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Learn how to make these natural soaps from luffa - a dried vegetable similar to cucumber.

Makes: This recipe makes six large soaps
Fresh from the garden: Luffa
Season: Summer/autumn

Luffa grows best in the tropical areas of Australia, planted from April to July, although it’s possible to grow elsewhere (plant in Aug–Dec in subtropical regions, Sept–Dec in temperate regions and Sept–Nov in cool regions).

While the young luffa crop can be eaten like zucchini or cucumber, fully mature luffa can be made into natural sponges and soaps for use in the shower, and for washing hands or scrubbing dishes. Luffa for soap and sponges needs to be left on the vine until fully ripe, or even until it’s dried out.

Where you have a glut of the crop, making sponges and soaps from luffa is a great indoor weekend activity, perfect in the summer when it’s too wet or hot outside. Luffa soaps also make great gifts for the holiday season.

There are many ways to make soap, but the method described here is a simple melt-and-pour method that doesn’t include lye (sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda), a potentially dangerous ingredient that can burn skin if not handled properly.

These soaps are environmentally friendly, and all equipment and ingredients can be found online by searching ‘melt and pour soap base’.

Rhonda Hetzel’s Down to Earth blog gives great instructions on how to dry luffa here.

Equipment

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What to do

  • Remember to put a damp tea towel under your chopping board to stop it from slipping.

  • 1. Using the bread knife, slice the luffa into six rounds, each about 2–3 cm thick.

  • 2. Place one luffa round into each of the cups in the silicon soap mould.

  • 3. Cut the cotton twine into 10 cm lengths.

  • 4. Fold each piece into a loop and place the two cut ends under one of the luffa slices, with the loop hanging away from the soaps (these will be your hanging strings).

  • 5. Chop the soap base into chunks and place in the heatproof jug.

  • 6. Microwave on medium power for 1 minute at a time, until the soap has just melted. Tip: Do not leave the soap unattended. Take it out of the microwave as soon as it melts, or it may boil up and spill over.

  • 7. Add the fragrance and the soap colourant.

  • 8. Stir well with the stirring stick.

  • 9. Pour the melted soap into each luffa, wait a moment for it to soak in, and pour again to fill any holes. Before you pour, make sure the ends of the string are under the luffa slices and there’s a loop of string that’s clear of the melted soap, to use for hanging or holding.

  • 10. Cool the soaps until completely hard, then gently turn each one out of the silicon mould.

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