One of the disadvantages that we have down under (New Zealand and Australia, but also pretty much anywhere which is not North America) is that we can’t easily get hold of the many soap making tools and equipment that they have in the US. So sometimes a little kiwi ingenuity is called for. Luckily, there’s no short supply of that here in little ol’ New Zealand! Here’s my quest to find a hanger swirl tool in New Zealand.
I first came across the hanger swirl method through Soap Queen on her blog, and shortly after, I ordered one of those hanger swirl tools from her webshop in the US. They’re not expensive, around US$6, and I still use mine frequently. However, postage to New Zealand is incredibly expensive, and the hanger swirl tool is actually just a piece of plastic coated wire. I figured it shouldn’t be difficult to find something similar here in a hardware shop that would do the same job. So I set out to see what I could find.
First, the requirements. Whatever I was going to use had to be fairly firm and solid, yet bendable and able to hold its shape. And it has to be of a material that can withstand the caustic environment of freshly poured soap. This means no aluminium, zinc or tin, which react (corrode) with anything that has a higher pH than 12 (caustic soap has a pH of 13-14).
So off I went. The first section I went to was the wire section. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see any plastic coated wires, and the only wires that were available were either aluminium or galvanised steel (which is zinc plated). I also looked at the electric cables, but they were too floppy and wouldn’t hold shape.
Next, I went to check out the metal rods, but those were all too thick and didn’t seem as if they would bend at all. However, on my way back, I walked past washing line wires, and surprisingly, they looked like they might work. The heavy duty ones had a wire core, which was plastic coated, and seemed fairly thick and solid and I was able to put a sharp kink in it so that it would hold its U-shape. But unfortunately, after trying them out, I realised they only work as a hanger swirl tool as long as the soap doesn’t get too thick. The other downside is that they’re rather expensive, $29.98, and you’d have a lot of spare wire.
Either way, the washing line gave me the idea to think outside the box. I started to walk up and down the aisles looking for possible items that could be (mis-)used as hanger swirl tools. I thought the garden section might have bendable, plastic rod-things, but I couldn’t find any. However, I did find plenty of different sized hooks, made of plastic coated metal rods/wire and they looked like the perfect solution. Not only were they cheap ($2.98) they would also be strong and durable, and the plastic coating would protect the metal from the caustic soap. But when I got home, I realised the problem with these is not that you can’t bend them, some pliers or strong person will do the trick, but the coating can flake off when you try and bend it. Otherwise these hook things would have been perfect.
The best item I found on my search were these gear ties, which come in different sizes and strengths. These were the closest I could find to the standard hanger swirl tools. They are bendable to any shape you wanted, and you can keep re-shaping them to fit different containers. They are plastic (rubber) coated, and strength wise, they appear to be solid enough to hold their shape when pushing and pulling them through the soap, and the thickness of them is actually an added bonus. If you would use a very thin wire, you’d only get very thin lines going up and down in your soap, so for a nice swirling effect you do want a bit of thickness in your hanger swirl tool. The ones I bought was one of the middle sizes and I paid $12.98 for it, which came with two gear ties = two hanger swirl tools.
And after giving them a try, I have to say, I’m very happy with the outcome! They worked really well. It was easy to bend them to the right shape, and the shape held when I pushed it in my thickened soap (unlike the clothes line wires). And as you can see, despite the thickness of the wire the lines in the soap are well defined and not disproportionate. The cleaning afterwards was a breeze. Because of the plastic coating, the soap washed off easily and looked just like new again. To be honest, I like this one better because it’s easier to bend and straighten and only slightly weaker than the original. And my original hanger swirl tool that I bought all these years ago has quite a few kinks and twists in it, which I can’t get out anymore. So it’s nice to have a good alternative to buying from the US. $12.98 for two hanger swirl tools is not bad at all.
Here’s a comparison side by side of the two tools.