What would we modern soap and lotion makers do without our beloved stick blenders?
Now considered basic equipment, we study the features to determine which among the many brands will serve us best. Which one will perform well? Which one will give us the longest use? Which one comes in my favorite color? What? That isn’t important? Think again. Happy is the user with a purple blender! Or maybe that is just me.
The best blender is dependent upon the product one is making, so features to look for are categorized by use.
CP/HP/Cream Soap – I have used many brands of stick blenders in a wide price range. For the newbie, I suggest the cheapest tool you can find. Check thrift shops and garage sales, paying as little as possible just in case you do not like soapmaking (gasp) or your goal is to keep your family in soap, and you will be making fewer than ten batches a year. This also gives you the opportunity to decide what kind of stick blender you really want for your second blender. Even if you do plan to buy a brand-spanking new blender because you just know you will be using it often, having a back-up is smart.
I bought the $10 discount store version when I began making soap and it only broke after years of use because it was knocked off the counter–and not on purpose. Honest. This blender was basic plastic except for the blades, of course, and the shaft could not be removed from the handle, so I had to be careful not to submerge the motor in water. It was somewhat inconvenient finding a container to soak the blender in after use, but not insurmountable. If you find one with a removable shaft, all the better. Two speeds is better than one.
Liquid Soap – Since you are mixing heated lye water and heated oils together and even heated glycerin if you use that method, a blender with a stainless steel shaft is preferable to one with a plastic shaft.
Lotion – Due to the sanitary requirements for safe lotion making, a stainless steel shaft is preferred over plastic because, given its non-porous nature, it is more sanitary if prepared correctly than plastic. Take into consideration also, the batch size you will be making. I found stick blenders with a large bell (the wide part at the bottom) and large holes in the bell to be more suitable for gallon sized batches than one pound batches. Because the bell could not be submerged deeply enough, the holes caused lotion ingredients to fly everywhere. Scraping lotion off prep surfaces and one’s safety glasses is not fun and should be avoided. If you do use a stick blender with a large bell in a small batch, you will need a deep, tall mixing container.
To use a stick blender correctly, following a few simple rules will help.
1. You may have to “burp” your blender by plunging it up and down a few times to get the air bubbles out of the bell. This prevents air bubbles in soap.
2. Keep your blender low to the bottom of the container and tip it a bit at times when necessary, to get the most shear.
3. Stir your oils and lye water with a whisk or heavy spoon; then mix for a minute with the blender. Stop and let it rest while you stir again with the spoon. Repeat until your mixture is emulsified. This is true for soapmaking and will prevent your motor from burning out, which is the leading cause of death in stick blenders. Knocking them off the counter is second, carried out by those desiring a purple blender.
With these few tips, choose the right blender and get going!
Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.
Beth Byrne, for Making Soap, Cosmetics and Candles