Soap Making 101
Article ID: 13462
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: October 18th. 2009
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Homemade soap is one of the sweetest, most personal gifts that you can give! Not only are the ingredients pure, natural, and good for your skin; I also believe that personal energy is infused within the product as well!
There are a few precautionary steps one must take before actually making the soap:
First—Make sure no young children are running about! You will be working with lye—a highly caustic substance—and the safety of little ones must be of utmost importance!
Second—Have all of your materials out and assembled. Sometimes soap “happens” fast, and you will NOT want to be scrambling around looking for a certain fragrance oil when your soap is at full trace! Trust me! :)
Third—My readiness includes having my 8”8 pan lined with plastic wrap. I will be pouring the soap into this later, and the lining helps in removing the bars from the pan.
Fourth—Fill your kitchen sink with warm, soapy water that you have added the ½ cup of vinegar into. Lye is highly caustic, but vinegar instantly neutralizes lye. If you get a bit of burn on your hands because of the lye, just put them into the vinegar water. Some people with sensitive skin like using plastic gloves when working with lye. Also, as you finish using each piece of equipment that has come into contact with the lye, just put it in the sink for instant neutralizing and easy cleanup!
OK! Kids gone or asleep? Materials ready? Pan lined? Sink full? You have thoroughly read this at least once before beginning the process? :)
Let’s make soap!
2 glass measuring cups—one 2 cup and one 4 cup
1 8”8 glass baking pan
1 large mixing spoon
1, preferably 2 thermometers that have a range from at least 80 to 220
Sink or washtub
Scale that has ounce measurements
6 ounces of distilled water
½ cup of vinegar
2.3 ounces of Sodium Hydroxide (lye)
10 ounces of olive oil
6 ounces of coconut oil
1 tbsp. herb of choice
1 tbsp. essential oil of choice
I like making herb filled soap bars. My favorite herbs to use are patchouli leaves and peppermint leaves. I personally don’t recommend using lavender flowers, as they tend to look like little bugs in the soap! Yuck!
Anyway, I bless the herbs and put them in 6 ounces of distilled water in the smaller of the measuring cups. It is important to use distilled water as city water can sometimes leave soap bars with a dusty white film. I then add exactly 2.3 ounces of the lye.
Stand back as you pour the lye into the water---do not splash—and DO NOT BREATHE the fumes! Stir until the lye has dissolved, add the dried herbs, and put a thermometer into the lye water. It’s amazing how the chemical reaction will cause the temperature to shoot up to approx. 220 degrees!
At this point fill your second sink or washtub with very cold water about halfway. Put the glass with the lye infusion into the tub, as you want to bring the temperature down to 100.Be careful for no spillage. You then take your larger glass measuring cup and put 10 ounces of olive oil and 6 ounces of coconut oil into it.
Heat it on a very low temp until it is 100 and then “hold” it at 100 by putting it on the very edge of the turned-off burner, if you can. Your goal is to get both mixtures to a degree of 100 simultaneously!
*IF Your oil cools down too quickly simply put it back on the burner, very low heat, until 100 again.
*IF your lye cools down to less than 100 degrees too soon put the measuring cup in a bowl of hot water. This will bring the infusion back up to 100. Never put a lye infusion on a burner!
*****NEVER***EVER***EVER put lye infusion on a heat source. ONLY use the water bath method.
OK! Congratulations! Both mixtures are at 100! (This becomes easier with practice—promise!) You then pour the lye water into the oils. Never, ever, ever pour the oils into the lye! I am certain catastrophic things will happen! So remember this—always pour lye into oil!
The next part can be the longest. Some think it tedious, some relaxing. You stir, stir, stir, blending the lye with e oils until it begins to thicken and come to “trace”. While you are stirring, a process called “saponification” is taking place. The caustic substances and oils go through a chemical change and becomes soap. After 5 minutes or so you will begin to smell a rather distinct, soapy smell. Cool, eh? The stirring process can be tricky—sometimes a matter of minutes, sometimes (ow!) over an hour.
“Trace” is when you take a spoonful of the soap, gently drip it over the surface, and it holds the drizzled pattern for a moment before sinking into the rest of the soap. When your soap is still quite thin and tracing very lightly (pattern sinks in quick) you then add your essential or fragrance oils. Any sooner and the smells that you desire will evaporate from the soap. Light trace holds the fragrance and gives you enough stir time to thoroughly mix the oils within the soap. I believe sometimes adding certain oils helps the soap come to a full trace quicker!
At full trace, your soap will be thick and the drizzled pattern will pretty much remain on the soaps surface. At this point, you then pour your soap evenly into the lined pan and cover tightly with more plastic wrap. Put the pan somewhere warm where it will not be disturbed. (Mine goes on top of my refrigerator.) Put a towel over the pan—this is called insulation—and necessary for the curing and hardening of your soap!
After 24 hours, check your soap. Has it hardened considerably? Then take a sharp knife and cut into 9 bars! Do not remove the bars from the pan. Put the plastic wrap back over it and put back in place to cure.
If your soap is still somewhat pasty in consistency—like cutting into brownies that aren’t quite done—just keep checking it for the next day or two to make sure it is hard enough to cut into clean lines.
Soap takes approximately 3-4 weeks for the lye to change and the soap to cure. The longer that you let your soap cure, the harder and more long lasting of a bar of soap that you will have. To check the soap for readiness: “Taste” the soap after 3 weeks with the tip of your tongue (no naughty words first please!) . If it “bites” then the soap hasn’t fully cured. If it is rather sweet and soapy, then voila! The soap is DONE!
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