the best tool ever made for soapmakers – The Tank – Made a few soap teddy bears for any kids stuck in the hospital.

Soap needs time to dry so that it will be harder and last longer

29 March, 2020: I melt tussah silk (considered wild silk) into the NaOH and water mix (lye). The resulting silk protein in the mix makes the soap feel smoother and silkier. Here is the process from yesterday:

Tussah silk, added to the lye, stirred to speed up melting…

30 March, 2020: The soap is made with the Cold Process method, where I use lye (NaOH+H2O) and add it to oils. Any oil/fat can be saponified (turned into soap), but I only ever use vegetable oils. In this batch, I use extra virgin olive oil, palm oil (sourced from a certified sustainable source), coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and jojoba. Soaping is a very precise venture, all ingredients are weighed to within the gram – including the water – and the order in which to make it is also unwaveringly the same. Water first, then the NaOH, mix well and let cool. Always add the lye mix to the oil. We never do any step in the reverse, because bad things will happen then.

Always be sure you can do the job completely when mixing the lye with the oils, because nothing can stop the chemical reaction once it starts. When the mixing is done, it will become similar to pannenkoeken/crepe batter. That’s when you add things like essential oils for scent, clays, etc. Mix again, then pour into the moulds. After pouring, it is necessary to wrap the soap to keep it warm so that the chemical process may continue evenly. Normally, saponification takes 24 hours to be complete. #tuckedupforthenight #theprocessgoeson

This scent blend of sweet orange and tea tree with calendula petals drying before boxing. The heavenly aroma fills the air.

2 April, 2020: The science of soap

In medieval times, women used their alchemy “secrets” (saponification) to turn oils, caustic ash, and herbs into beneficial skin preparations – causing people to consider them to be witches. Even to this day, many handmade soap-makers seem to keep a veil of secrecy around their recipes and techniques.

When learning, my teacher said we always stirred 3 times to prevent Soap Fairies from visiting. It seems that while they sound cute and harmless, Soap Fairies are actually horrid creatures who come and spit in your soap batter making it unusable. There will be a recipe you’ve made 342 times before that suddenly stops setting, or the soap batter “seizes” (overreacts into a big, thick mess before you can pour it into the mould), or it volcanos in the mould. The Soap Fairies take all the blame for these incidents, so you really don’t want a visit by one or more. To this day, I do the stir before switching the stick blender on…

Despite the ever-present danger of a Soap Fairy visit, it is a pleasure to see how the soap went overnight, because while soap is a precise recipe, things can still go sideways (no wonder people believed in Soap Fairies in the past). At the end of the day, soapmaking also has an element of art to it.

My excellent helper getting the soap unmoulded

The heavenly scent of the essential oil blend in the soap fills my workshop when I enter. If everything went as planned, the soap needs unmoulding. Unmoulding soap is neither speedy or easy. I dislocated my finger one time in the early days. My son helped me unmould my latest batch.

10 April, 2020: Soap needs time to dry to get harder. Soap-makers need patience.

Unmould, cut, then dry

Handmade soap contains about 10% glycerine, which is naturally created by the saponification reaction. Glycerine is an exceptional moisturiser, and is an emollient which attracts moisture from the air which helps maintaining moisture in the skin throughout the day. Soap-makers also tend to “superfat” their soap, and in this case, I have used a 5% lye discount, which means about 5% of the soap is actually the original oils. This also helps maintain the protective sebum layer of your skin.

Once the soap has dried sufficiently, it is time to start packaging. We selected card boxes to hold 2 sorts of soap – one with a lavender & rosemary blend “Country Garden” to help sooth raw nerves and the other with sweet orange & tea tree “Sunshine” to help recharge and invigorate – and set to labelling each box. The kids have also pitched in to help thank each AZ Diest staff member. We hope these soaps will go some way to ease itchy, raw, or inflamed skin.

Two bars of soap in each box, two blends to help sooth, rejuvenate, and refresh. We are doing our part by keeping social distance, and we hope this helps keep those on our frontlines safe too.

16 April, 2020: The first 160 bars are packaged and ready to be delivered. Including some extra teddy soaps, just in case there are some children needing a small piece of comfort.

Thank you AZ Diest. You truly are amazing.
Je bent fantastisch.
Tu es incroyable.
Du bist fantastisch.
Thank you. Dank je wel. Merci beaucoup. Danke schön.

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