Have you ever thought about making soap? I used to say "I'm going to learn to make soap someday," and finally I did. I studied it first, to see if it looked like something I could do, and everything I read made it sound like something a decent cook would know how to do. The first step is to find a good book to show you the steps and give different recipes, the second is to gather the supplies and ingredients, the third is to measure the weights of each ingredient and bring it to the right temperature, and the fourth is to follow the directions. There are additional easy things like taking temps, adding essential oils and blending.
If you can cook and know how to follow directions... You could easily make soap!
I followed the steps I read about in a variety of soap making books, many borrowed from the library or bought second hand. I wrote out a list of all the supplies I needed, it took some time to gather all those supplies and it took a small investment (like all my interests.) I made soap, laundry detergent and a shampoo bar. I made some mistakes along the way, especially in the beginning and I'm still learning now. Making soap is fun and it's easy, and the end product is truly the best, you will love it, and so will all of your friends and family.
A batch of lemon grass soap made with my daughter on Wednesday. We are making soap for our own home use as well as for Christmas gifts this time of year. If you want to make you own soap you will need to know where to buy your supplies from, look locally, search online. In the Seattle area I buy my soap-making supplies through Zenith Supplies, this is a good place to buy from when just starting out making smaller batches of soap. As I make more soap there's another store that sells in bulk at wholesale prices, I plan to check into their pricing and see how they compare. For the average soap maker in the Seattle area looking for soap-making supplies Zenith is a great place to find it all, and they sell online too.
Basic Soap Making, All the skills you need to get started. There are lots of pictures that help show every step all the way through. It shows how to make wooden soap boxes, swirled soap, and liquid soaps. Lot's of good stuff here in an easy to understand book on basic soap.
The recipe that I'm going to share today and the one I've used the most so far is a recipe from a pamphlet that Zenith gave me when I went in after my first batch disaster, the one I chronicled in the beginning of the soap chapter. Then I made my second batch and succeeded with this recipe. So that means it's easy and beginner proof.
You will also need something to pour your soap in to cure for 24 to 48 hours. You can use a heavy duty cardboard box, as long as it will hold up to some heat. Placing a parchment liner, shiny side toward the soap will help to remove the soap easily. Measure and fold the paper, I show how I do this in an earlier post along with helpful pictures, clamp the paper on so it doesn't crumple when pouring into.
Basic Soap Recipe
24 oz olive oil
24 oz coconut oil
38 oz palm oil
12 oz lye
32 oz water
4 or more oz scent
1. While preheating your fats and oils start your lye solution.
2. Weigh out your preheated fats and oils.
3. Prepare your mold or molds (I do this before I start)
4. When all ingredients are around 98 degrees add scent pour lye solution slowy into your oils and fats, stir constantly with a wooden spoon. If you have an electric hand held blender, this is the time to use it, blend until the soap thickens and tracing occurs, then quickly pour into molds.
5. Cover with a towel and keep undisturbed in a warm place for 24 hours.
6. Remove from mold, cut and cure for 4 weeks.
An important note is to never add the lye to the water, but slowly pour the cold water over the lye granules, while stirring continuously. A chemical reaction occurs right away, gloves, a mask, goggles and a towel over the face are needed as the fumes are strong and can be overwhelming. The temperature will immediately rise to around 160 degrees, then will need to cool down to 98 to 100 degrees, just like the fats and oils will.
Measuring the fats and oil is the next step, we are using Palm Oil, Coconut Oil, and Olive Oil. Once measured pour them into a pan over low to medium heat. Heat the solid oils of Palm and Coconut, once they are melted add the olive oil. This melted oil mixture now needs to cool down to 98 to 100 degrees. This is the trick in soap-making, timing the lye water solution and fat and oil mixture to coordinate their temperatures.
Once both the lye/ water solution and the oils both reach between 98 and 100 degrees this is the time to mix the two together. If you're having a tough time coordinating the temperatures of the oils and lye solution
use a hot or cold water bath, this will really help. When the temperature is reached in both, first pour the oils into the pan then slowly pour in the water lye solution slowly, mix with a wooden spoon.
After the oil and lye/water mixture is mixed, I switch to a hand-held blender, one we found at Goodwill.
This was a tip from Kathy Miller's soap-making website. It is a real amazing time saver and works wonders at bringing the soap quickly to the trace stage, you also have to be really careful to keep it under the soap liquid and not splash, this is an exciting part, with the mixer rapidly blending, I only blend for around 4 to 5 seconds at a time so I don't burn out the engine of the hand blender. I've read that can happen if you keep it running non-stop while you're blending. I take a break and just use it to stir then blend some more until it reaches the trace stage. My daughter already added the lemon grass essential oil and is now adding the yellow mica for a beautiful golden yellow color.
In the photo below the soap is just starting to trace,
we stop and pour it quickly into the mold.
The soap in the mold needs to have a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the top and a towel laid over it to help keep the heat in, set in a warm spot for 24 hours.
It was nice to have Tessa and Kaley help out with holding baby Roman while my oldest daughter Christina and I made our batch of lemon grass soap. Pictured below is Kaley snuggling him in a comfy chair by the woodstove.
We worked at making soap on Wednesday and on Thursday we removed the soap from the mold, we cut it by hand, and will let it cure, this batch made 21 bars of wonderful soap. In soap-making you can use any variety of essential oil and create different types of soap. You can also use any oil or mixture of oils, lanolin, shea butter, cocoa butter, palm kernal, animal fat, and even vegetable shortening. In mixing my own recipes I go to soap calc and formulate the correct measurements and lye/water solution. Soap Calc is one of the best things I've ever found to help soap-makers, it is simple to use and once you try it you will be set free to create any combination of soap that suites you and your skin.
Once you walk through the soap-making door the possibilities are endless. I'm continuing to make batches of soap throughout the week, and next week my daughter and I will be making labels for our soap, along with making tall tapered beeswax candles.