Paul Turner of Raymond started making goat milk soap about 15 years ago, when he moved to the area.
“I was just making it to give away to friends and for Christmas and things like that, but people kept saying, ‘You should sell this, you should sell this,’” Turner explained. “So eventually I started making a little bit larger batches and I put some in the farmer’s market downtown.”
Turner is fond of goat milk soap because it’s gentle yet effective, he explained. “One thing that convinced me of how valuable the particular product is was when my wife’s sister had cancer. We’d been giving them soap for Christmas off and on and her sister contacted us and said: ‘It’s the only soap that I can use on my very sensitive skin while I’m going through chemo.’”
Turner continued, “A lot of people talk about how good it feels, how good it cleans, and how mild and gentle it is. My wife will tell you that it’s her last resort in taking out stains. If all of her other tricks for taking out stains don’t work, she’ll rub goat milk soap into it, unscented goat milk soap, and scrub it out. A lot of time it will come clean, particularly things that are oil based. . . We’ve saved an awful lot of nice clothes that got a splatter.”
The process of making the soap must be carefully implemented. “You’re doing chemistry. It’s a chemical reaction,” Turner said.
To begin, he starts with oils, lye, and goal milk. “I heat up a culmination of vegetable oil, olive oil, and coconut oil. . . While that’s being done, I take my goat milk – I usually start with it about half frozen, crystalized. When you add the lye to the goat milk, you get a chemical reaction that is exothermic; it generates a lot of heat. If I don’t use either frozen milk or ice bath it, it’s going to get up to 170 – 180 degrees,” Turner explained.
“I get those two things – the oils and the goat milk with the lye mixed together to 102, 103 degrees. . . I stir it, then I’ve got a couple of household mixtures that I use to stir it while the chemical process, called saponification, happens. The oils combine with the lye goat milk mixture and make soap, which is a different product – the chemistry is different. . . Usually after it’s mixed for a couple hours it starts thickening, until it gets the point where it traces.”
Finally, he adds the essential oils for scent and pours the soap into molds.
The recipe must be followed to a tee in order to accurately create the soap. “Your combination of oils is how you get how gentle it is. The coconut oil is what makes it lather. I use an electronic scale for weighing out my ingredients because it’s chemistry. If you’re heavy on the lye mixture, then you’re going to get a soap that burns – you won’t have combined all of the lye with oils and you’ll have free floating lye mixture, which is harsh. If on the other hand you have too much oil, then you get a soap that doesn’t clean well and leaves you oily. It needs to be balanced.”
The soaps must be left to cure before use. “If you don’t let it sit for a couple of weeks, two things happen. One, it hasn’t complete its chemical reaction, so your soap is going to be harsh. Second, it needs to have moisture evaporate out of it, or you’ll go to use it and you’ll go through a whole bar of soap in one shower. The longer you keep it out in the air, the dryer it is, the hard it is, the longer it lasts.”
To create the scent, Turner uses essential oils, which come directly from leaves or seeds of plants. “They’re all essential oils, because if you use something that isn’t an essential oil, the soap might do something that’s called binding. What that means is, you pour your essential oil into it, and it coagulates into a lump and is unmanageable.”
He uses a variety of scents in his soaps, including orange, cassia, cinnamon leaf, spearmint, wintergreen, anise (black licorice), lavender, pink grapefruit, lime, lemon, lemongrass, and almond.
“My grandson likes the spearmint – he tried to eat it. He’s less than a year old.”
The goat milk soaps can be found at the Public Market in Raymond, open Friday – Saturday 10:00-4:00. Turner’s full time jobs are teaching adult basic education at Grays Harbor College and pastoring a small church. The Morning Star Family Farm also sells beef, eggs, and poultry to family and friends.