My friend Paula and her daughter Jessie decided to make soap, and invited me to join the fun. I had been wanting to learn to make soap since they gifted me some last year, so I was excited. I procured a single bottle, wooden wine box for a mold, (didn’t want to buy anything) purchased some organic coconut oil and olive oil, loaded up all of my essential oils and headed on over on soap making day.
Using a couple of Paula’s books, we started the first batch, which included Coconut Oil, Palm Oil, Olive Oil and Castor Oil. For our first scent, we decided on geranium, which smells more like rose, and lemon essential oils.
First you measure the oils and melt them together.
In a separate bowl, you measure the Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) and add it to the water. This must be done carefully, as it is caustic. The books say to use gloves and goggles, but we were just very careful, wearing sunglasses until we determined that we weren’t going to blow up. Adding the lye raises the water temperature immediately to nearly 200 degrees.
Once the lye and water mixture and oil mixture both cool down to 110 degrees, the lye is added into the oils, while stirring constantly. This causes the oil mixture to thicken, albeit the 3 different oil mixtures we used thickened at vastly different times. The term that describes the thickening in soap making is trace, and we were looking for a medium trace before we poured into our various molds, the wine box,a Pringles can, a goat milk container and another smaller cheese box.
The first batch went into the cheese box, lined with parchment paper.
The second batch was a single oil soap, made with olive oil which had been infused with rosemary from the farm. We also included some chopped rosemary in the soap. This batch lacked the orange color, which was caused by the palm oil in the first batch.
The third batch was scented with lavender oil and included crushed lavender flowers and ground up oatmeal in the mixture and on the bottom and top of the soap. This double batch went into the wine box I brought, which proved to be a little large. It would have been ideal if it weren’t quite so wide.
While we had all of the soap making stuff out, we decided to make a final batch, and used the four oil mixture again, with peppermint, (a wee bit of tea tree oil) and orange essential oils. This batch went into the goat milk carton.
The soaps spent 30 minutes in the fridge, then were sprayed with isopropyl alcohol and loosely covered with plastic wrap. They then spent the night in the fridge to harden a little, and then were unmolded the following day, brought to room temperature, sliced into bars, and spritzed again with the alcohol. I wasn’t there for the unmolding or slicing, but here is a picture of them 4 days later, drying on brown paper bags. The get turned every few days for evenness in drying, and will be ready to use in 4 to 6 weeks.
The process is called saponification, and describes the reaction of the alkaline lye, turning the oils into soap. No lye will remain in the final product, just the creaminess of the oils we started with, along with the scented oils we added. I’ve since read about other fats used in soap making, including bacon grease and rendered beef fat, but I believe I’ll stick with the oils we used this time around. Next time, would like to try using some goat’s milk as well. I’m looking forward to more soap making experiments!
If you decide to make your own soap, I highly recommend doing it with another person or two. There is lots of stirring, temperature monitoring, and bowl scraping which are just easier with several hands. It’s way more fun that way too!