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Archive for December, 2008

We held another public soap making workshop on 20th December and fortunately, the participation rate was much more optimistic as compared to the 6th December workshop. Out of 40 people, 30 came with an open mind and desire to perfect the art of soap making! Calling participants up a day before to remind them certainly helps in acheiving a higher turnout rate, after all:D
listening to the presentation

listening to the presentation

Soap making presentation

Soap making presentation

yujia presenting on ways to recycle used cooking oil!

yujia presenting on ways to recycle used cooking oil!

introducing soap making ingredients

introducing soap making ingredients

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"yes ma'am", the participants follow:D

chinese workshop conducted with three participants!

chinese workshop conducted with three participants!

say cheese!

say cheese!

sam explaining to an interested parent

sam explaining to an interested parent

overall, the workshop was a great success, with all participants agreeing to make soap in future:D

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Again from the deskof the sub-committee R and D (Reseach and Development), we bring you: Better fragrances!

In the past, we have been using fragrances found around the kitchen so that it’ll be convenient and economical for the public.

Just a few examples of kitchen fragrances would be basil leaves, 5-spice powder, grinded citrus rind and honey.

Just a few examples of kitchen fragrances would be basil leaves, 5-spice powder, grinded citrus rind and honey.

Of course, there were those from the public who took an immediate liking to the fragrances. However, there were always others wrinkling up their noses when they smelt our soaps. Remembering our visit to Temasek Polytechnic and the fact that the students who made soap there used synthetic essences, we decided to give aromatics a shot too.

We contacted Univa Aromatics and requested for samples. In no time at all, 5 small bottles of strongly-smelling fragrances were ready for pick-up.

Courtesy of Univa Aromatics Pte Ltd

Courtesy of Univa Aromatics Pte Ltd

Ecstatic, we started to make batch after batch of soaps for displaying at future outreach events, as well as bar soaps for giving away (the latter is not confirmed though, it’ll depend on how much we manage to make).

Although there were two fragrances that actually caused the soap mixture to suddenly turn viscous, we managed to pour the mixture into the moulds fast enough. Overall, the soap-making was a success!

Fragrance used - Sweet Fruity Floral

Fragrance used - Sweet Fruity Floral

Frafrance used - Rose Floral

Fragrance used - Rose Floral

All 5 moulds of the 5 different Univa Aromatics fragrances

All 5 moulds of the 5 different Univa Aromatics fragrances

Although the following photos are not of the bar soaps made this time round with the Univa Aromatics fragrances, we have added them in just to let you know how we make our bar soaps.

Bar soaps are made in clean, recycled chocolate boxes

Bar soaps are made in clean, recycled chocolate boxes

We used pandan leaves for this bar soap

We used pandan leaves for this bar soap

When the soap has hardened, we will turn it out and ta-daa! A nice, smooth, rectangular bar of soap. (Of course, we’ll be slicing it into smaller pieces.)

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At past public outreaches, we have encountered many queries about the availibility of sodium hydroxide – one of the key ingredients in soap-making, but also a controlled chemical in Singapore. To the one who asked the question, we would then give the assurance that we are currently doing Research and Development (R & D) on a sodium hydroxide alternative – so far we’ve been telling people of two possibilities: Alkaline water and alkaline ball. Well, all that talk did have action, so here’s an update on our entire progress so far.

When we first started on Project GREASE, we had already started looking for places to buy sodium hydroxide from. Unknown to the public, our very first experimental sodium hydroxide alternative was Dranex.

Dranex - a drain/toilet cleaner with 54% sodium hydroxide

Dranex - a drain/toilet cleaner with 54% sodium hydroxide

(Do note that making bar soap from oil is impossible without sodium hydroxide, so we were not looking for something to replace sodium hydroxide entirely. Rather, we were looking for something more accessible to the public that could replace pure sodium hydroxide.)

We tried making soap with dranex…and succeeded! Although we knew there was only 54% sodium hydroxide, we used the same weight of dranex as we would when using sodium hydroxide. However, the fumes given off when mixing dranex with water were thicker and more potent, which made us worry about the elderly or those with poor health who might try soap-making at home. At that time, we decided to scrap the idea of dranex. Regrettably, we do not have any photos of those soaps we made.

Next – when you mix sodium hydroxide with water, you get an alkaline solution. Thus our next experimental sodium hydroxide alternative was alkaline water.

