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why do I make my own soap?
I have always been drawn to the luxury of a well made bar of soap. There is something about the texture and the scent that just makes my heart sing. For years and years I wanted to make my own, but every time I read up on the process I would get completely overwhelmed with it. It seemed like making soap was an expensive adventure, and I was a little scared of risks of working with lye. Also, I didn’t want to order the ingredients which made it a project I had to put a lot of time and money into.
Since we live simply and try to cut costs as much as possible I started to feel like buying good quality bar soap was too expensive for our family on a strict budget. I started to feel like it was a cost that could be cut and a process that could be simplified. One day I came across a hot process soap soap recipe that was super simple and I realized that I could make soap in my own home. The recipe used common affordable ingredients that I could find locally. I decided to give soap making a chance and ordered up the supplies I needed to get started.
I Decided to give Hot Process Soap a try.
I have to be completely honest with you. I purchased the supplies that I needed to make hot process soap about 2 years before I finally got the gumption to actually make it. My hope is that if you are thinking of making soap my words will help you get started today.
The following are the items I needed to buy since I didn’t already have them. They are a must for any kind of soap making.
1. A digital kitchen scale
2. An immersion blender
Some other items that are a must but are more commonly found in most homes.
1. Long handled wooden spoon
2. Those yellow long armed cleaning gloves
3. Safety goggles or glasses
4 Junky long sleeved t-shirt
5 Something for a soap mold
I have a small wooden mold that I made. It holds the recipe I am giving you today (which is a 2 lb recipe). I made it myself with some scrap wood and some salvage hardware. You can use almost anything for a soap mold, Pyrex, cardboard boxes, or used yogurt cups. Just don’t use anything made of metal. Here is one I found online for pretty cheap.
To my surprise these items were not expensive to buy. I found a kitchen scale and an immersion blender online. Both of those links are for similar ones to mine. I just wanted to show you how cost effective soap making can be. In all honesty, I have use my scale so many times since I bought it. It has been useful way beyond soap making. I don’t regret that purchase. Occasionally I use the stick blender for things other then soap also.
This is the lye I use. Its actually sold as a drain cleaner from my local farm store. Make sure what you use is 100% Sodium Hydroxide.
Cold process soap is not hard. It can just take some time to get it to trace. Also, after you pour it into the soap mold it has to cure, a process that can take months. The biggest reason I have never made cold process soap at home is that I am not a patient person. When I take the time and energy to make something I want to use it right away.
One time way back, when I was in high school chemistry class, my teacher decided to do a demo on how to make soap for all of us. She mixed it up and poured it into molds and we all took our soap home. Mine sat, and sat, and sat and it never cured. Eventually I just threw it out. Ever since then I have had that negative experience to in the back of my mind when I think of cold process soap.
Hot process soap, on the other hand, takes about 2 hours of my time. For a breakdown, it takes me about 20 minutes to get the ingredients measured out and mixed up. Then it cooks in a slow cooker for 50 minutes. As soon as its done and cooled (I wait until it is cool enough to add my essential oils) I add my essential oils and additives and then pour it into the soap mold.
I let it sit in the mold until its cool enough to take out and cut, which is about 5 hours. I am usually so excited that I slice it into bars right away but you can slice it anytime after it comes out. Then it needs one more week to cure. If I really need to I can use some of it right away. It is so easy, (as long as I mix the lye correctly) and it’s instantly gratifying. I just follow a basic recipe of lye, olive oil, coconut oil and distilled water. That’s it easy peasy pumpkin pie. In the end I know what I am putting on my skin is healthy and toxin free.
So whats the catch?
With hot process soap you are basically cooking the lye and speeding up the saponification. When you make it you MUST stay right by the slow cooker for the entire 50 minute cook time (and sometimes a little longer depending on your slow cooker calibration). Some times, mostly in the first 15 minutes it will try to boil over. If it boils over and you don’t stir it down, the recipe will be ruined and it might not set up right.
Hot process soap is also not as smooth in the mold as cold process. It looks a lot more rustic. Since you cook it to speed the process it can be a little more “dry” when it is time to pour it into the mold. Some people remedy this slightly by putting a plastic wrap over the cooker and under the lid during the cooking time to lock the moisture in. You can also add another 1/4 cup of water at the end to wet it back down. Just make sure that what ever you add at the end of the cooking time gets stirred in really well.
With hot process soap you don’t want to be lifting the lid and stirring it unless it tries to boil over. You want to keep all the moisture in the pot since it’s essential to the recipe. I also find that with hot process soap the end result has a more mild smell since the soap will be fairly warm/hot when you stir your essential oils in. This causes some to burn off, resulting in softer scent. I don’t really mind this since I am not trying to sell my soap.
