Getting It Together
So ya wanna make soap?
Ok, I’m going to try to break it down for you. It really is too much for one post so, I give you part I now. Take the time in between to gather your supplies. I will publish part II as my next week’s post. It is an involved and lengthy process so I hope you have the time and the patience. It is well worth it in the end, I promise you that.
- A Little History: Making soap goes back to the cave men days when they would wash their clothes near volcanic ash, and I guess, on days the water was extra hot, and there was animal fat in the ‘clothes’ (skins) they would get bubbles and noticeably cleaner clothes.
See, ash can become lye, a major ingredient in soap formally known as Sodium Hydroxide.
A word about Lye:
You used to be able to buy pure Sodium Hydroxide in the grocery store aisle by the name of Red Devil Lye. It was used as a very effective drain opener. I’m pretty sure thanks to bomb making and meth making it can no longer be sold over the counter. Now you have to order it. The website I use is WONDERFUL! They sell any and everything soap making. Check out aaa-chemicals.com . Just know, it is highly corrosive!!! When working with lye it is a good idea to: use rubber gloves, maybe goggles or glasses, and newspaper to protect your counter tops. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Soapmaking is a time-honored tradition and necessity. The pioneers of America did it. England has its fine triple-milled soaps, but either way, the cave man did it first! It is a skill worth learning, and if you’re like me, you will fall in love with it.
I’m going to try to break the steps down for you and simply as I can. Just follow along with me and by the end of this, you should have your own, custom made hand-milled soap!
How do you make soap? A quick explaination:
There are two ways to make soap besides the melt and pour glycerin soap you can buy at your craft store.
- Cold Process: Making the soap all the way to trace, mixing additives, then molding, still caustic.
(The advantages of Cold Process are, they are easier to work with when re-milling (to make double and triple milled soaps) and they are usually a harder bar. The draw backs? It takes about 6 weeks to cure (release all causticness of the lye). I’m impatient. 6 weeks is a long time)!
- Hot process: Making the soap all the way to trace, then double boiling it for 1hr, then mix additives, then mold, caustic-free.
(The advantages of Hot Process are, the double boiling removes all caustic-ness from the soap, allowing you to use it as soon as it dries. The draw backs are it takes more equipment (the canning pot), and it adds about an 1 1/2 hours to the process time. Still, I like to use my soaps immediately).
We will be using the Hot Process method.
Gather your equipment . You will need:
- A Plastic Pitcher: for mixing the lye and liquid. Get one that holds at least 3-4 cups of liquid. I like the hard plastic of tupperware.
- Scales: digital are best, but I still use my dial scales. They were the first set I bought not knowing if I would love soap or not. They have not failed me yet!
- A Large Enamel/Stainless Steal Pot: for melting the fats/oils. Make sure it is big enough to hold the fats plus the lye mixture comfortably and also small enough to fit down into a water bath canner. I just use an old stew pot. will still fit inside a cold-water bath canner pot. I like enamel mixing with lye more than I like metal. DO NOT USE ALUMINUM!
- Two Glass Candy Thermometers: get solid glass, not the kind with the cap on the top. Water can get into these when cleaning.
- Two Long Plastic or Wooden Spoons: I like plastic
- Extra Large Water Bath Canning Pot: preferably with the basket, or use some canning rings to hold the lg enamel/stainless steel pot off the bottom.
- Some kind of Mold. It can be hard plastic, pvc pipe, wood, etc. Anything but aluminum or something hard to release the soap from the mold. They sell special molds for soap making. I got the hub to build the one you see here out of wood and a couple of long screws. The sides release from the mold, allowing for easy removal of the soap. I have two and that is enough for me and my family.
- Blender or Stick Blender: unless you have an extra hour or three.
- Rubber Gloves, Goggles, and Newspaper: unless you’re hard-headed like me and forgo the precautions! Just be really careful when dealing with the lye!
I got all of my equipment from the thrift store up the road and Wal-Mart, except for the canner pot. That was my moms that I lovingly inherited.
Now for the most anticipated recipe and list of ingredients to gather:
Basic Soap Recipe
6 oz Coconut Oil
6 oz Olive Oil (the non-virgin kind)
5 oz of Vegetable Shortening (try to get the kind that is made from only one oil, although mine is cottonseed oil and soy bean oil) this only matters if you’re being creative and using the lye to fat ratio online calculator.
- 2.6 oz Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)
- 1 cup Distilled Water
- scented oils (essential or made for soap)
- extra moisture
- exfoliants or herbs
Ok, so that’s the end of part 1. Please let me know if I have maybe left something out. I’ve been doing this for about six years and I may intend to say something, but actually only say it in my head and not on the instructions. Don’t judge me! 🙂 I will have the rest for you next week, I promise! So go check out your local thrift stores and order some Sodium Hydroxide and I will see you all next week!