Interesting concept, using human fat. Disgusting, but as a soap maker, I’m truly left to wonder…
I make soap all the time but it seems to be like pulling teeth with me to get this out of my head and written into a workable format. I apparently love to make soap but it doesn’t seem as easy to write about. I knew I would eventually have to do a piece on soap making, so maybe, if I get it all out, I can move on to other things. Therefore, I will work hard to make it a good one. I hope you will walk away after reading this post with a full understanding of how to make ‘old-fashioned lye soap.’
Have all your equipment and ingredients out and ready. Parts of this process is of a timely manner, and you don’t want to be searching for something and let something go to long.
You will have TWO process going on at the same time, your lye/liquid mix and the fats/oils mix.
You will work with the lye/liquid mix first
Another word about Lye (Sodium Hydroxide) before we get started:
When you mix the lye (sodium hydroxide) with liquid it gets VERY HOT! Over 200 degrees hot. Hence the precautions in the previous post. Make sure you have NO distractions when working with this solution. It will eat your skin as well as your countertops and floors, or any children/pets under-foot. Take precautions and move deliberately and slowly when handing.
Why is this caustic crap in your soap, (caustic: meaning it will BURN you, haha)? The chemical reaction when mixing the sodium hydroxide/liquid solution with the oils is called saponification. It creates soap! I never claimed to be a chemist so I don’t ask, I just do what it says.
It is in almost every soap, just check the ingredients label. All bar soap that is. Liquid soap is made using potassium hydroxide which lends it to have a syrup-like consistency. It is a whole different process than bar soap, so don’t try interchanging potassium hydroxide with sodium hydroxide because you will not get good results. Here is a good article explaining the difference and preferences in bar v/s liquid soap.
- You can also see information about how to make bar soap into liquid soap for super cute dispensers. Bar and liquid soap are made from two entirely different ingredients and melting down bar soap for liquid just doesn’t gel right. You can read more about that here on my website.
Making bar soap using the Cold Process method the caustic quality can remain in your soap for 4 to 6 weeks meaning you can’t use it. What a bummer!
BUT, we’re not using Cold Process! We are using the Hot Process method, which, in the end, removes the caustic, burning quality, adding only an hour to processing time! YAY! You can use your soap!
We are making bar soap, using SODIUM hydroxide just as a reminder!
So, first things first – MIX #1 – Lye/Liquid solution – With Precaution!
– Measure your liquid you will be using to dissolve the lye and pour it into the plastic pitcher reserved for soap making only!
– Weigh your sodium hydroxide and slowly pour it into the liquid.
- Always pour the dry sodium hydroxide into the liquid, not the other way around. It could cause a dangerous reaction the other way around
Sodium Hydroxide ———————> Liquid
– Stir until desolved with the hard plastic spoon – Do not hover too closely or breath the fumes it puts off at first.
– Wait to cool.
When first mixed the solution will shoot up to over 200 degrees. We need it to cool down to around 120 degrees before we can use it. Just to note: Every recipe is different with the ideal temperature for that particular recipe.
The lye solution cools very slowly! You don’t really need to check the temperature for at least 30 minutes or so.
– Check temperature after 30 min with glass candy thermometer. Once you get a good reading remove the thermometer from the solution to cool back down for the next temp. check. * Rinse the thermometer after being in the lye/liquid mix and be aware of where you lay it.
– Check back every 15 min. or so to monitor the decline in temperature. (You can check the temperature whenever you feel like it. These times are just a general guideline for you)
* In the Meantime*
MIX #2 – Fats/Oils mixture
- While the lye/liquid solution is cooling go ahead and weigh out your fats and oils called for in the recipe for basic soap. Those should be your ingredients like shortening, olive, and coconut oils.
– Measure each fat/oil individually and place in your enamel/stainless steel pot on the stove. NO HEAT YET – we are simply preparing the oils to melt right now.
*Something to think on while your lye/liquid mix is cooling*
You can add things to your soap mixture as mentioned before in the optionall ingredients list of the recipe section of part 1 of this post. To go a little further explaining the process, again we deal with our method of soap making.
Cold Process Method means you will be adding the extra things at trace, then simply molding the mixture while still caustic. Additives are added at TRACE
- Hot Process Method allows you to double boil the caustic nature out of the soap lending a gentler base for your additives. Additives are added after DOUBLE BOILING
Some people believe adding things like milk or herbs when soap is still caustic, as in the cold process method, can burn or harm the additives. It is really a matter of opinion, but the hot process method insures your additives will be safe.
Also remember if you add anything fresh, such as vegetable/fruit juice or pulp you will also need to add a preservative. Here http://www.soap-making-essentials.com/preservatives-in-soap.html is a good article about preservatives in soap.
Here are some links to give you an idea of the countless ways to give your soap a boost and create your very own signature soap, custom designed by you, to suit your own personal senses and needs.
