bars of soap shaped like lungs

Suds!: Soap Making and Asthma

I took a soap-making class on vacation a few months ago. It sounded like it could be a fun thing to do with my free afternoon. The class I took was on the cold process method of making soap. The lavender oatmeal soap I took home is delightful!

Making soap with asthma

To make soap with this method, you start with oils, lye, and water. Soap is the end result when these ingredients are mixed at the right ratios and temperatures. This is all fine, well, and good, but where’s the fun in making a cream-colored unscented soap?! Glad you asked! There are many different ways to color and scent your soap from a variety of sources.

Sometimes these come in the form of fragrance or essential oils to add scents. Botanicals can add color or other properties to the soap. Body-safe powdered color dyes are another way to add color to your finished soap.

Concerned about soap as an asthma trigger?

I’m assuming at least one of the elements of soap making has set off asthma trigger warning bells in your mind. Personally, with a few simple precautions, I can get my soap crafting on without having an asthma episode. Fragrances are not normally an asthma trigger for me. If this changes, I’ll probably give up soap making or quit doing scented soaps.

I set myself up for a fun day of soap making by digging out my dust mask and turning on all the fans in my work area. I have a high-quality dust mask as well as a half-face respirator. Both of these are designed to be used multiple times either with replaceable or washable filters. In this case, I just grab whichever one is handy. I only worry about the tight seal provided by the respirator when I’m doing home improvement or dust intensive activities.

Keeping it asthma-friendly

I prefer to do as much of my mixing outdoors or as close to a window as I can. This part is the most scent intensive step, so I try to encourage those odors not to linger in my home. When I don’t do scented soaps I follow ratios for light fragrances to avoid triggering my asthma.

The dust mask comes back out when it’s time to add any powdered ingredients for color or other properties. Even if it doesn’t trigger an asthma attack, I doubt there are benefits for my lungs to breathe in any fine powders other than those prescribed by a doctor. Similarly, I pull out the mask when it comes time to measure flour or powdered sugar in the kitchen. When it’s time for the soap to cure, I pick an out-of-the-way spot where the scent of the soap can dissipate. That way I am not breathing in the scent while I’m sleeping or doing daily activities.

With these simple changes, I’ve found soap making to be an enjoyable and asthma-friendly hobby. I realize that, if my triggers change, soap making could become a really challenging activity for me asthma-wise. Have you made your own soap or other bath products? I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

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