Friday, October 28, 2011

Making A Batch of Cold Process Soap

The Lye water has been added to the oils.
Hot liquid soap in mold.

Soap is insulated and allowed to cool.
Finished Product. Sliced and curing.

This post will cover some basics. I am not going to walk you through making a batch of soap. If you decide to try your hand at making soap, I highly recommend  you do extensive research and buy a book so you will have directions to follow, step by step. There are many good books readily available in your local book store or on line. I will share some very important safety precautions, however, these precautions should not be considered an all inclusive list. Research! Read everything you can get your eyes on.
Soap making is a "process". I don't recommend trying to formulate your own recipes until you are really comfortable with the soap making process itself and have considerable knowledge of the different oils and their properties. There are many recipes available in books and on the internet. Never trust a recipe you have not personally tried. All recipes should be run through a lye calculator, available on many soap making supply websites. This is a program where you type in the number of ounces of each fat in the recipe and it will tell you the correct amount of lye. Trusting a written recipe leaves you open to typos that could result in a recipe with too much lye, which could be catastrophic. In order to make soap, you HAVE to use Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) which is a dangerous, caustic chemical and MUST be treated with respect. As long as you are careful, you have nothing to worry about. Please, always wear safety goggles when making soap. Splashing hot (both temperature and chemical wise) soap in your eye could cost you your sight! When mixing the lye and water ALWAYS do just that, add the lye to the water, NEVER the other way around! Only mix in a well ventilated area, preferably outdoors. Inhaling the fumes are dangerous and will take your breath away. The mixture immediately becomes very hot. There is some difference of opinion on what type of container is best to use for mixing the water and lye mixture. It will cause etching of glass over time, making it more prone to breakage. Depending on the quality of the plastic, it will  cause deterioration over time. So, which ever you decide to use, keep an eye on it and replace when necessary.  Do NOT use aluminum bowls, pots or utensils! Lye water can react violently when it comes into contact with aluminum. Stainless steel is acceptable, but, I personally stick with glass, plastic and wood. Wooden spoons can be used, but, don't last too long due to the corrosive action of the lye. Replace as needed. Be very careful not to get the lye water or freshly made soap on your skin. Have White Vinegar at hand to rinse your skin with if you do accidently get lye on you. Vinegar will help neutralize the lye. If you get lye on your hands, you may notice your hands feel "slippery". This is from the damage to the skin from the lye. I recommend wearing rubber gloves. Keep lye away from pets and children!
Having said all of that, you are probably wondering why anyone would ever want to make soap. Once you have made your first batch, you will be hooked. It quickly becomes an addiction because of the limitless variations, all of which result in a slightly different bar of soap. You probably wonder too, if lye is such a horrible, awful, potentially hurtful ingredient, how can you use soap which has lye in it. Well, without lye, there is no soap. Freshly made soap DOES have lye in it, however, after the saponification process (the chemical reaction between the fat and lye) is complete and the soap has cured (4-6 weeks), the lye is no longer present, providing the recipe you used is not lye heavy (meaning too much lye). This is why it is imperative that you run your recipe through a  lye calculator. When you do that, it is going to ask you what percentage you want to "superfat". Superfatting is having "extra" fat in your recipe over and above the amount the lye is able to saponify (chemically react with to turn it into soap), which means there is more "free" fat in the soap. Superfatting is beneficial to a point because it makes the soap more moisturizing for your skin. Superfatting too much will decrease the shelf life of the soap because the "free fat" will become rancid. Superfatting too much can also decrease the abundance of lather. I typically superfat at 5%.

1 comment:

  1. This is an outstanding and most helpful post. Thank you very much!!