Sunday, July 18, 2010

Soap Making 101: A Tutorial

Cold Process soap is easy and fun to make. I’d like to share my tutorial with you so that you’ll be able to make your very own.
Step 1: Gather all of your supplies. You’re going to need:
*A digital scale
*A mold and some parchment paper or oil to line it with
*Your safety equipment
*Your ingredients
*A stick blender
*Wooden or metal spoons and a spatula
*2 pots, one for mixing lye and one for mixing oils. I use a saucepan for the lye and a larger stock pot for the oils. It’s always recommended that whatever pots you use, you use exclusively for soap making. Checking your local thrift store can turn up some inexpensive pots to use in soap making.
*Vinegar, on hand in case you get any lye on yourself or the counter (vinegar will neutralize the lye.)
Step 2: Carefully measure out your liquid. For the soap in these pictures I used a mix of water and fresh goat’s milk. It’s best to measure your ingredients on an accurate digital scale. This will ensure that you are using just the right amounts of ingredients and that your soap turns out well. Once you measure your liquids then pour them into a large saucepan. Next, measure out your lye. Here is where your safety gear is going to come in. Make sure you have on your gloves when you measure.
You’re going to want to take your measured lye and your liquids outside at this point. Add your lye slowly to the liquid and stir with a spoon. I wear glasses so I don’t have goggles but you may want to put on your goggles and mask before starting to combine the lye and liquid (it’s up to you.) As you stir the lye into the water it’s going to start smoking or fuming. Don’t worry, that’s normal. The reaction is creating heat and that’s where the smoke is coming from. You do not want to inhale this smoke! Turn your head, reach as far as possible to stir, anything. Just don’t sit over your pot and inhale! Once your lye and liquids are mixed well, usually about 30 second to 1 minute stir time, go ahead and leave your saucepan outside to cool. Make sure you leave your pot up somewhere that kids or animals can’t get to it. Also keep in mind that your saucepan is hot so don’t place it on any surface like plastic…unless you like melted plastic.
Step 3: We’re going back indoors now to measure and melt down our oils and fats. Again, using your digital scale, measure out each of your oils. You’re going to start with your solid oils first. Coconut oil, palm oil, shea butter, lard, are some examples of solid oils. They are solid at room temperature. Place your measured solid oils into a stock pot and slowly heat on your stove top. You want to do this at a low heat setting. After your solids have melted down into liquids you can measure the liquid oils and add them into the pot. Stir well. Continue to heat, on low, until your oil combination is clear. Once your oils are melted, remove the pot from the stove and allow to cool on the counter.
Step 4: While your oils are cooling, you can take the time to line your mold. I use a wooden mold so I line mine with parchment paper. Wax paper works as well. If you’re using a plastic mold then you can just grease your mold with something like coconut oil. Just make sure you grease it well. When lining your mold you want to make sure that you cover all of the surfaces. This is not an easy task. As you make more and more soap though, it will become easier. You’ll get a method down and it won’t take too long.
Step 5: Once your lye has cooled down enough (a good rule of thumb is you should be able to comfortably hold your hand on the side of the saucepan) you can bring it back inside. Carefully pour your lye mixture into your stock pot of oils (which should have also cooled down by now.) Take your stick blender and start mixing the lye and oils together. Please make sure that you have your stick blender in the mixture before turning it on or off. Otherwise, you are going to get lye flying everywhere. As you mix your lye and oils the mixture will being to thicken. Most times it takes about 3-4 minutes of mixing to get the combination to trace. Tracing is where the mix becomes thick enough that you can see a trail or a wake in the pot. Once your mix starts to trace, you want to stop mixing. If you continue, the mixture can become so thick that you won’t be able to pour it into your mold. As soon as your mix starts to trace you have the option of adding in any fragrance or other additives. For the soap pictured here I added oats and essential oil when it began to trace. Then mix the additives in just enough to combine them into the soap mix.

Step 6: Now you’re ready to pour. Pour your soap carefully into your mold, scraping all the soap out of the pot with a spatula, and set your mold somewhere that it won’t be disturbed for 12-24 hours.
Step 7: After 24-36 hours of your soap setting up you can remove the mold and cut up your bars. A large kitchen knife works well but if you want to get decorative you can buy a special cutter that leaves a crinkle like look on your soap. Set your bars somewhere out of the way and space your bars out so that air can circulate around them.
Step 8: Wait. 4-6 weeks. The longer you wait the harder your bar will become. The harder your bar, the longer it will last in the shower or bath. I would recommend waiting at least the 4 weeks though to ensure that the sponification has done it’s job and all of the lye is safely removed from your soap.

Step 9: Get into the shower and enjoy!
I hope this tutorial is inspiring as well as helpful. Feel free to leave any questions in the comment section, I will reply to them there. If you want to discuss it more in depth, feel free to email me


Heather's Blog-o-rama said...

I love this. My friend Julie and I made soap a week ago...I have my soaps on a drying rack so air can circulate all over the place! I can't wait to actually use the soap :) :) :) Thanks for posting this. I really love soapmaking now!! That wooden mold looks really nice and your soaps turned out very nicely!!! Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :) :)

Unknown said...

Great tutorial, Heather. Thanks for so many great pictures, too. Your soap looks like it came out lovely. Now if I can get my supplies and just carve out some time I can give this a try.

Heather S-G said...

Awesome tutorial...thank you! I'm hoping to try my hand at soap making one of these days...kinda scared...but this helps =)

Kim said...

I can't wait to try this! Great job on the tutorial!

Holly said...

It smells so yummy! I can't wait to use it! I wish you would have used the super cute picture of you holding the prepaired soap box. I am so glad I got the chance to do this with you.

Drucilla's Stitches said...

Wonderful tutorial!! I hope to use this for our homeschooling with my daughter this year!! Thank you for sharing, I LOVE your blog!!
God Bless You!!

Anonymous said...

Did you teach yourself how to make soap or did someone teach you? I've seen books at the library about making soap. That's probably a good resource also.

kathyinozarks said...

thank you for this wonderful tutorial, I have been afraid to jump in and try this. a MJFgirl

Erin @ Why Not Sew? Quilts said...

I love the pic of the soap being cut. Looks like so much fun.

Sharon said...

Thanks so much for posting this Heather :) I just ordered and immersion blender and should be getting it in a couple of days. I have been searching for one at the Thrift stores but haven't found any. I appreciate this post and can't wait to get started :)


KaHolly said...

OKAY!! Into my favorite places this tutorial goes while I gather my supplies. ~karen

Unknown said...

Here it is, 8 months later, and tomorrow my homesteading group is headed over to the house for my first soap making! Yahoo! Better late than never!!
(just doing a quick review here on your wonderful tutorial!)

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