Saturday, March 15, 2014

I Make It Myself: Soap

I made soap with two friends today and they said, "you're going to write this down, right?" 

So here is my "I make it myself" post about soap making.  Nothing fancy here, you can find several well-done videos of the process, but I will tell you how I do it.

First I clean all dishes out of my sink and move all food, salt and pepper shakers, appliances, etc. to the other end of the counter so that I have a large clear area to work in. 

What you will need:

A large bowl, a small bowl, a plastic bucket, a large pot, a large spoon with long handle, a plastic long-handled spatula, a digital scale, a stick blender, goggles, gloves, and a mold of some sort.  I also keep an instant-read thermometer handy in case I want to check the oil and lye temps. 

You will need a soap recipe and the ingredients associated with that recipe.  I like recipes that don't call for a gazillion ingredients, so I am not continually running out of this obscure oil but still have plenty of this other oil. You should know, in soap-making, that the oils are not interchangeable.  If you are out of something, you cannot just substitute another.  This is chemistry, not cooking.

If you google recipes,  you can find many, many soap-making recipes.

Here is the soap recipe we used today:

16 oz Olive Oil
16 oz Palm Oil
16 oz Coconut Oil
15.8 oz frozen goat milk (or distilled water)
6.9 oz sodium hydroxide lye

Here's the recipe I used for the shampoo bars I am making in the pictures. 

I have another basic homemade soap recipe that I use when I have collected sufficient lard from my bacon rendering. 

Let's get started.

Measure everything carefully!  If you are off by .1 of an oz, it is no big deal, but overall inaccuracy can lead to all kinds of issues!  

Measure your frozen goat milk or distilled water into the LARGE bowl.  Freezing the milk keeps the chemical reaction from the lye from getting too hot and keeps the milk from curdling.

THEN PUT ON GOGGLES AND GLOVES and wear long sleeves!  

Measure lye into the OTHER SMALL metal bowl. I bought this lye from, great prices, expensive shipping.   I believe you can use "Roebic" lye which is available at some local hardware stores.  Make sure it says 100% lye.

Note picture is wrong type of lye!  Buy SODIUM Hydroxide.

Pour LYE INTO/ONTO FROZEN MILK a little at a time, stirring to melt milk and dissolve lye. I usually go outside to do this because the smell can get overpowering inside.  
Set aside where no-one or nothing can get into it. 

NOTE:  DO NOT pour liquid into lye!  Pour lye into liquid.  

Measure your oils into plastic container.   I zero out the scale after adding each oil. Microwave enough to melt solid oils - about 1 - 2 minutes in my microwave.  Oils and lye mixture should be within 10º  of each other (about 90-100º each).  You can also put the oils in your pot and melt on the stove.

Pour oils into a tall metal pot (I find this prevents splashing out) and then slowly add lye mixture and stir with metal spoon.  Begin using fully-submerged stick blender to mix until mixture reaches "trace" (pudding like consistency).  This should take 15 min to 1/2 hour with the stick blender, longer if something is wrong. :)   In this picture I kept the oils and lye in the plastic container because the shampoo bar recipe uses less ingredients and I wanted to make sure the blender was fully submerged.  It still splashed quite a bit.  Keep your goggles and gloves on!   No one cares how goofy you look, it beats burns and blindness.

This is serious trace!  I realize now that I was sent the wrong type of lye, that's why this picture is chunky.  I'll try to take a different picture next time I make soap.   

I figured out why this is like this.  I had the wrong kind of lye!

Once you reach trace, you can add your fragrance oils or essential oil for scent.  Mix in well with the stick blender.  I have lots of scents....and hopefully lots of sense too.

Pour into lined molds or silicone molds.  

 I found these nifty silicone loaf pans on Amazon.  You can also get long ones, specifically for soap making through essential depot (for 3x the price + shipping....I am not so into this that I can't just use bread loaf pans. ) I also have wooden soap molds that I line with freezer paper.  

Put plastic wrap over the top and wrap in an old towel or blanket to keep it warm.  

Cut into bars after it sets up, after about 24 hours.  You should put your gloves back on for this as it is not cured yet and can be quite stingy to the skin.

Line up cut bars in a box or on a shelf a little distance apart from one another to saponify. The chemical process is NOT done yet!  After about 4 weeks, your soap will be ready to use.  

Clean up your mess.  

I try to keep all of my dangerous lye-laden utensils confined to a single paper towel.  Then that is all I have to clean up.  I wash all of my pots, utensils, bowls and buckets in my empty sink with my gloves and goggles still on.  I do wipe down my counter carefully, but at least I know that my mess was pretty confined to that paper towel.

 Well, that's it!  

UPDATE!  (same-day update):  The reason my soap didn't set up was because Brambleberry sent me a POTASSIUM hydroxide bottle with my order of 5 SODIUM hydroxide bottles! I didn't realize it until I looked at my lye label to write this blog to remember where I had purchased it.  Potassium Hydroxide is used for liquid soap (more complicated) and Sodium Hydroxide is used for making bar soap.  

1 comment:

  1. One thing I have done to ensure counter safety after soaping...spray your counters down with a vinegar and water solution, let it sit for a few moments, than wipe it down. Do the same to any potential splashed areas. Lye has a very high pH and vinegar has a low pH, so when you use a vinegar "wash" you are balancing the pH of any spills and rendering it safe! Nice blog, Amy! :)