All posts by Tina

I started thesage.com in 1996 with the help of my husband. Now I get to help people make all kinds of soaps and bath and body products. I think my favorite things to make are lip balms and lotions/creams. Of course I get most of the soap technical support questions because that is my strong knowledge area. Glad this blog is here!

Weekly Recap of Telephone Questions: Colors and Bases vs Raw materials

QuestionQ) How much of the Amethyst Pink color should I use? I tried this a year ago and it was too much! I don’t want to make that mistake again.

A) Amethyst Pink is a dye. The color is migratory and can move throughout the bar of soap, making this color not a great option when attempting swirl bars. We recommend diluting this colorant into liquid glycerin because the color is very intense when used as a powder and it is far too easy to use too much. The customer had already put a 1/2 oz jar into 16 oz of liquid glycerin and the bottle was capped and shaken. For an 8 lb fat batch of cold process soap, we recommend starting with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon for the whole batch. Add until the color is just a bit too dark for the desired soap. Why too dark in the pot? Because soap is translucent in the pot and opaque in bar form so while translucent it appears darker and while opaque it appears lighter. This is why when we add a bit too much it is not nearly so alarming when we look at the soap the next day. Remember, the color should only be a BIT darker in the pot than you desire in the finished soap.

Q) How do I fix a batch of soap where I used too much color?

A) The solution to pollution is dilution. An overly scented bar of soap (I mean OVERLY!) is the same as a brilliantly colored soap – unusable. The best bet to diluting this problem is to either chop or grate the finished soap into shreds or mini cubes then toss them into a new batch that is uncolored or very lightly scented (if at all). I’ve had 2 lbs of fat converted to soap and had the soap maker use 4 ounces of essential oil to scent. That is a polluted bar of soap! Dilute and save the day, and the batch of soap! How do you know if the soap has too much color? Use a white wash cloth and test. You should be able to rinse the cloth completely at the sink and not need a washing machine to finish the job. How do you know if too much scent is used? You can’t smell anything else and when in the tight quarters of a shower your eyes may even burn!

Q) How does a person use the bases? I mean like the lotion or body butter.

A) Scenting the body butters, lotions, shampoo and all of these other bases is easy! Add fragrance and color as desired. Most of the fruit, fresh or herbaceous fragrance oils will need 1 fl oz (sometimes less!) for the entire gallon of base. Add a few drops of color and stir until the whole gallon is evenly colored and the fragrance has been added. Using a strong essential oil or fragrance oil? Use our Fragrance Calculator to get the correct amount of scent! You are always ahead by scenting with half the amount of scent today, mixing well, and leaving for tomorrow. A fresh nose and a clear head do wonders for thinking and finishing a project. Because lotions can be used over and over and over throughout the day it is best to scent more subtly because the layers will build upon each other. You still want to a be socially acceptable in an elevator compartment!

Q) Should I start with the bases or the raw materials to make lotions and lip balms? I have a very limited budget.

A) Starting with the bases means your costs are the base, color (if desired), fragrance (if desired) and containers. This means you can get started for less than $50 for your project. If you start with the raw materials you will need a scale and a wide range of supplies. The MMS bases are not economy type products, they are premium, top-notch, and comparable to what you can make on your own. We know you are seeking quality products and we don’t ever cut quality. If you have a budget of at least $500 to play and you want to make lotions, lip balms and similar products then I would suggest you start with the raw material route. Being honest with yourself is very important. There are lots of raw materials you will wish to try and having a quality scale will make your time far more enjoyable. Fighting your scale is never a fun time and this one item can make or break your success with this hobby. I think those who invest in a quality scale at the onset will find their hobby to be more profitable than those who scrimp on this one purchase. If you don’t know about budgets, may I suggest Dave Ramsey?

Tina

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Holiday Shipping Plans – The 4th is here!

July4thHowdy folks! The 4th of July is upon us!

The holiday landing on a work day always slows shipping times just a bit. Right now we are shipping almost all orders on the schedule given when the order is placed. Tomorrow we leave early and that means UPS and USPS are shipped early.

If you need anything, please put your order in today! Let us get it out the door before the holiday arrives. If you need a few hours to figure out what supplies are too low in your studio, take this evening and do a search. Put your order in overnight and we will grab it first thing tomorrow morning. Our goal is to get everything shipped by the time our phones go into HOLIDAY ANNOUNCEMENT mode at noon, MDST.

