Monday, September 19, 2011

Creating products: Assembling your ingredients - preparing your space

I'm not an organized woman, but I think I'm doing okay in the workshop. I have all my ingredients organized into different bins. If you look at at this picture, on the bottom row (from left to right) I have boxes of surfactants, oils, extracts and hydrosols, other ingredients, and powdered ingredients that aren't salts (they are in the box on the second to last row on the right). On the second shelf from the top I have my box of solid oils (babassu, coconut, virgin coconut oil) and my box of butters (shea, cocoa, mango, and so on). This organization might make sense only to me, but I'm the only one who has to know where everything is! (I have a few other boxes and those consist of things I just bought, things I want to use, and things I want to keep in my line of sight because otherwise I'll forget to use them, and a cupboard of fragrances and colours!)

The other shelves are really messy because I have a ton of Pyrex jugs and plastic jugs and wooden spoons and molds and other supplies I use for craft group, but otherwise everything has a home.

When you get into your working space, make it clean and tidy. Get the things you need close by - paper towels, spoons, mixing devices, scale, pipettes, thermometers - and make sure you have your notebook open and a pen right next to it.

For cleaning, some people insist on an as-close-to-sterile as possible workspace. This means cleaning the counter and equipment with alcohol and ensuring all the utensils and containers are newly washed. For some people, using a finger to scrape things off a spoon into a tin can is adequate (click here for video - and no, I don't know what bee's oil might be! Whatever you see in this video, do the exact opposite in your own workshop and you'll be just fine!) Wearing plastic gloves is always a good idea and goggles can be very useful as well. A lovely apron or lab coat will protect your clothes, but I always make a point of wearing an old shirt and shorts as well as my apron because at some point, I will get greasy! (Yes, I buy Spray & Wash and OxyClean in bulk!)

I've put down some spare pieces of laminate flooring on my workbench to make it easier to clean, and I have a glass cutting board on top of that (easier to clean up!). I've got one of those anti-fatigue mats on the floor, so I can remove it and clean it off when it gets covered in those inevitable spills!

Cleanliness is essential, but tidiness isn't. I've found, though, that having your workspace organized and free of clutter is a good thing. You'll find fewer things are knocked over, and you'll have more space to do everything you want to do! I might be the Queen of Clutterdom, but I can't stand having my wonderful and useful counter space taken up with stuff! 

My mom is laughing as I write this as I really am the reigning monarch of messiness. I'm a flat surface abuser who tends to be more floor-ganized than organized, and I'm telling you about the dangers of clutter! I think I might have to find her some kind of medication because she's rolling around the floor now, holding her sides, trying to breathe as she does that thing with her hands that women always do when we're laughing really hard saying, "Stop, stop. Too much!" Wow, I didn't think she'd find it THIS funny! 

Create a cool down and filling space. We don't think or talk about this part of making products much, but when you've finished one project and want to get into a second one, that 8 cup Pyrex jug of lotion will get in your way! Find a flat clean space, and put your product there to cool with a dishcloth or other fabric thing loosely draped over the top. (I don't use plastic wrap because I don't want condensation plus I really hate plastic wrap! It's never easy to get off the roll and it clings to itself. Nope, I use a nice clean towel that I can use again and again!) Don't put your product into the fridge when it's warm as you run the risk of heating up your fridge! Clean this space, if necessary.

Prepare this space as well. Get your bottles ready with funnels or other filling things nearby, and make sure you have paper towels handy. Make sure the space is easy to wipe down if/when you spill.

Join me tomorrow for some helpful hints on the weighing and measuring of our ingredients!


Sara @Osmosis said...

My clutter is exactly what keeps me from experimenting more often!

Hairolic said...

WOW, that video is truly horrific.. I hope the mixture is for herself and not consumers..even if it is for herself that is very unhygienic.

I have a question, I have some PET bottles is it ok to pop them in the dishwasher and them spritz the bottles with Isopropanol alcohol to ensure they are sterile?


Nedeia said...

oh, I hear you! I only have a small space that I can use for my lotion making and supplies . It used to be an open balcony (not anymore, we closed it with some big windows - no more wind, and YES to insulation and heat in the winter , as it is facing North), but now it's all mine. I have reused some kitchen cabinets for storing the lye, the salts, oils, extracts, absolutes and some of the recipients (and it is CROWDED in there); most of the butters and lotion-making supplies are in a different cabinet with drawers, as far from my daughter as possible (I have everything locked with children proof locks).

I have a table on which I keep my sterilizer (I bought a steam sterilizer for bottles, but I never used for that, since I a breastfeeding mom), an electric appliance for heating my oils, butters and waxes (it can heat at 40 or 70-05 degrees centigrade, it is quite useful because I do not have a crock pot), my notebook, the gloves, the alcohol, and the supplies, as I work with them . On a higher table, I keep my scale, beakers, measuring scoops and the materials I currently work with. For example, I have a recipe that calls for 10 inrgredients. All of them are on the higher table, and, as I add each of them, I set them aside, on the table where I keep my notebook. Otherwise, I will always ask myself: did I add that??

