Basic Soap Making

July 26, 2015 , In: , With: No Comments

OK, so the warning now. This is NOT a project for kids. Not even ones that kids should be helping out with. It involves boiling oils and caustic liquids, and is in NO WAY a kid-friendly craft.

It’s super cool though.

So this is a very basic intro to making soap. The soap from this recipe is a body soap, but can be used in making laundry detergent, dish soap, and much more. You can also add a million scents, additives, scrubby things, colours, and so on to make it cool. More on fancy soapy things at the end.

Tools you’ll need:

There are lots of recipes for soap, and I’ll include a few of my faves at the bottom, but the steps are always the same. A fat is mixed with a caustic agent (usually lye) at high temperatures. Then, something sciency happens called Saponification, and it turns to soap.

Step 1: Mix water and lye

Mmmm, caustic goodness

Mmmm, caustic goodness

In every recipe, there will be an amount of water, and another amount of caustic lye. Now, mixing water and lye causes an exothermic reaction, which can cause the water to boil, and the resulting liquid will give off hazardous fumes, and is corrosive to skin.

So, yeah, don’t be stupid about this part. Do this in a safe area, with nothing nearby, have good ventilation, and be careful with the liquid.

Measure the correct amount of cold water, and leave it to sit somewhere safe. Pour the pre-measured lye into the water, stir it once, put the thermometer in it, and LEAVE IT ALONE until it reaches the desired temperature. Stay away from the fumes, and just let it cool down. DO NOT pour the water into the lye, as you get a weird chemical volcano thing that is just a terrible, horrible, no good, really bad thing.

If you happen to get some of the lye on you and it’s dry, just brush it off. If you get the liquid on you, you can neutralize it with vinegar, then wash with hot soapy water. Really, all this sounds terrifying, but it’s not bad. It’s like cleaning with bleach. As long as you don’t try to inhale it, drink it, or pour it on your skin, you’ll be fine. I’ve never had an issue, just don’t do anything stupid.

Step 2: Mix fats

All the fats. Looks... fatty.

All the fats. Looks… fatty.

There are lots of fats you can use with soap: Coconut oil, Palm Oil, Olive Oil are pretty common. If you use palm oil, please only purchase the certified sustainable oil. Most palm oil farms are destroying peat bogs to plant palm, and it’s ruining a fragile ecosystem. So, if you want to use it, shop smart!

In every recipe, there is usually a mixture of fats. Measure them out with your scale, then put them in the pan and heat them up. Using your thermometer, carefully raise the temperature until you get to the desired temperature, then take the pan off the heat.

Step 3: Mix hot fats and hot lye

Once the fat and lye are the right temperature (within 5 degrees, anyway), pour the lye mixture into the fats. Immediately you will see the super cool sciency thing, as the fats turn opaque and thicken. SCIENCE! It works bitches!

Step 4: Stir for an annoyingly long time

As the mixture cools, it will thicken. Keep stirring it as it cools, and stir until you can drip some soap on the top, and the drip stays there and doesn’t blend in. This takes a while. Go to Netflix. I’ll wait.

Step 5: Add the things!

If you’re adding essential oils, pomace, colour, etc., this is the time. Stir it in evenly. For a fancy, two-colour effect, pour the soap into 2 containers before you stir it, mix colour into 1, and gently combine them together. You get a cool, marbled colour effect.

Step 6: Pour into molds

Mouldy soap! Moulded soap?

Mouldy soap! Moulded soap?

Pour the soap into whatever mold you are using. Put it somewhere safe and dry (and away from kids and curious pets) for 24-48 hours for it to cure. Once it’s completely dry, take it out of the molds. The soap may stick somewhat, so you can throw the molds into the freezer for a few hours, and it will help the soap come out cleanly.

Step 7: Wait an annoyingly long time

The soap at this point is still slightly caustic, so it has to sit and cure for a while. Usually 3-4 weeks. This is why it’s a good idea to do a large batch, so you have 20 bars of soap waiting for you when you’re done.

YAY, you’re finished!

Things you can add to soaps:

Unmoulded soap, ready to cure!

Unmoulded soap, ready to cure!

Scents; essential oils are best. Perfumes are bad because they are chemical and tend to contain a lot of alcohol and can curdle the soap. Scrubs; if you want a really scrubby soap, you can add pomace powder (REALLY damned scrubby, good for hands, not for bodies), oatmeal (less scrubby, still somewhat hurty for a body soap), coffee grounds (least scrubby, also deodorizing). You can add powder or liquid colours designed for soap making, but not regular food colouring, as it can dye skin, and doesn’t bond well with oil. Flowers, herbs, citrus peels… there’s lots of possibilities to make super gourmet soap, or you can leave it as is for a gentle, unscented, body soap for sensitive skin. These make AWESOME homemade gifts, especially for a baby shower, as gentle soaps for babies are SUPER EXPENSIVE, YO!

So, recipes:

Basic Soap (from Cranberry Lane – great local beauty products supplier)
598 g Coconut Oil
296 g Vegetable Shortening
30 g Beeswax
58 g Avocado Oil
150 g Lye
368 ml Distilled WaterOil Temperature 55°C (130°F)
Lye/Water Temperature 55°C (130°F)
Cure Time 3 Weeks
Trace Time 15 Minutes
Mould Time 24 Hours
Castile Soap
1417g Olive Oil
425g Cold Water
178g Lye
*note – olive oil soap will be much softer, and not suds as much, but is SUPER gentle on skin
Oil Temperature: 110 degrees F
Lye Temperature: 105 degrees F
Cure Time 4 weeks
Mould time 12 hours
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