We may have to rename our camper the "Soap Wagon" as it was again the scene for this months's soap challenge club. The challenge was to use alternate liquids and before the trip I was feverishly harvesting corn silk from my homegrown popcorn. I kept all things simple - color is from the tea and yellow silt clay. Fragrance was lemongrass and patchouli.
In preparation for the challenge, I did some research and found that soapers had more questions than answers, so I've put together this Cornsilk Soap Frequently Asked Questions post.
The first step was preparing the cornsilk.
What part of the cornsilk is used - the dry brown part on top or what is inside the husks that is not dry yet?
Either one will work.
Consider what you want your final soap to look like. If you want a darker tea or more visible when mixed in at trace use more of the dried silks. Otherwise, use the lighter colored silks to give a more subtle design element.
I found that the brown silks had more "nature" in it - such as pollen or dust particles so there is an extra step to preparing it. Purchased silks probably have already taken care of that for you.
Is it used fresh or dried?
When picking it fresh, you would normally dry it before use (similar to other herbs that you use in soap making). I found the easiest way was to put on paper towels and put in the microwave for 30 second increments. Usually it was dry after 1 minute.
Is it cut before use?
I found it easiest to work with cut in 1/2 inch lengths. Since it's dry, it's easy to do with a scissors. Cutting it in smaller lengths makes it easier to stir in and stay friends with your stick blender. I found one soaper who mentioned that longer ends can get twisted in whisks. I didn't test that!
Our cornsilk is ready to go...let's make soap!
When is cornsilk added to the soap?
Cornsilk can be used to make a Cornsilk Tea and replace some or all of the liquid.
It can be added to the lye water.
Cornsilk can also be added at trace.
I did all three since I was experimenting. The soap challenge, required that 100% of the water be replaced with an alternate liquid.
How is Cornsilk Tea made?
Step 1: Add 2 Tbsp fresh or dried cornsilks and 2 cups water to pan. Cover and bring to a boil.
Step 2: Turn heat down to low setting and simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 3: Turn off heat and let it steep for another half hour (or more!)
Step 4: Strain the silk.
Note: I made my tea with fresh cornsilk that I hadn't cut into pieces. In hindsight, I would add snipped dry silk and then I would not strain the silk at all and keep it as part of the lye solution.
Are there health benefits to drinking cornsilk tea?
Dried corn silk makes a very nice tasting tea that is traditionally employed as an anti-inflammatory tea for the urinary tract. Two cups a day for several weeks helps with cystitis, urethritis and prostatitis. It is tonic to the prostate and urinary tract and is a safe herbal tea for people of all ages, children and the elderly. Corn silk soothes and relaxes the lining of the urinary tract and bladder, relieving irritation and improving urine flow and elimination. http://livingawareness.com/make-corn-silk-tea/
How much is used when added to lye solution?
Use 1-2 tablespoons per pound of oils. Add it to the lye solution while it is hot. The lye solution will dissolve the silk. I found that it didn't completely dissolve but did not strain before adding them to the soap.
How much is used when added at trace?
Use 1-2 tablespoons per pound of oils. Stir thoroughly as it can clump when added.
Are there benefits to adding it to soap?
Soapmakersreport that it adds a silkiness to soap and also gentle exfoliation.
Cornsilk powder contains allantoin which is thought to help with skin irritations