Belfast Soap Relief
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Free, handmade soap to front line workers and food banks in the Belfast area.

by Belfast Soap Relief in Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Hello there, my name is Alex Bennett and I want to do something to combat COVID-19 here in Northern Ireland.

We have all been told the importance of hand washing but we are sadly seeing the supplies of soaps run totally dry. I’m particularly concerned about frontline workers not having access to soap at home, due to working whenever the supermarket stocks are refilled, and users of food banks being unable to afford enough soap.

My solution is to create between 250 - 500 bars of soap on a rolling weekly basis to be delivered to food banks for general use and to frontline workers for them to take home to their families.

Every single bar of soap would be free.

I have been producing soaps at home for the past eight years, taking it up as a creative hobby after my mum passed when I was young. I’ve made 1000 bars over this time frame so I know I have the skillset.

To produce such high levels for free though, I will need some considerable help. I would need the support of other soap makers to assist with production, premises suitable for this and both donations of money and supplies.

I am asking for £1000 to begin manufacturing. I believe this will enable production for eight weeks which means it will go towards 2000 - 4000 bars of soap. I may then need to ask for a similar amount to continue production for a further eight weeks.

I should highlight two potential issues with this. I have long been tempted to get a license to sell soap but the price and process of this has put me off. I am confident that if this soap is not sold, we do not need a license, but I would appreciate help regarding insurance of this product and safety testing so that consumers can trust it is of the highest standard. The second is anyone donating to this needs to understand this isn’t an instant turnover – soap takes 4 to 6 weeks to be ready – but once production is up there will be a rolling and continuous supply of soap.

I hope that this can spur production from home makers across these islands; to encourage that I will produce videos and recipes so that this can be reproduced by other projects.

I am hoping that many things we will need can be sourced with support from the local business community. Please see what is needed below and get in contact if you can help.

I'm asking for cash donations upfront to sustain the cost of the supplies and potentially some equipment.

If there isn't suitable space or equipment your money will be spent on purchasing bulk 'loafs' of pre-made soap, render it down and distribute it out. This will still provide a lot of soap!

SPACE

At least 50sqm of well ventilated space for use with electric in good working order, running water and a large, kitchen style sink.

A second well ventilated space for storage of soap. Soap takes 4 to 6 weeks to ‘cure’ and be ready; this space will need small continuous air flow. This could potentially be the upstairs of a space used for the production.

EQUIPMENT

Table top electric hobs or equivalent. Three 5L (or larger) stainless steel pots and large pyrex jugs, mixing bowls with sieves/ colanders. If you’re a restaurant willing to lend, please get in contact.

Twenty five, five sided rectangular MDF mold holders with removable sides and butterfly screws. These are for molding the soaps and are essential. They can be made at home to any size; if anyone local is good with woodwork, please contact me and I can provide specifications/ images of what I mean.

SUPPLIES

A butchers willing to sell considerable quantities of beef fat.

A hardware store willing to sell large amounts of sodium hydroxide.

A grocers willing to sell a small amount of vegetable based oil and baking paper weekly.

PEOPLE

I can't do this all on my own! I think to reach the highest targets it would help to have one or two people who have experience of 'cold process' or 'hot process' soap making. If not, someone who understands chemistry and 'saponification' would be a great help. You would need access to your own PPE, too. The biggest help will also be time; if you devote a day or more a week, that is essential.

There's also help people can do if they just have a few hours! We will need help cutting, storing, labeling, packaging and distributing the soaps. We would also need someone to speak to food banks and front line workers to find out what amounts each group needs.

NOTE TO OTHER SOAP MAKERS

I have costed this through running recipes of cold process, tallow heavy soap. The recipe will be dependent on finances but would be majority tallow to minority vegetable/ corn oil. This is a reliable and quick curing soap. I will be adding tea-tree essential oil to half the batch, providing half scented and half unscented. I have costed a day a week of production to animal-free soap, too. This relies on coconut oil in lieu of tallow and represents a far higher cost. Let's get in contact if you're keen to do something similiar!


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