Store-bought alkaline water, specifically from Red Man, a store which sells baking neccesities - it is easily accessible to the public and is usually used to make yellow noodles or glutinous rice.

Store-bought alkaline water, specifically from Red Man, a store which sells baking neccesities - it is easily accessible to the public and is usually used to make yellow noodles or glutinous rice.

In this case, we simply mixed different amounts of alkaline water with oil. However, in the first place we did not know if it contained sodium hydroxide, as there are other chemicals which are also alkalis. The ingredients section on the alkaline water container said: Alkaline ball, water. We did try calling up the manufacturer, but just got caught up in a wild goose chase.

So this particular set-up was just to check if soap could even form in the first place. Unfortunately, soap did not form. In fact, the oil and alkaline water did not mix together, let alone trace.

Oil and alkaline water did not form a homogenous mixture

Oil and alkaline water did not form a homogenous mixture

 We decided to perservere to the end and poured the liquid mixture into moulds – it did not show the slightest sign of turning viscous.

The mixture refused to trace even in the moulds

The mixture refused to trace even in the moulds

One week later, and the moulds were still filled with liquid. We concluded and scrapped the idea of using alkaline water.

Next – alkaline ball. Looking back, we realize that alkaline ball would have produced the same results as alkaline water, seeing as alkaline water was just alkaline ball mixed with water. The results were extremely disappointing and discouraging, since we’d put so much time, effort and brain power into it. Yet apparently, we did not put in enough brain power since we failed to notice something so simple but important.

Alkaline ball (white)

Alkaline ball (white)

We were actually very excited about testing the alkaline ball as a sodium hydroxide alternative, because it meant we could put what we’d learnt in Chemistry class into action. In Chemistry, we’d learnt titration, a process of determining the concentration of a certain substance in a solution by adding a measured amount of the solution of unknown concentration to a known volume of a known concentration until the reaction between them is complete – which can be seen through the use of a colour indicator. Applying that to our current situation, we decided to use titration to determine the concentration of sodium hydroxide in the alkaline ball.

Titration apparatus

Titration apparatus

There were so many extra steps taken as compared to the alkaline water.

(1) We had to make the dangerous assumption that there was sodium hydroxide in the alkaline ball.

(2) Before we could titrate, we needed the alkaline ball to be dissolved into water as much as possible for accuracy.

Before heating and stirring - big pieces of alkaline ball in the water

Before heating and stirring - big pieces of alkaline ball in the water

Heating alkaline ball and water mixture in an attempt to dissolve alkaline ball

Heating alkaline ball and water mixture in an attempt to dissolve alkaline ball

The heating and stirring was done over a bunsen burner flame

The heating and stirring was done over a bunsen burner flame

(3) Of course, titrating the alkaline ball solution itself and calculating how much of it we should use was the main step.

Using a pipette filler to measure out 25ml of HCl (Hydrochloric Acid) solution

Using a pipette filler to measure out 25ml of HCl (Hydrochloric Acid) solution

HCl of different concentrations were used for increased accuracy

HCl of different concentrations were used for increased accuracy

Coloured indicator would then be added to the measured out HCl solution

Coloured indicator would then be added to the measured out HCl solution

Green - the colour of the mixture after indicator has been added; the colour of the mixture before the reaction is complete

Green - the colour of the mixture after indicator has been added; the colour of the mixture before the reaction is complete

The alkaline solution would then be added to the HCl solution using a burette

The alkaline solution would then be added to the HCl solution using a burette

Purple - the colour of the mixture after the reaction is complete

Purple - the colour of the mixture after the reaction is complete

Titration results were recorded in our R and D logbook

Titration results were recorded in our R and D logbook

(4) Only then could we use the alkaline ball solution to make soap.

Titration was done on 3 separate days to produce 3 separate sets of results for better accuracy. However, the alkaline ball used on Day 1 from different from the one used on Days 2 and 3. Hm, would that mean different alkaline balls have carying concentrations of ingredients in them?

Putting that potential problem aside first, we proceeded to calculate the concentration of sodium hydroxide in the alkaline ball (assuming there even was sodium hydroxide present) from our titration results. Based on that, we then made soap from alkaline ball mixture.