Want a preview of our holiday message? Here it is:

Dear MMS Customers, You rock! We are celebrating the 4th of July right now but we will be back on Monday, July 7. Any orders placed on the website will be processed on Monday and our target is to get everything shipped that day. Have a safe holiday. Enjoy the BBQ, the fireworks, Family and friends, weather and all things we love about the 4th of July. Thank you for celebrating with us. May freedom continue to bring so many people to peace.

Have a great holiday!
Tina

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Soapmakers: Thoughts on calculating water or using discounts

Clean WaterDear Soapmakers,

Recently I have become aware of some difficulties soap makers are having while trying to figure their water needs. Let me try to help clear the air (water?) here.

1) Water is needed in your soap making process. This is not an ingredient that needs to be weighed to 1/100th of an ounce accuracy. Any excess water will evaporate so only worry about non-variable ingredients when you spend time weighing.

2) Always base your water needs on the amount of fat and never the amount of lye. Recent comments to me indicate that some people are teaching to use an amount of water that is double the amount of the lye needed. Let’s cover two examples:
a batch of soap that is 16 ounces of oils, the lye calculation needs 3.68 ounces, water would then be 7.36 ounces
second batch of soap that is 16 ounces of oils, the lye calculation needs 1.55 ounces, water would then be 3.10 ounces.

For the first batch in this example 7.36 ounces of water is quite fluid yet still workable. It will take longer for the soap to cure because the extra water must evaporate. Trace may be slow to come because of the excess water.

The second batch has too little water, trace will happen very quickly, it will be difficult to color or scent because the soap progresses too fast. Both batches are the same size, 16 ounces of fat. The first batch will likely be 22 to 23 ounces of finished soap, the second batch will likely be 20 to 21 ounces of finished soap.

How to correctly calculate the amount of water needed for each batch:

Calculate the amount of fat you are using. Multiply this amount by 32 to 42%. If you live where: the air is so dry your sheets crunch when you crawl into bed, daily reports of how low the relative humidity is in your region appear on the evening news, without supplemented water your lawn will be brown for 11 months of the year then you know you need closer to the 42%. This is about to 6.75 fluid ounces per lb of fats. If you can’t remember when the last dry day happened, mold is a constant problem, moss grows on every roof top in your city, and everyone uses the term muggy or damp on a daily basis, or if you own and use a rain coat/slicker regularly – you should use closer to 32% which is about to 5 fl oz per lb of fats. You may have needs to use more or less water than these amounts but at least you are now calculating for your needs instead of aiming for moving, unreliable target.

Think I might have missed the mark? If so, then why do we use different amounts of scenting oils when we make peppermint soap vs vanilla soap? Different needs require different amounts. Use what you need, not what is excessive or too little.

Need help with your recipes? Just comment on this blog and I will help walk you through the math.

Cheers!
Tina

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GMO – Help!

Question

OK, folks. I need to lean on your shoulders for something that is really bugging me right now. It is GMO, or more accurately, non-GMO.

I don’t want to discuss whether GMO is right or wrong, what I want to discuss are the terms to describe whether a product is GMO free.

Here is the deal: a customer called me the other day and asked if one of our products (a soy product) is non-GMO or GMO-Free. I couldn’t remember with 100% confidence and offered to look it up. She explained she needed to know if it was one or the other, and I was puzzled. I explained these terms would describe the same thing. She said she has been informed this is not the case. My first reaction was to laugh. Why do marketers have to pretend things are, or are not, something just to market them? In a few days I will share with you my thoughts on marketing people muddying the waters for the consumer.

So, I have done more research and I am still not fully satisfied with the answers I have been given. All vendors I have talked with say there is NO difference between non-GMO and GMO-Free. They say these terms are interchangeable. Are they? What is your experience with either term?

I need all readers in Sage-land to educate me on this item. Send your thoughts through the blog or send them to us privately via email. You are welcome to add more questions to this list and are not obligated to provide answers.

One more thought, there is a product out there that is pretty common but is most often wild-crafted. It is harvested where it grows in abundance and sometimes it is planted in big garden plots for harvesting a commercial crop. This same caller asked if this item is also non-GMO. I admit I am rather confused as to why one would market a mostly wild-crafted product as non-GMO. I expect all products that are mostly non-mass grown to be non-GMO.

