When I was younger, my mother took up the business of making soap. Her speciality was lye soap—a rather strong smelling expenditure, but possibly one of the most effective household cleaners ever invented. She enjoyed making soaps of every variety, be it for cleaning the house or for helping us fight our skin issues. Since I grew up using homemade soap, I still search for the product in farmers markets or try to find a spare bar around my mother’s home. Why, you ask? Well, it’s mostly due to the amazing benefits baked inside each bar. These benefits range from the natural ingredients, such as vegetable oil and butters to lavender. And, the best part is you have the unlimited ability to add whatever ingredients or fragrance you want to the mixture.
So, let’s get soapy and make some homemade soap!
Soap Opera or Bubble Bath Status?
Making soap can be as dramatic and complicated as a soap opera or as simple and easy as a soapy bubble bath. That’s the glory of making soap at home; it’s your creation.
If you are interested in making yourself a batch of lye soap, let me share some words of wisdom from my pro soapmaking mother. Lye is a very strong ingredients. It can eat fabric or burn your skin. So take extra precaution to prevent injuries and hurt feelings when dealing with lye. My mother uses gloves, a mask to cover her nose and mouth, and goggles. We used to nickname her the mad-scientist woman when she dressed the part. Other tips to keep in mind is that you should always pour lye into water (never the other way around!), don’t let lye collect to the bottom of your pan when heating it up, and be prepared to feel the sense of not being able to breathe for about 30 seconds when you first starting heating the mixture. OK, now that the scary talk is out of the way, want to get started? Well, of course, you do!
What Equipment You’ll Need
This might mean you have to spend a little extra on some baking pans, but you want to keep your soapmaking pans separate from your cooking pans. I would suggest purchasing mixing bowls, such as stainless steel and glass. Avoid copper, aluminum and plastic—they react badly with soap products like lye.
Other items you need for you soap adventures are pint and quart canning jars (think mason jars), newspaper, stainless steel thermometer—one that reads 90°F to 200°F— and an old towel.
All About That Ingredients
You have the option of adding an unlimited amount of ingredients, like herbs and essential oils. Each ingredient depends on what you wish to achieve out of your soap creation. The most common process for making soap is called the cold process method. It’s one of the simpler forms of soapmaking and a great way to start if you are a beginner. Here are a couple recipes to let you get the feel of creating good smelling products.
Herbal Soap Ingredients
120g boiling water
62g Sodium hydroxide (lye)
136g coconut oil
204g sunflower oil
23g shea butter
10g essential oil- I would suggest you match this with the herb you selected
1 tsp dried herb of your choice- peppermint, Melissa Balm, and Rosemary are terrific herbs to try
*Infuse your herbs in the boiling water and allow to cool before adding the other ingredients
Lavender Soap Ingredients
120g boiling water
64g sodium hydroxide (lye)
112g coconut oil
164g olive oil
82g tallow or palm oil
78g sunflower oil
19g shea butter
10g lavender essential oil
¼tsp ultramarine violet (mineral color)
½ tsp dried lavender buds (chopped)
6 drops antioxidant (vitamin e or grapefruit seed extract)
*Disperse the mineral color in your liquid oils with a small milk frother before following the soapmaking steps.
How To Make, Mould, and Cure Soap
Keep in mind that soapmaking is a long and drawn out process, but it is worth it in the end.
Mix your lye into water (never the other way around). I would suggest mixing this into a container that can handle heat. Also, doing this step outside where it is well-ventilated will help reduce the strong smell. You can use your mask and goggles at this step.
Leave the mixture to sit until cool (in a place away from children or pets)
Weigh and mix your coconut and sunflower oil in a large bowl
After the lye mixture has cooled, pour it into your oil mix. Gently mix them together
Once the lye has been blended, you can speed up the mixing process by using a hand blender. Be careful not to splash the contents.
Blend until the mixture starts to thicken like the consistency of mayonnaise (few minutes)
Mix in your essential oils
Pour into soap molds. Grease pans beforehand to minimize sticking
Cover and set aside for at least 24 hours.
After 24 hours, the soap should be hard but easy to cut. If it is soft, leave it to sit for a couple more hours.
Get creative! Cut the soap bars into any design you wish.
Let the soap sit for around a month, turning everyday for the first week and then every week from then on. You want to make sure that your soap dries out and hardens properly.
Soapmaking can be a tricky, and sometimes time consuming process, but it is reassuring to know that the ingredients in your soap are wholesome and good. Good luck!
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Allyson Miller is a bookworm, history nerd and outdoor enthusiast who loves writing creative and informational content for SBT in Rock Hill, SC. Depending on the day, you can find her with her nose in historical documents, shopping for trendy exercise outfits or trying new cooking recipes. Allyson dreams that one day, engineers will figure out a way to build roller coasters sans the incline, ridding her of coasterphobia.