I sterilize all my glass items and all the metal ones (scoops and things like that) in the bottle sterilizer. Every item that I cannot sterilize this way get washed , rinsed and then sprayed with alcohol, wiped, sprayed again (if I believe it is still needed). I always put on my working space (which is also cleaned and sprayed with alcohol or some sterilizing substance for babies' toys or something, followed by alcohol, then wiped with paper towels) clean paper towels, and I tend to use a lot of them during the making process of a lotion :). I have decided that my garbage bin is not BIG enough to accomodate all those paper towels :)))

I do not wear safety glasses unless I am working with powders (not micas or iron oxides, usually I only take very small quantity to color the lip balms), and that is usually when I make soaps. And I am always wearing safety gear when handling lye.

Interesting post , dear Swift, and I hope the stomach flu is long gone!

Leman said...

That's a very useful post Susan.

Nedeia, thanks for telling us what you do in detail, that's great! I have heard of people using bottle sterilizers. What sort of sterilizer are they?Do you put in a solution or tablet and boil the water? Do you plug them into electric? (sorry to be so ignorant!) Can you sterilize plastic ones? And can you sterilize cold?

Also what sort of alcohol do you use to spray? Do you buy it from a chemist?

Lise M Andersen said...


please share which appliance you have to heat oils to a specific temperature!! sounds like something I need! thanks! great post as usual Susan!

Tara said...

This IS a great post Susan! Like you I also use a glass surface to work on and have anti-fatigue mats on the floor. First I sanitze my utensils in the dishwasher, then spray everything really well with 99 percent isopropanol (although I've read that closer to 70 percent is actually more bactericidal??). I wear gloves, a hairnet and a lab coat (because I used to be a lab geek), as well as a mask if I feel under the weather.

@Hairolic: I know for a fact that dishwashers melt PET. HDPE is okay. Best off to use alcohol if you're worried.

@Nedeia: I am also interested in what bottle sterilizer and solution you use for your utensils and the appliance you use to heat and hold your oils, etc. I just purchased a Presto Pot; I wonder if this is a similar device?

Nedeia said...

Well, long story short, I use pharmacy alcohol (it has something like 70 degrees , I could not find anything better, not for home use. In Romania, where I live, it is quite difficult to find something that is used in hospitals or other similar institutions; well, if you're not a company, that is, many of the "cool" stuff are available only for companies).

The cute appliance is this: ; if the link does not take you to the right item, search for the "bol chauffant". I live in Europe , so I am not sure how it would for you to get the item , if you live in the USA. The good news is that they ship via FEDEX :)

The bottle sterilizer uses plain tap water (or filtered, for a longer life of the machine). I mean it's a steam sterilizer, from AVENT. I can fit in it 3 Berzelius beakers: one of 600 ml and 2 of 250 ml (low form). And some other scoops and stuff. The sterilizer is electric, and it has 2 programs: one that keeps the items sterile for 4 hours (i think at least), and the othre for 24 hours (or longer, anyway, I have never used that option before).

Oh, goodie! After writing so much, I have found the item:

Good luck hunting for appliances :)) Let me know if you can find something similar in the US , the heating bowl I have can only handle 250 ml at a time, and the bowl itself is tricky to clean... if you wipe it with a paper towel while it is still hot (like I do), there is a GOOD chance that you will bend the handle for too many times, so a tear will appear at the point where the handle was welded. It will eventually rend the recipient useless. If you are careless, as I was, or just not thinking too much :))) too much bending WILL break it :)

Anyway, if there is something similar in the US< I would gladly try to buy it sometimes in the future, if the shipping costs are not too high :)

Leman said...

Nedeia, There are some very useful equipment from! I wish they had an English version :-( thanks fro the links.

lanedeia said...

Leman, their English version is quite basic, and it does not contain all the products, unfortunately. For me , this was a reason to rediscover the French I thought long forgotten!

Leman said...

lanedeia, I am sure it helps even if it is long forgotten! where do you switch the language? I can't see it!

lanedeia said...

check on the main page, - there should be an "enter" somewhere in the picture :)

Mesha said...

This is what Bees oil is: it is a product made by Burt's bees that is a mix of beeswax and mineral oil to protect/condition wooden salad bowls and spoons

Chaotic Disarray said...

The video is no longer found. Too bad though as it sounds like there were some good not to information!

Anonymous said...

In terms of "sterilizing" and disinfecting, I've been reading that alcohol is not considered an effective substance for such. I've been using Hydrogen Peroxide instead, as I understand that it does a much better job. I wonder if the best approach for sterilization outside a lab would be a combination of UV and peroxide? (Here's an old note on the alcohol system )

A lot of people seem to think using a dishwasher machine is an effective method for disinfection, though it is not, it does not kill quite as much bacteria as one thinks.

Anyone have thoughts on disinfecting and getting close to sterilization?