Go ahead, I’ve opened this can of worms and I may regret it later but I am hoping that we can have an educated discussion here.
Cheers!
Tina

P.S. The soy product in question is non-GMO, as I suspected it would be. The soy is non-GMO and the product as a whole does not contain any genetically modified materials. Is this the part where the two terms come about? Would the GMO-free mean nothing in a blend is a GMO? My conversation lead me to believe that non-GMO is the favored term and GMO-Free indicated that further processing was done to remove the GMO indicators. The whole time I just kept thinking “WHAT?!” All in the name of making a buck. Confusion in the marketplace! GEEZ!

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Best value: Double check your work

Question

We all have heard the adage that we should measure twice and cut once, right? Well, let me add a new perspective on measuring twice.

The issue this week has been email addresses that are typed so fast and not verified before sending or submitting that I can not reply to the person who has submitted.

Here are the responses to requests that have no name and an invalid email address:

1) Dry masks made of clay and fragrance do not need a preservative unless the mask will be stored in a hydrated state (after water is added).

2) To pick up your order from our facility requires a will-call appointment. After placing your order online and selecting Pick Up in Nibley please use the confirmation number of the order and call us to make the appointment. We can not make appointments for 10 minutes after your place the order. Please give us adequate time to pull the items from our warehouse to complete your order.

3) In order for us to suggest a preservative for your scrub formulation we must know the full ingredient list. It is not a decision we can make by knowing it is a salt scrub vs a sugar scrub. Preservatives are funny things and we must take into consideration water soluble ingredients, pH of final mixture, difficult to preserve ingredients, and even viscosity. I know you do not want to share your formulation, I completely understand, I can not give advice for something I don’t know anything about. I hope you understand. help

4) Yes, we did receive your order and we processed it on the same day. It left from here on Wednesday. It should arrive today.
The UPS tracking number is 1Z***************. The email on your order shows gamil.com instead of gmail.com as your request is showing. I will send to the corrected email address.

5) The corrected email address does not work. I am sorry, there are too many variations in your email address. One says your_name162@gamil.com and the other shows your_name1962@gmail.com. Neither is a valid email address. help

6) I am sorry, shrink bands do not come in shapes for round objects. Items like hockey pucks will always have excess shrink band material where the corners exist. Your best option is to use a bag and seal the bag into a circular shape before shrinking.

7) The required by date does not guarantee air services like Next Day Air shipping. If you live in Utah UPS Ground has a guarantee of 1 day in transit. We will only spend your money like it is our own, we would never send Next Day, Second Day or 3 Day Select to Utah. We do have an awesome UPS shipping map. If you would let me know your ZIP code I can generate a custom chart
just for you to show how many days in transit TO you. help

I completely understand typing and clicking SEND/SUBMIT without checking over my work. I’ve done it before and I really would rather not think about doing it again. After getting these emails back I’m going to enter my email address and triple check my double checks.

Have a great weekend folks!
Tina

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Lip Balm: How to use 2 Flavors with two different usage rates

I recently received a great query through our technical support email that inquired about how to create a lip balm with two different flavor oils and how to calculate for each. The two flavors in question are Chocolate Cream Flavor Oil and Peppermint Essential Oil. As some of you know, my answers often appear to be questions instead.

Here is the dialog so you can follow along and learn how to use two flavors AND how to do the math.

Customer: I would like to combine your chocolate cream and peppermint for a holiday lip balm. My recipe is a total 4.6 oz and makes about 26 tubes. Can you please help me figure how much of each flavor oil to use?
MMS: Do you weigh the items to make your lip balm mixture? If so, do you weigh in ounces?

Customer: Yes, I weigh in ounces. Thank you.
MMS: Does your scale offer metric units? Grams? if so, what is the readability (the smallest unit the scale can weigh and how does it increment upwards)?

Customer: My scale does offer grams….1 g is the smallest and it goes up 1 gr at a time.
MMS: These answers are awesome! You ask a good question and the answer is difficult to calculate without these answers.

Chocolate Cream is generally used at 2-4% of your mixture. So we calculate 4.6 x 3% to give us a good chocolatey flavor. Without a percent sign on the calculator it looks like 4.6 x .03 = .138

I doubt the scale goes to 1/1000 of an ounce so it becomes hard to weigh. This is where weighing in metrics can help. The 4.6 ounces becomes 130.4 grams, and the .138 ounces becomes 3.9 grams. We are still dealing with some limitations on the scale but now we know how close we can really get. The peppermint is even harder. I would make the test batch with 3% Chocolate Cream and 0.3% Peppermint Oil. It is easy enough to add more flavor but more difficult to add more fixed oils to make a double batch of lip balm.

