Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Soap Making - Part I

Organic soaps are not cheap! And I am married to an organic snob who also has smell and chemical sensitivities.

So I set out to make my own. Well, actually I thought about it a lot, like almost a year. Then about two months ago, I tried my first batch the old fashioned way - by hand stirring. I missed the point of trace and my first batch failed. I was so depressed over this failure that it took me almost two months to try again. Last Wednesday, in fact.

All of my reading about soap making and that failure resulted in me buying a hand mixer. What a difference!

Without further ado, I'll talk about how to make your own soap. Since this is lengthy, I'll break it down over a few days ending on Friday for the Craft Corner post.

I started by just googling "how to make organic soap". Tons and tons of info out there and everyone pretty much says the same things. Then I googled soap supplies and essentials oils based on the ingredients I needed and found a plethora of sites for these as well.

I should add a note here that I did not want to use Palm oils due to the controversy over that and I only wanted essential oils because my BN and Pete are so sensitive to smells and chemicals.

Here's the list of ingredients and necessary items: There are wonderful, professional molds and accessories out there. I wanted to keep cost down so got a little inventive.

Necessary Items:
Mold (I bought very small shallow cat litter pans from Wally)
Huge glass Pyrex measuring cup (to mix lye)
Freezer paper
Double sided tape
Hand mixer
Cookie cooling racks
Piece of cardboard to cover mold
Scale that measures in ounces

36 oz Olive oil
12 oz Coconut oil
26 oz Soybean oil
14 oz Canola oil
24 oz Distilled water
12 oz Lye (used this site for calculations)

At this point, I lined my litter box fancy soap mold with freezer paper and used the tape to hold it in place. I wasn't as neat as you should be. Just wasn't feeling it that day.


Then I donned my gloves for safety and measured 24 oz water in the Pyrex measuring cup and 12 oz lye on the scale. **VERY IMPORTANT** Lye is caustic. It will burn your skin, eyes, lungs, etc. Wear gloves, goggles and work in a ventilated room. Read cautions about lye that come with it.

Okay now that you are too scared to go on, pour the lye into the water (not the other way around) and stir for at least 30 seconds to make sure you don't get any lumps. Here's a before and after of the lye process.


See how cloudy the water is when the lye crystals are first poured in. I recommend holding your breath during this time of mixing. This stuff is CAUSTIC and can burn you internally.

lye-tempNow notice how clear it is and WOWZER check out that temperature. 180 degrees! This stuff reacts chemically with the water and gets HOT HOT HOT and still CAUSTIC at this point.

The lye-water needs to get back down to a temp of around 100-110 degrees. I mix my lye solution in my deep kitchen sink to catch any splatters, because I can open the window right above the sink for ventilation, and because I can stop up the sink and add water and ice to help the lye cool faster.

While the lye is cooling down, I use my scale to measure out any solid oils, like coconut. I use a big stock pot to melt the oils on low heat.


With my solid oils melting, I use the scale to measure the remaining oils. You must use a scale for this process. The measurements needed for the lye and oils are by weight NOT volume.


This has gotten long, so I'll stop here and pick it up again tomorrow. Start googling and reading up on soap making. It's not as hard as it looks and the results will get you excited - I promise.


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