- Colorants: I’ve used anything from turmeric, vegetable pulp, coffee, and Rit Dye to color my soaps. To read a bit further: http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/soapmakingbasics/a/natcolors.htm for natural colorants and tons of links. http://www.brambleberry.com/Colorants-C181.aspx for complete list of colorants and ordering convenience.
- Moisture: I almost always add coco butter and sometimes goats milk for the added moisture they provide. To read more: http://snappyliving.com/homemade-soap-recipes/ for a list of neat moisturizing soap recipes to give you an idea of what you can add. http://naturalcrafts.glorybee.com/shop/Butters-and-Waxes/ an order supply list of butters and waxes.
- Exfoliants: The key to getting rid of that awful dead skin! I love to add exfoliants to my soaps. Check out Bramble Berry http://www.brambleberry.com/Exfoliants-C158.aspx for a great list and ordering of very unique exfoliants.
- Scents: You can’t use just any scent oil in your soap. You really must use only scents that are natural or made for soap making. To learn more: http://www.soap-making-resource.com/essential-oils-for-soap-making.html for a great list of essential oils for soap making. http://www.symphonyscents.com/catalog/ another site for ordering with a great list of fragrance oils.
- Vitamins: You can add anything from vitamin E oil, essential oils, clays, fruit or vegetable pulp, etc. to pump up your homemade soaps with extra vitamins and minerals. Here http://www.soap-making-essentials.com/using-fruitsveggies-in-soappreservative-questions.html is a good conversation about adding fruit/veggie pulp to your homemade soaps.
*BACK TO MAKING SOAP*
When your lye/liquid solution is about half way to the magic 120 degree pouring mark you will start to melt your fats/oils mix.
– Turn on the burner under your fats/oils pot to a low to medium low temperature. The idea is to melt them slowly so no bubbling of hot oils. Stir with your wooden or hard plastic spoon.
– When it is all melted together turn off the burner
– Let cool.
– Check temperature with the other glass candy thermometer periodically as the oils cool. You are trying to get at that magic 120 degree mark, just like the lye/liquid mix.
NOW STARTS THE JUGGLE!
You need both your lye/liquid mixture and your fats/oils mixture to both be at 120 degrees before combining the two (as per THIS recipe). The oils cool more quickly than the lye, which is why you start the lye solution first.
It is better to try to juggle the fat/oils mixture on the stove than to juggle the dangerous and toxic lye/liquid solution.
- You can always re-heat the fats/oils pot
- Have a shallow cold-water bath with ice cubes in your sink to quickly cool the fats/oils pot if needed. (do not let the fats/oils pot float or take on water)
You don’t want to put the lye/liquid pitcher into the cold-water bath, but, I have put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes, and only when it is very near the 120 degree mark. I don’t know for sure but I don’t think cooling your lye solution to quickly would be a good idea for the whole time. But to juggle with the temps right around pour time is ok. Just don’t let anyone near the fridge while you are doing this!!!
You can’t really re-heat the lye though, except maybe in a hot-water bath, but that is not recommended. Do all the juggling with the fats/oils mixture while the lye/liquid solution temperature is dropping towards 120 degrees.
WHEN YOU REACH MAGIC 120 for both mixtures
– Pour the lye/liquid mix SLOWLY from the pitcher into the fats/oils mix pot on the stove, burner OFF.
– STIR STIR STIR. I suggest stirring for a good five minutes to ensure a thorough mix.
You are done! Just kidding! No you’re not! BUT, if you were making soap the cold process, old-fashioned way this would be the last step before hours of stirring .
Ain’t nobody got time for that! Well, I take that back, I have done this, and it is a really good experience, but only once or twice. That is a lot of stirring!
I’m taking you on a much quicker, more modern way to getting your soap out of the mold and onto your skin, which is the hot process method. The next steps we will be taking are
- Preparing your molds and additives
- Double Boiling (hot processing)
I regret to inform you though, I feel that two of these steps deserve their own separate posts. I will tell you about preparing your molds and adding your additives in the Double Boiling/Hot Processing post.
To continue making your soap please see the future Blender Soap posts and Double Boiling/Hot Processing Soap posts that I will link to this page when they are published.
If you want to continue to make your soap without using the Blender Soap method or the Hot Processing method you can!
– Continue to stir for an hour or more until you get to trace. That is the indention on the mixture when tapped with an object. I have never achieved a good trace hand stirring, but when I just plain got tired of stirring (after two hours) I went ahead and mixed in my additives and poured the soap into its mold. It turned out just fine.
– If you do this, please remember the mixture is still caustic and will burn you even after you un-mold it. It will take 4-6 weeks curing time to lose the caustic quality.
Please let me know if you have any questions so far. I am excited to talk with anyone about making soap. Please remember to share this article with your friends and family. Until next time…