A little blurb about safety
One of the main things that overwhelmed me about soap making was the dangers of lye. Just make sure you are ALWAYS POURING THE DRY LYE INTO THE WATER. If you pour the water into the dry lye it can explode and burn you. You also need to wear long sleeves, gloves and eye protection. With hot process soap I only wear my protective gear while mixing the lye and while bringing to trace in the slow cooker. When it gets to trace I put the lid on and take all the gear off. Its about 5 minutes of wear time. Remember earlier when I mentioned a junky long sleeved shirt? When I use my immersion blender to mix the oils and lye in the slow cooker to bring the mixture to trace I get splattered a lot. Those greasy splatters are hard to wash out.
So whats the recipie already?
I got my main recipe from Pinterest. You can make your own recipe but you will need to check it in an online lye calculator. For me it was just easier to get a recipe that had already been checked and that I knew was balanced. If you have too much lye or not enough oil the soap can burn you. The recipe I am giving you is pretty basic. I have also made tweaks to it and I will share those tweaks in future soap posts. So be sure to check back in for seasonal soap recipes.
You will also need your digital scale to measure out those ingredients. You will have to You will also need non metal bowls and spoons since metal may react with the lye.
READ THE FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY BEFORE MAKING YOUR SOAP. Then refer to them and follow them step by step while you are making your soap.
Trace looks like a thick pudding. If you are confused by this look at some images online before you attempt to make soap. Trace is an important step to get your soap to set up and cure properly.
- Measure out the olive and the coconut oil and add them into the slow cooker. Put the temperature on low.
- Measure out the distilled water into a quart size glass mason jar or other glass bowl.
- Measure out your lye into a separate glass dish.
- Get your immersion blender ready near your slow cooker.
- Stir your oils together in the slow cooker and check to make sure they are warm then put on your safety gear.
- Take your separate containers of distilled water, and lye to a well ventilated place and a wooden spoon. I actually use a chopstick since the lye will ruin the wood over time. I also do this step outside.
- Pour the dry lye into the water. Stir as you pour, be very careful as the jar and the mixture will get VERY HOT.
- When the lye mixture is well combined and the lye has dissolved carefully carry it back to the slow cooker.
- Pour the lye mixture into the oils. Stir gently to combine.
- With the immersion blender stir and mix on low until the mixture in the slow cooker gets thick and comes to “trace.”
- Place the lid on the slow cooker, keeping the temperature on low. Set a timer to 50 minutes and allow it to cook the entire time.
- Stay very close for the first 10 to 15 minutes, you will need to be there to stir it down if it tries to overflow.
- Get your soap mold out (and line it with wax paper if required) while you wait.
- Once the 50 minutes has elapsed, you can touch a tiny bit of the soap to your tongue. If it zaps you then you need to cook it a little longer. If it just tastes like soap then it is done. If you don’t want to do this then you can just let it cure for longer then a week (say 3 weeks) and it should be fine.
- Allow the mixture to cool slightly before adding any additives or essential oils.
- Once cooled a little (not so much it is starting to set up) you can add up to 3 tsp of essential oils. This is an amount that is generally considered safe in soap.
- Pour the soap into the mold. Press it into all the corners and smooth it out as much as you can.
- Set it aside to cool. I always put mine outside in the winter or in a cool place in the summer. It can take up to 24 hours but mine is normally able to come out of the mold in 5 hours.
- Put all the utensils and bowls in the sink and fill with warm water and a splash of vinegar. The vinegar neutralizes the lye.
- Remove soap from mold and cut into bars.
- Allow it to cure for 5 to 7 more days. This will let it harden up and finish the saponification.
For the images on this post I used this basic recipe and added Cedar wood essential oil. I use Butterfly Express because they have amazing quality and awesome value. The link here is for a 50 ml bottle WHICH IS HUGE!!!
A little disclaimer...
Even though making your own soap is very easy it can be a little dangerous to mix up. That is one of the reasons it took me so long to hop on the soap making bandwagon. If you decide to try making your own hot process soap using my recipe and you make a mistake or fail to follow the instructions I am not liable for any injury or cost of ingredients.
I do know that if you do decide to start making soap you will have fun, and feel good about making the switch. For me this recipe costs about 6 dollars to make (after purchasing all the kitchen items) and I get almost 20 bars of soap. THAT IS HUGE SAVINGS for non toxic handmade soap. So roll your sleeves up, get started and let me know how it goes.