My friend Lynda makes the most wonderful soaps, lotions, chapstick, and candles. Here is a look at the soap making process. Enjoy Lynda’s post. And thanks so much Lynda for writing this! You can order her home-made soaps, candles, lotions, chapstick, etc. . . by contacting her by email. firstname.lastname@example.org
Saponification is the chemical reaction of a fat (acid) with an alkali (base) to form soap. In doing a bit of research I found that this process can get VERY technical VERY quickly, so I’ll try to keep it simple. I definitely don’t keep all the chemistry in mind when making a new batch of soap. I just mix the stuff together and it works! 🙂
It’s kind of weird to think of oils and fats as being acids, but that’s what they are. To be more specific they are triglycerides which are 3 fatty acids attached to one glycerol molecule. The amount of lye (base) used to saponify these fats depends on which fatty acids they are composed of. Each fatty acid gives a different characteristic to the finished bar of soap. Some produce a harder bar, others have conditioning properties and still others give a wonderful later. The finished soap contains the soap (a salt) and glycerine which is a terrific moisturizer.
Enough overview perhaps. 🙂 On to the actual process of soap-making, cold process style!
I’m a little more organized now than when I started with my first batch…which mercifully turned out and had me hooked! I collect my equipment and ingredients and make sure I have everything. More than once I’ve started measuring oils and find I’m short on something so have to adjust the recipe.
EQUIPMENT: stainless steel pot, long-handled plastic spoons, old plastic pitcher, kitchen scale, thermometer, soap molds, spray oil and that most marvellous invention known as a stick blender or hand blender. (That saves me LOTS of time and energy!)
INGREDIENTS: 3 pounds of oils and fats (My combination is typically 26 oz Crisco shortening, 14 oz coconut oil, 4 oz palm kernel flakes and 4 oz Shea butter.), 12 – 18 oz liquid and about 6.75 oz lye (sodium hydroxide) beads. Everything is measured by weight. I like to add fragrance or essential oils, finely ground oatmeal, powdered goat milk or anything else that sounds like it might make a nice bar of soap.
FIRST I melt the fats (except the Shea butter) in the stainless steel pot and try to keep the temperature at about 100 – 105 F. (I read somewhere that the soap will trace more quickly and if using liquid goat milk it will not make the soap so orange if kept at a lower temperature.)
WHEN the fats are melted I take my plastic pitcher filled with my liquid of choice outside along with the measured lye beads. Carefully pour the lye beads into the liquid. Stir. (Apparently a lot of damage including volcanic-like eruptions can occur if a liquid is poured into lye. I don’t plan on trying this just to prove it. I’ll believe what I’ve read!) As the lye reacts with the liquid it rapidly heats up, usually hotter than I need it so I have an ice water bath ready to get the temperature down to between 100 – 105 F.
THEN pour the lye solution into the melted fats without splashing. The lye is extremely caustic. (I try to keep a vinegar and water solution (1:10) on hand so I can splash it on if I do get some lye on my skin. Vinegar is an acid so it neutralizes the lye.) Stir with the stick blender until the soap thickens. This is called “trace” and takes about 10 minutes for a batch this size. I’ve never tried stirring with the spoon. Just sounds likes a lot of unnecessary work! 🙂
ONCE the soap is at trace I add the fragrance, ground oatmeal or herbs and whatever else strikes my fancy and pour the soap into a greased mold. I use a plastic mold sprayed with oil most often, but have used a cardboard box lined with a plastic bag and sprayed with oil. There are some really neat wooden and silicone molds as well.
After the soap has set for 24 hours I unmold it (sometimes putting it in the freezer for a while makes that job a little easier) and cut it. Then the bars air dry for 3 – 4 weeks before I label them and they are ready to use.
www.millersoap.com –a wonderful website with lots of ideas and recipes for making soap
www.canis-art.com/soaping.htm –a delightful illustration of the soap-making process using wolves, fluffy bunnies, sheep and dogs!
www.wholesalesuppliesplus.com –the supplier I get most of my ingredients from
www.essentialdepot.com –where I purchase lye beads (sodium hydroxide)
Again. Thanks for writing this post. And let me add that I LOVE Lynda’s soaps! She hosts a Tea each Fall where we enjoy her delicious delicacies and tea. She also has her soaps and candles available for purchase. Once I decided that since I was going to a Formal Tea, I should dress the part, so I came in a wig, all my jewelry, and a hat–of course! I can’t find a pictue, but I sure had fun. I also sampled every delicacy–at least 4 times. MMMMmmmmmM!