Soap making can be quite easy a task or you can make it as complex as you want it to be. The beauty of making your own soap is that you can use your own type and variety of ingredients and the fragrances you desire. You can make few tweaks and experiments. Majority of soap recipes is measured using ounces or grams and ingredients must be measured to achieve optimum results. I have discovered a way to make the process easier by converting the ingredients to cups and portions of a cup. It’s simpler and you can achieve the same result repeatedly.
How To Make Bar Soap Using The Cold Process
- Use of Lye (sodium hydroxide)
The only thing you can’t substitute when making homemade soap is lye. If you do no use lye, you are making a detergent. You should use every time 100% sodium hydroxide, or crystalline lye. Liquid lye or drain cleanser such as Drano should never be substituted; as this may cause inaccurate measurements or have tiny bits of metal in it. Which you want to avoid at all cost. Although soap must use lye as a key ingredient, no lye remains after saponification (the chemical reaction between fatty acids in oil and an alkali base in lye).
Lye is caustic, it can eat through fabrics and cause burns and irritation on your skin. You need to be extremely careful when using lye. Use gloves, eye protection or a mask if required. When you mix lye with water, it’ll heat up and fume for approximately 30 to 60 seconds. Make sure you add lye to water and not the other way round and begin stirring immediately. If you wait and allow clumping on the bottom, it could all heat up at once and become a hazard.
Herbs should be dried. The popular kind is lavender and chamomile. I particularly prefer lemongrass and oak moss though when not mixed together. Use about a quarter cup of dried plant material per batch of this size.
- Essential Oils
These are from plants. They are primarily from the roots, stems, flowers or seeds. Fragrance oils can be a mixture of essential oils or they can be produced artificially. Ensure you know what you have; oils can be used at the rate of 15-20 drops, or about a teaspoon per batch of this size.
- 2/3 cup coconut oil – to produce good lather
- 2/3 cup olive oil – which makes a hard and mild bar
- 2/3 cup other liquid oil – like almond oil, grape seed, sunflower or safflower oil
- 1/4 cup lye – also called 100% sodium hydroxide
- 3/4 cup cool water – use distilled or purified
Protect your work area with newspaper. Put on gloves and other protective equipment. Measure your water into quart canning jar. Have a spoon available. Measure the lye, ensuring you have exactly 1/4 cup. Gently pour the lye in the water, stirring as you do. Stand away from the jar while you stir to prevent inhaling the fumes. When the water begins to clear; you can leave it sitting while you progress to the next step. In the pint jar, add your 3 oils together; they should make a pint. Heat in the microwave for approximately a minute, or put the jar containing the oils in a pan of water and heat. Check the temperature of the oils, it should be around 120 degrees. The lye would have come down to about 120 degrees by then also. Wait for both to cool to a temperature of about 95 and 105 degrees. This is important for soap making. At a temperature too low, it will come together more rapidly, but will be coarse and crumbly.
When both the lye and the oils are at the desired temperature, pour the oils into a mixing bowl. Add the lye gently, stirring until perfectly mixed. Stir with your hand for a complete five minutes. It is vital to get as much of the lye in contact with the soap as permissible. After about 5 minutes, you can continue stirring or use an immersion blender. The soap lightens in color and becomes thick. When you achieve a vanilla pudding look, it’s at a trace and you are ready to go.
Add your herbs, essential oils and other additions at this point; stir rigorously to combine. Pour the mixture into molds and cover with a plastic wrap. Set it up in a towel and wrap it up. This helps keep the residual heat in and begin the saponification process; which is simply the base ingredient becoming soap.
After a 24 hour period, check your soap, if it’s still warm and soft, allow to cool for another 12 to 24 hours. When it becomes cold and firm, Turn it out on a piece of parchment paper or a baking rack. If you are using a loaf pan as a mold, at this point, you should cut into bars. Allow the soap to cure for about 4 weeks or thereabout. Do well to turn it over once every week to expose all the sides to the atmosphere. When your soap is cured, wrap it in a wax paper or place in an airtight container. Handmade soap produces its own glycerin, which pulls moisture from the air; therefore it should be wrapped to prevent it from attracting dust, debris with the moisture.
After the soap making process, ensure you clean your equipment that has been exposed to Lye. Lye can be neutralized using white vinegar; then the equipment can be washed as usual. For residual lye, allow to sit for several days for it to become a soap to allow for easy washing; as you could burn your hands trying to remove residual lye just after making soap.