Soap making is a wonderfully creative craft that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. The only limit is your imagination, with the wide variety of oils, fragrant essential oils, and other natural additives you can use to make your soaps one of a kind. Here are the basic soap-making steps you can follow to begin your adventure.
Most of the equipment you will need for making cold-pressed soaps at home is already in your kitchen. You will need the following:
- Kitchen scales to accurately measure your ingredients.
- Soap pot. This should be made of unchipped enamel or stainless steel. This should be large enough to hold your soap batch and allow for stirring and mixing without splashing.
- Heat-resistant jug for mixing your caustic soda (lye) solution. As the solution heats up significantly when caustic soda is added to the water, the jug should be microwave sale to handle this heat.
- A handheld or stand-alone mixer or a stick blender.
- Two kitchen thermometers will allow you to measure in the 34 to 38 degrees range.
- Safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes whenever you are handling soap-making ingredients.
- Rubber gloves to protect your hands whenever soap-making ingredients.
- A sharp knife for slicing bars of soap or a soap cutter.
- Soap moulds or a large plastic container to use as a soap mould. An empty cardboard milk carton can make a good soap mould if you do not have something suitable.
- An old blanket or towel for wrapping your soap in once the mould(s).
- Plastic needlepoint screen, sushi mats, or something similar to place your soaps on to cure.
Ingredients for Cedarwood and Green Clay Soap:
- 120 grams of caustic soda
- 300 grams of distilled water
- 200 grams of Coconut oil
- 200 grams of Sustainable palm oil
- 400 grams of Olive oil
- 50 grams of Sweet Almond oil
- 15 ml of Cedarwood essential oil
- Two tablespoons of Green Australian Clay
Safety: When added to water, caustic soda increases in temperature significantly. It is also a strong alkaline solution and will burn when it comes in contact with your skin. You must be careful not to spill or splash any on you during the soap-making process. If you get any on your skin, immediately rinse it in cold running water. Always wear your safety glasses, goggles, and rubber gloves before handling caustic soda. Always add caustic soda to the water and not the water to the caustic soda. Even after you have mixed the caustic soda solution with your oils and have a soap, this soap mixture can still burn you as the saponification process is not complete until the soap is cured, and the soap mixture is still very alkaline and can still burn you.
- Before you start your soap-making, gather all the equipment you will need and all your ingredients. There is nothing worse than being part way through a soap recipe and discovering you do not have something you need. As soap making is a time and temperature-sensitive process, you cannot stop what you are doing and pop out to the store to pick up what you do not have.
- Put on your rubber gloves and your safety goggles. Using accurate kitchen scales, carefully weigh out all of your ingredients. I measure my caustic soda first, then place it into a small dry bowl. Then measure your distilled water and place it into your jug. Measure each of your oils and place them all together into your soap pot or stainless steel bowl.
- Mix your caustic soda solution. Always add your caustic soda to your water. DO NOT ADD WATER TO YOUR CAUSTIC SODA. The chemical reaction can cause significant heat production, fizzing, and splattering. Use your wooden spoon to mix the caustic soda into the water. It is best to do this outside or in a well-ventilated room if possible. You do not want to breathe in any of the fumes that can be created during this initial chemical reaction. Your caustic soda solution will become quite hot and need to cool down before it can be added to your oil. Once I have my caustic soda solution mixed up, I carefully place one of my thermometers into the jug to monitor the temperature as it cools.
- While you are waiting for the caustic soda solution to cool down, melt your oils using your soap pot. Place your second thermometer into the bowl of oils so that you can monitor the oil’s temperature.
- Once you have your caustic soda solution made up and your oils melted, you must equalise their temperature until they are the same, somewhere between 34 to 38 degrees. To do this, use hot and/or cold water in the sink and place the jug and/or bowl into the appropriate water. My kitchen has a double sink, so I usually cool the caustic soda solution in a cold water sink while I heat my oils in a hot water sink. When they reach the same temperature, you are ready to mix them together. This may take a little practice, but once you have made a few batches, it becomes quite easy as you get used to how long the caustic soda solution takes to cool down from its initial heat reaction and how long it takes for the oils to heat up.
- Once the oils and the caustic soda solution reach the same temperate, you can pour your caustic soda solution into your oil mixture. Wearing rubber gloves and safety glasses, slowly drizzle the caustic soda solution into your oils while mixing. If you are going to use a free-standing or hand mixer, it should be set at its lowest speed. A free-standing mixer allows you to move away when mixing and avoid getting any small splashes on you. If you use a handheld mixer or stick blender, be sure you have long sleeves and rubber gloves and that the bowl is big enough to work without getting splashed. It is faster with a stick blender.
- Keep mixing until the soap mixture starts to thicken. As the mixture starts to thicken, you need to test for trace. To test for trace, use a spoon, pick up a small amount of the soap mixture, and drizzle it across the top of the remaining soap mixture. If it is not ready, the drizzle will immediately sink back into the soap mixture without leaving a trace. However, as it thickens and you test the mixture again, a small amount of the soap mixture drizzled onto the remaining soap mixture will leave a faint pattern before sinking back into the mixture. This is called
trace. You do not want to wait until the trace is thick enough for the pattern to remain on the surface, as this will then be too thick to pour.
- Once your soap has reached trace, you can mix in your essential oil and Australian Clay. Mix these in, and then immediately pour your soap.
- If using silicone soap moulds, place them onto a tray, such as a baking tray. Carefully pour your soap into the mould(s). You can use a spatula to get every last bit of soap out. Do not overfill them. If the surface is not smooth from when you poured your soap, give them a little shake, and it will smooth out. The same applies if you are using some other container as a mould.
- Cover your soaps with another tray or a cardboard box. Wrap your mould(s) in insulating material such as a blanket or old towels to keep them warm. Place them in a warm location. I usually use my kitchen, as this is the warmest room in my house.
- Allow your soap to set, undisturbed, for 24 to 48 hours.
- Check your soaps for firmness. They should be firm to the touch but not rock-hard. If it is still too soft to remove from the mould(s) without damaging the shape of the soap, leave it longer. Once it is firm to the touch, simply pop the soap out of the mould. Place your soaps on a plastic needlepoint screen, sushi mats, or something similar to air dry. You want something that will allow air to circulate around the soap. Turn your soap over once a week.
- Allow your soaps to cure for six weeks before using your soap. This allows for the saponification to be completed.
This simple recipe has no special effects, but I like soap like that. That does not mean I do not like to get crazy creative sometimes, and I am sure I will post a few of those creations in the future just for fun.
As always, live well.