Elbow Grease: A Teacher’s Gift


Before I get too far into this post I want two thank two people who are always on my mind when I work on this project: Rebecca & Liz – two of the coolest sisters that I know from my days in Humboldt.  It was with them that I experimented in our kitchens making all sorts of handmade crafts and beauty supplies.  I’m not sure where this recipe originated but I know it was with them that I made my first batch (of many, many, many).

One of my favorite year-end teacher’s gifts is this DIY beauty oil/cream/ointment that I have lovingly dubbed: Elbow Grease.   It can be used just about anywhere on your body where you have rough skin – I personally keep a “tub” of it in my bedside table and rub it on my heels and elbows at night.  I have a customer in Nevada that used to buy it as a face cream to help fight the dry desert air.  Be sure to label the ingredients though – I am allergic to walnuts and I would want to know if there was any in there.
The following is the recipe that I used today but it is pretty much customizable to your favorite oils, scents and even thickness.  I have used Almond Oil, Grapeseed Oil and Walnut Oil in place of the ingredients shown and I know not everyone loves lavender – I have used the grapefruit and lemon verbena essential oils too and they all turn out great.  I hate the smell of anything mint so if that’s your thing – run with it!

Read on for all of my tips and suggestions for a successful batch of Elbow Grease.  My supply recommendations are at the end!  Tomorrow come back and I’ll give you the template and instructions for the cute little gift bags I made for these!

Elbow Grease

34 fluid ounces extra virgin olive oil
8 fluid ounces coconut oil
2 fluid ounces vitamin E oil
1 fluid ounce lavender essential oil
1 pound beeswax
30 2-ounce tins or other small jar (no plastic)

Step 1) In a large heavy stockpot, gently pour in all of the oils that you will be using.  The coconut oil will probably be in a semi-solid state when you buy it so just spoon in what you need.  Heat the mixture on a low to medium temperature.  You do not need high temps for this project.

Tip:  I wouldn’t recommend using the best pots and pans that you have (i.e. the one’s you got on your wedding day).  If you don’t have a pot that you mind trashing a bit then run down to Goodwill and pick up a used pot just for this project.  The beeswax isn’t that easy to remove from a pan at the end.

Step 2) Cut the beeswax into approximately 1″ pieces with a large butcher knife.  Get ready for a nice arm workout because this is easier said then done.  I fold up a kitchen towel and use it to help me push the knife down through the wax.

Step 3) Gently place the beeswax into the warmed oils – be careful not to drop it in and splash yourself with hot oil (believe me I have done it!).  If the oil is “sizzling” when you put the beeswax in you have your temperature too hot – turn down the heat.  It will take several minutes to fully melt the wax into the oil mixture.

Tip:  I knew for this project that I was going to use the full pound of beeswax but you may want to experiment with the thickness of your batch.  I usually set a plate next to my pot and with each addition of beeswax I check the thickness by putting a droplet of oil and the plate.  Let it cool and then test with your finger to see how thick your batch is.  You can see in my picture of the plate from left to right how the consistency changes.

Step 4) Once you have the oil and wax mixture to the thickness you desire (when cooled as explained above), remove the stockpot from the burner.  You need to complete the next step within 15-20 minutes after removing the mixture from the heat because it will thicken as it cools.

Step 5) Using a glass Pyrex measuring cup, fill each of the tins that you have prepared close by, just to the lid line (or about 1/8″ from the top of the tin).  BE CAREFUL – the tins will immediately heat up to the temperature of the oil so do not hold them in your hand while you do this.  Have a set of tongs nearby to help you move the tins around if necessary.  I put all of them on a large cutting board and just dripped all over the place.  You can always clean the tins later.

Step 6) Let the tins cool completely and then wipe them down and put on all of the lids.

The Elbow Grease will stay fresh and fragrant for up to 6 months.  Store in a cool place – if they are heated up again (such as in your center consul of your car) they will turn back to a liquid form and get all over the place (again trust me – I speak from experience).

Suppliers:

Trader Joe’s – olive oil, coconut oil, and vitamin E oil

San Francisco Herb Company – lavender essential oil

Specialty Bottle Company – tin jars

Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies – beeswax

P.S. Don’t forget PE Teachers, Librarians, the School Secretary and the Principal – they all work hard too!

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