Soap making does not have to be a nightmare; in fact, it is so much fun! I am not a professional; I would identify myself more as a "beginner" in the soap making adventure. I have actually only made 2 batches of soap, although they turned out so well that I gave some of it away as gifts and still had enough bars to last me 4 months! In this post, I share a little of what I know and a lot of what other (more experienced) soap makers know in hopes that you will try it! The first time I made soap, I followed a recipe exactly. This last time I used a recipe as a template and tweaked it with what ingredients I wanted to use. SoapCalc became my new best friend for a full week while I worked out my recipe.
So if you are ready to make soap, you need to gather a few supplies that you might not already have in your kitchen.
- A digital kitchen scale that measures in ounces
- A stick blender (doesn't she look like she's ready to go?)
- A wire whisk
- Metal mixing bowls
- A couple candy thermometers
- A soap mold (this can be a glass cake pan lined with freezer paper which is what I use now, but I have also used quart sized paper milk cartons, although the soap in the middle does not cure as well so that is why I switched to the glass cake pan).
- Vinegar (in case of a lye spill)
Here are a few tips that helped me along:
- Research, research, research. I know there is a lot of information available on the internet, and this can be very overwhelming (it was for me at least). I recommend reading what Renee (who happens to be a dear friend and writer of FIMBY) has to say about soap making. She has been making her own artisan soaps for years, and she is very good! She was my inspiration! I found the links on her blog to be most helpful. Her soap and body care information is very helpful.
- Give yourself ample time for making your first batch of soap. It doesn't take long, but it does take time. I wait until all my littles are nestled all snug in their beds, and I am confident that they are all asleep.
- Enlist help! Yes, this is my favorite one because I have yet to mix the lye myself. My dear hubby and I make the soap together. He really enjoys the process; it is all about the science to him.
- Wear goggles and gloves! Lye is a very dangerous chemical and will burn your skin so please protect yourselves. We also mix the lye outside, although I am not so sure this is necessary (we do it anyway).
- Make sure you get a reliable scale. The first scale we bought kept shutting off while we were measuring and would not tare properly so spend the extra money and get a good scale. This is the one we currently use.
- Have Fun and share what you make!
Here is my most recent recipe that I made in December for our holiday soap (make sure you check EVERY recipe in a lye calculator before you begin making your soap).
Olive Oil 37 oz.
Palm Oil 19 oz.
Castor Oil 5 oz.
Coconut Oil 190z.
Shea Butter 16 oz.
Water 36.48 oz.
Lye NaOH 13.18 oz.
Orange Essential Oil 1oz
Rosemary Essential Oil 2 oz.
Nutmeg Essential Oil 2oz
2 Tbsp Nutmeg
2 Tbsp Cocoa powder
The recipe was adapted from Renee at Fimby. I changed the essential oils and some of the carrier oils, but the process is the same.
Prepare your cold water in a metal mixing bowl and set aside.
Melt your solid oils on low heat; add the liquid oils, stirring frequently.
Carefully pour your lye into your cold water (being sure to wear your gloves and goggles). Keep the Vinegar close just in case you need it. The vinegar acts as a neutralizer for the lye.
The lye will heat the water. You want to mix the water and the oil when they are at the same temperature. I mix them at 120 degrees, but I know some people mix them at 115 or 110 degrees. Be very careful not to overheat your oils or you may find yourself waiting for quite a long time before they cool to 120 degrees.
So when both have hit 120 degrees remove the oils from the heat then pour the water/lye into the oils.
Using your stick blender, blend until trace (trace is when the soap mixture is still liquid but leaves a "trace" when you pull the stick blender up out of the mixture. This is when you add your essential oils then mix a little longer.
Pour half the mixture into your soap mold. Put the nutmeg and the cocoa powder into the remaining mixture and blend. Then pour over the first layer.
Using a spatula, make s-shaped and figure 8 patterns throughout the soap to give it the "swirled" look.
I put my soap mold into a cardboard box and leave it covered up for 24 hours. After 24 hours, take it out of the box and out of the mold and cut it into bars. After experimenting with different thicknesses, I found that thick square bars take longer to cure than thinner rectangular bars (makes sense).
Set the bars back into the cardboard box (leaving ample space in between each bar for air flow). Store somewhere away from kiddos. Some recipes say the soap needs to cure for 4 weeks, but I found that this particular recipe needed a longer curing time so I used the soap after 6 weeks, and it was perfect! Let me know how it turns out!