4.6 oz x 0.003 = .0138 oz Peppermint
130.4 x 0.003 = 0.039 grams Peppermint

It looks to me that making a master batch of this flavor mixture is the better route to go. It would be 10 grams Chocolate Cream and 1 gram Peppermint Oil. From there you would calculate 3.3% or multiply by 0.033 to get the weight needed.

Long explanation isn’t it?

Customer: Wow! Now I don’t feel so bad about how much trouble I was having trying to figure this out. I think you are right, a master batch would be the best route. I am so grateful for your help. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
MMS: I would love to hear how your master batch turns out.

Customer: Just an update for you – the master batch was great. I made the lip balm this morning, and I like it. I’ll pass out a few over the weekend and see what others say. You can smell the chocolate right away and the mint is not overwhelming but you get it. I think it is just what I wanted. Can’t thank you enough!
MMS: Yippee!

From our team to yours: any time MMS can make your project seem more enjoyable and successful from the very first test batch then we are thrilled! It is what we work for each day. If you have two flavor oils that you would like to combine, offer them here in the comments and I will assist with some math and suggestions. If you don’t want a public answer, go ahead and send in your request to us in email. We will keep that private for you.

Tina

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Mascara

Today I received a very important email request. I want to share it with you.

I see you have an impressive line of lip balm tubes.
Would you consider adding MASCARA containers to your line?
With the prices they’re charging, it is becoming a thing to make.

Dear TheSage customer and all blog readers,

I know you want me to say yes, but I can’t. MMS will not ever carry mascara tubes and brushes.

Let me explain. Mascara is not just a cosmetic, it is a VERY regulated cosmetic. In order to be sold – mascara must be made in a very sanitary environment, use only materials that are tested, approved and retested to be OK for the eye area. The preservatives used must be OK for use in the eye area and the whole product must be tested on a formulation level as well as a batch level. Mascara is the closest one can get to a drug and still remain a cosmetic. The potential problems for mascara are HUGE! And the cost is not even in this galaxy. A tube of mascara, being 12 to 25 USD is a true bargain when considering all the testing that must be done AND the cost of liability, because the risk is not just an eye infection but loss of sight. Each tube should be replaced every 3 months, if not sooner.

Your vision, whether you have baby blues, pooling greens or rich browns, is so important to your enjoyment of life it is not worth risking for a tube of mascara. Please reconsider this choice. Your sight is never something I want to gamble with, and I hope you feel the same. Knowing someone is offering supplies to make mascara in an uncontrolled environment makes me cry. It also makes me angry because I want everyone in this industry of self-sufficient, make-it-yourself to be as passionate about safety as I am. I know they aren’t and this makes me very sad.

Just because we CAN do something, does not mean we SHOULD.

Tina

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Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Watson and Gracie - They aren't sleeping, they are growing!
Watson and Gracie – They aren’t sleeping, they are growing!
Have you ever wondered what kinds of questions we get for our Technical Support team? Well, I can tell you the questions are all over the place and we must learn new things every day. I’ve learned about horses, armadillos, snakes, gophers, ingrown toe nails, threading eyebrows and more in just the last month. Our customers have a varied collection of interests and experiences. Sometimes we have brilliant answers and sometimes we ask just the right question that allows the asker to solve the problem themselves. The synergy that happens is amazing. Our guest blogger today is the result of this type of question.

You can imagine what I thought when I was asked if our tins were magnetic and if a magnet would stick to the bottom. I wondered what kind of lip balm was going to have a magnet! Come to find out, it has nothing to do with lip balm. Let’s have Megan explain.

My name is Megan and I’m a soapmaker and dog lover/trainer (as well as a handspinner spinning wool from our sheep mixed with “fur” from our dogs!). I make soap under the Cowdance Soap label. I began soapmaking in 1998 when our Jersey cow, Fiona, started producing far more milk than we could drink. I turned the surplus creamy milk in to soap and fell in love with the whole process, especially the fragrant scents used in the soaps. Scents are terrific in all sorts of “forms” and recently I have started using several essential oils with my dogs, training them in a new, rapidly growing sport called Nosework (or Scentwork). Nosework training is similar to training a dog to “alert” to drugs or bombs only in our sport we train our dogs to detect three different essential oils: Sweet Birch, Anise (Pimpinella Anisum or Aniseed), and Clove.

