Thursday, October 05, 2006

Soap Tutorial

Julia asked me to post about soap making and I couldn't resist. Julia lives in Italy, the home of the finest olive oil on the planet.I use lots of olive oil in soap making, I'm sure Julia could make some drool worthy castile soap!

First things first. You need to purchase a good scale. No, not some el cheapo kitchen scale from Wal Mart. The more accurate and expensive, the better. I would purchase a scale that measures to the hundredth of an ounce. If you can't weight the oils or lye properly, you will have major soap problems. Soap making is a chemical type of science.

Once, my oldest sister was visiting from out of state and she was dying to make soap. I melted all the oils and when it was time to add the lye to the goat's milk, we realized I didn't have enough lye. I was short only about one ounce per each batch. I went ahead and mixed everything up minus the ounce or so of lye.

All three of the batches were ruined when I checked them the next day. The soap was separated and a layer of oil was floating on top. The oils and lye failed to saponify. Ruining three batches of soap cost a pretty penny too. Just a warning, we can get by with a great dinner if we are short 1/2 cup of onion but missing one ounce of lye is a soap making disaster!

We'll start with a very basic recipe.

Olive Oil 40 ounces
Coconut Oil 20 ounces
Palm Oil 20 ounces

Lye needed: 11.26 ounces
Water or Milk: 27.08 ounces

Get out a stainless steel pot and measure out hard oils at room temperature. In this recipe, it would be the coconut oil. Melt it carefully on the stove top.

In this recipe, pictured above, I'm using some luxury hard oils like cocoa butter and mowrah butter. I wouldn't recommend using expensive ingredients your first soap making adventure. Most luxury oils and butter are shipped in adding to cost. A failed batch would equal mucho money lost.

While the hard oils are melting, line your soap mold with plastic wrap.

Remove the melted hard oils from the stove top. It heats up fast!

Now, add your liquid oil to the melted hard oil. This would be the olive and palm oil in the above recipe. This will help cool off the hot melted oil too. I like my oils to be around 90 to 100 degrees when I add the lye mixture.

Put on some gloves and eye protection and weigh out the lye. I could go on and on about the dangers of lye. Please be extremely careful when using lye. I make soap in a building outside of my house. My pets are not allowed in the soap shack! I have read horror stories about small children pulling lye water off the kitchen counter and getting severe chemical burns. It really is dangerous, I have been burned and it's not fun.

I would measure and mix the lye in a pyrex, glass measuring cup.

Goat's milk soap is tricky. I started off using spring water. The problem with goat's milk is when you add the lye. If the milk gets too hot, you'll have a noxious orange burnt mixture. I have found freezing the milk and adding the lye prevents the burnt milk problem. Slowly pour a little lye over the frozen milk and stir, stir, stir with a stainless steel spoon.

Add a bit more lye and stir. The process of melting the milk with lye takes about 15 minutes. This technique is forcing the lye to stay cool and preventing damage to the milk. The milk temperature is about 110 degrees when all the lye is added. If you choose not to use milk, just use cold spring water. (It doesn't have to be ice)

I am ready to blend my milk/lye when it comes down to 110 degrees and oil 100 degrees together. I like to use a stick blender because it forces the lye/milk and oils to join together and saponify into a smooth soap. Be aware that the stick blender will speed up the trace. You want to pour the liquid soap into the mold when thickens up and coats the spoon or blender.

To be continued.....


At 10:31 AM, Blogger Julia said...

This is FANTASTIC!! Thank you - Thank you - Thank you!!

Now I have to start rounding up equipment...


At 11:05 AM, Blogger nancytoby said...

That's interesting stuff!! Very glad to see you posting again. :-)

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Julia said...

Okay, first questions:
1) In the recipe you talk about heating up the hard oils first, but then in "our" recipe you talk about liquid oils. So we should heat up the coconut and palm oil first and then add the olive oil?

2) The wood trays look like something I'll have to put together. Could you give me the measurements of the ones your using?

3) I have one of those electric mixers things, but should I buy one dedicated ONLY to the soap?

Now I have to find where I can buy the palm and coconut oil...

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Bolder said...

to be continued...

what is this you big tease... Days of Our Lives or somethin'...

At 1:15 PM, Blogger Mojo said...


1)Coconut will be your only hard oil in the example recipe. You could actually heat up all the oils together. It just takes longer to cool down. Palm oil is different than Palm Kernel Oil. PKO will be hard at room temperature.

2)My soap molds were made for me. You can use anything for a mold. Try out an empty paper milk carton. You don't have to line it, just rip off the paper when the soap has set. Or get a couple of old shoe boxes and line those for a mold.

3)Stick blenders are pretty cheap, look at thrift stores too! I would devote one stick blender to soaping. I used to make soap in my kitchen. Once I made a huge batch of pasta sauce and used a spoon to stir it that had been used to make Lavender/Mint soap. I ruined our dinner, every bite tasted like lavender! IIccky!

Look for coconut oil at a bakery. Let me know what oils you can easily find and I'll work on a recipe for you. Shipping costs to Italy would be insane on a 50# cube oil coconut oil. Do you have access to lard, crisco or tallow?

At 10:33 AM, Blogger Papa Louie said...

Thanks for sharing the science of making fine soap.
I think I'll leave the soap making business up to you. I'd be afraid of inhaling the lye.

At 4:10 PM, Blogger E-Speed said...

this is so fascinating! You should offer soap bootcamps for those of us without the shack and all. I would pay a pretty penny to come visit for a week and make tons of soap!

At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your soap tutorial, when will you post the rest of the soapmaking instructions? I can hardly wait...

How do you insulate your soap?

What do you do if it is winter and your soap is curing? Can it stay in a basement?

When do you package your soap?

What is the optimal amount of time to cure soap?

Do you use 100% whole milk in your recipes or do you use a combination of whole milk and half and half?

When do you add herbs and oils?

Sorry for all of the questions, my brain is going 90 miles an hour with questions.

Thank you!

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