It was mentioned just now that alkaline water was the same as alkaline ball plus water mixture. No prizes for guessing how the attempt to make soap turned out.
Attempting to make soap with alkaline ball as sodium hydroxide substitute

Attempting to make soap with alkaline ball as sodium hydroxide substitute

Although this round, the oil and alkaline ball mixture were not as immiscible as when alkaline water was used, the mixture still did not trace after much stirring. Still hopeful though, we poured it into moulds. 1 week later, it still had not hardened. Alkaline ball idea – scrapped.

Now at a loss of ideas, we realize that at least Dranex was able to produce soap when mixed with used cooking oil. So, we turn back to our very first sodium hydroxide substitute: Dranex, 54% sodium hydroxide. We have already confirmed that soap can be made. So now, the question would be how useful and reliable the soap produced is in comparison to soap made from pure sodium hydroxide. Firstly, we had to make soap using Dranex. This round, we decided to use different amounts of Dranex to produce different batches of soaps.

4 set-ups with different amounts of Dranex used

4 set-ups with different amounts of Dranex used

For one of the amounts, why not try making soap with an amount of Dranex which contains 30.3g of sodium hydroxide? The recipe actually requires 30.3g sodium hydroxide, so if 54% of Dranex contains sodium hydroxide, then we would need about 56g of Dranex. However, that is quite alot, so we’ll cut the recipe by half, meaning 28.056g of Dranex.

Thus, we had 4 set-ups in total, each with varying amounts of Dranex. Unfortunately, for the 2 batches with higher amounts of Dranex, not all Dranex manage to dissolve. It would be dangerous to continue to make soap with it, so we threw those away and continued with the other 2.

As for the results? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see when the soap is ready for testing.

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One integral aim of Project GREASE is to effect an oil-to-soap movement in Singapore, though of course we will not hesitate to transcend national boundaries with regard to teaching others how to recycle oil into soap, since recycling should be a global effort. Sure enough, the opportunity did arise – one glorious holiday while one of our teammates, Yu-Jia, were visiting relatives in Malaysia, her cousins expressed their vivid interest in learning soap-making. Needless to say, we jumped at the chance.

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Studying the guidebook conscientiously before the soap-making commences. Ahh, Chinese-translated soap-making manuals do come in handy here! (:

We then set up a table in the backyard, laying out some newspaper and reused jars as containers for the oil, water and colouring. After the oil and water have been measured and other necessary ingredients have been laid out, we officially begin! (:

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Yu-Jia’s cousin conscientiously pouring sodium hydroxide into oil, supervised closely by the watchful GREASE member

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Stirring the resulting mixture after the NaOH-water mix has been poured into the oilgcj_3351

A group photo of young scientists, with our finished products laid out in front of us! (: All active agents of change, might we add.

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This workshop was held after gathering workshop signups from both Clean and Green Week Singapore and ARTy pARTy 2008. 33 people had indicated their interests, sadly, only 9 turned up. When we called them up individually, many said they had forgotten, but were still interested, thus we helped some sign up for the 20th December workshop.  Hopefully, there will be a better turnout on 20th December; we will definitely call all participants a day before the workshop from now on.
Giving a presentation

Giving a presentation

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Following after the South East CDC, we received another invitation to set up a meeting with Ms Emily Tan. Reaching nearly an hour early outside the building, we again dedicated time to sit down and go through our presentation materials (this time sadly, unaccompanied by a pretty water fountain).

Beside... a wall ><

Beside... a wall ><

Logo

Logo

Our project presentation comprised a powerpoint, video and scrapbook. Similar concerns from our earlier meeting with SouthEast CDC were also raised regarding the importance of our project’s sustainability, especially since holding soap-making workshops would be one-off events for our participants.

Project Explanation

Project Explanation

A rather interesting proposal was posed by her, as we explained that the limited availability of used cooking oil, apart from our collections from hawker centres, was a project obstacle.  She proposed a used-cooking-oil-collection from interested households within our chosen region, with the help of Green Clubs from various schools.  This proposed programme, piloting in the year 2009, would hence be ideal in more directly reaching out to households in a certain region in Northwest Singapore (most probably Buona Vista). The oil collected by us/Green club members from interested households could be made into soap by the Green Clubs (who we would like to hold a workshop with). These soap could then be sold at various carnivals, with the revenue going to help the needy.

Discussing plans

Discussing plans

So far, this possibility has been met with much enthusiasm from our group. Hopefully, with the full approval of this new project direction from our teacher mentors, we would be able to undertake this new course of outreach with much success. As such, we look forward to future collaboration with North West CDC.

Group shot

Group shot

 

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