I knew where to go for my essential oils (the Sage, of course) but I also needed little tins to hold the scent-impregnated Q-tips used in training. I found the perfect tins, the lip balm tins, here….so now perhaps they should be re-named “lip balm and NOSEWORK tins”!

Nosework or Scentwork is not only a fun sport but it is wonderful for dogs with special needs. It is used very successfully in shelters to provide shelter dogs with mental stimulation and build their confidence, helping them to be more easily adopted. Senior dogs, dogs with disabilities, ALL dogs love this “game” because it uses their natural ability to smell odors. People love it because the training is completely positive and motivational …. and, the essential odors used smell wonderful!!!

Check out these website for more information: nacsw.net and unitednosework.com

So many uses for essential oils…..soap, canine scentwork….and, of course, I always add a dash of essential oil to the fleece I wash and handspin!

I now have another handspinner to chat with (YEA!) and I learned what I can do with Gracie, our Golden Retriever mix, that has a nose like no other. Eating? She knows. Leave a dirty sock in the sofa? She’ll find it. Missing a cat? She’ll track her down to the hiding spot at the top of the book case and remind the kitty it is time for dinner. Going for a ride? She knows the box of Milk Bones is hidden in the haul from Home Depot. She does the: “I think I’ll stop for a treat before I leave the garage, OK?” type of maneuver. Dogs are amazing and so many are eager-to-please breeds. I can see why dogs that need a job to feel they have value really respond to this sport.

So, you might be wondering if the tins actually can be held by a magnet. The answer is yes, they can.

Tina

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Meet the Crew!

Felted_Slippers

Have you ever wondered who does all the running to get orders out our door so quickly? I know I am sometimes curious about companies and how they operate. Well….. I have a new photo for you. Unfortunately it does not include all of our staff, someone has to hold the camera you know!

We are missing the Beijing crew, our Salt Lake correspondent, our purchasing manager and our graphics dude. This photo comes about because I have knitted these felted slippers for my family for years. I have knit clogs for extended family as well. At times my schedule was so overwhelming that I paid someone else to knit for me. Egad! Anyway, our current crew was curious about the sheep shearing happening this spring so we started a knitting night to teach those who wanted to learn. Our project was felted slippers! We met on one evening each week and as we progressed we had a few non-knitters want slippers too. I’ve spent my evenings and weekends chewing up my yarn stash to make slippers for everyone on staff. I’ve had some great help. I have new knitters – my hobby away from my job – or as my husband calls them “Cohorts in Crime!”

You have a family photo now with most of our crew. You have our best foot forward to make your order fly through this place and on its way to you.

Cheers!
Tina

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Soap Class and Tea Tuesday

TeacupWe have two soap making classes on Saturday. They are at 10 AM and 1 PM. This beginners class is to help ease the mind of what happens in the soap pot and how to become a successful soap maker. Certainly one can not learn everything about soap in a few hours but one can start out on the right foot! If you are interested in this class, please call our office to sign up. The class is $ 80 and you will be given all your beginner supplies. We make soap in the actual class and you take home what has been made. Whew! I love these classes! They are so much fun.

So, long before you stress about the situation you can come in and learn from experienced soap makers on how to avoid the pitfalls.

Tea Tuesday!

I have been wanting to do a Tea Tuesday but documents like taxes have buried my desk. I think the avalanche has worked its way into a mole hill and is now manageable. Do you remember how Tea Tuesday works? If you do, go right to the Contact Us page and choose the Community Pursuits radio button.

If you have never participated in Tea Tuesday, here are the steps:

1) Choose a tea type you would like to try.
2) Go to the Contact Us page and select Community Pursuits
3) Send a message including your Name, Address, City ST ZIP, and a comment telling me what you like about spring. Include the tea type you have chosen and click SEND MESSAGE.

So, what happens after all of this? Well, I send each valid MMS customer who submitted information a sample of tea AND a handwritten note. (See the catch? You must be a Sage in order to participate.) Who gets handwritten notes nowadays? Our customers do! It takes me nearly a week to write all of those notes and in the end I need a cup of tea. WHEW! This activity is one of my favorite things to do. It definitely tops washing the dog.

I hope to see you in the soap class and I hope to send you REAL MAIL!

Tina

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