Soapmaking

Soap is not difficult to make, though it does require some care and careful measurements. Soap is made from mixing any kind of fats and oils with lye. A chemical reaction takes place between the lye and the fats to create soap. There are a number of things that need to be done to make sure that this chemical reaction can take place, and that it happens not to quickly nor too slowly.

Different oils and fats have different qualities that will affect the final product. For example, coconut oil makes good lather while olive oil makes a moisturizing soap. Animal fat, such as lard, makes great soap. And of course the fun part is the scents, colors, herbs and other things you can incorporate into the soap!

The trick in measuring and developing recipes, is that in the final product, you cannot have extra lye (it will burn the skin) and you don’t want too much extra fat or you will have a soft, greasy bar that won’t clean very well.

Spicy Green Tea
and Oatmeal Rosewood Herb Lily of the Valley Heather and Hyacinth Citrus Poppyseed

Soap Molds

I usually use a stiff cardboard box about 5″x8″x2″, an old box that christmas card came in, as a mold; larger batches require two of these. I line this with wax paper or plastic wrap for each batch. The wax paper tends to soften and stick, but it can produce a nicer finish, especially if your recipe doesn’t have too much water.

I once purchased a nice plastic mold, but – perhaps again too much water – the soap never solidified on the side facing the plastic. With the lined cardboard box, I remove the soap the next day and can usually cut immediately, so the soap can dry all on all sides.

Do NOT try using aluminum foil. Aluminum foil dissolves in soap and it’s quite a mess.

I have used disposable coffee cups as a mold to make round soaps (see picture above).

These are some recipies I used to make soap. I wasn’t able to find recipes that made betweeen 1 and 2 pounds of soap and included the fats I had available.

I used the Majestic Mountain Sage Lye Calculator, and double checked with another Lye Calculator, which unfortunately is no longer available.

I have not included the detailed process on how to make soap; please consult the online references if you don’t know how, and observe all the warnings and precautions.

My scale is accurate to either 1/10 ounce or 1 gram, so I use gram calculations in the recipes for greater precision.

All these soaps came out very well, are a pleasure to use, and were much appreciated by recipients, although none is really perfect. I’ve been making all our soap for three years, almost every batch different, and so far they have all been fine.

NOTE: if you want to try these recipes, you MUST run them through a lye calculator! I do sometimes make mistakes in typing and it’s very important that you get the quantities correct, especially when working with such small recipes – there’s very little margin for error.

Spicy Green Tea and Oatmeal soap

This was my very first soap; a simple, mostly lard soap.

280 grams lard
112 grams coconut oil
56 grams olive oil
64 grams lye
198 ml water

1/2 cup oatmeal, coarsely ground
chlorophyll (for color)
green tea fragrance oil
patchouli essential oil
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon coriander

Oils were at 95, lye at 105 when mixed. Took 1.5 hours to trace.
I beleive this soap did not reach gel stage, hence its slightly opaque look. It was tinted pale green with the chlorophyll and has kept its color nicely (the picture does not show the color very well).

Rosewood Herb Soap

Another lard soap, this one has a greater variety of oils. It made an excellent soap with great lather.

151 grams lard
135 grams olive oil
70 grams coconut oil
68 grams palm kernal oil
31 grams castor oil
11 grams beeswax
66 grams lye
175 ml water
1/4 cup dried calendula petals
1/4 cup dried parsley
chlorophyll (for color)
rosewood essential oil
patchouli essential oil
lavendar essential oil

Oils were at 118, lye at 110 when mixed. Trace time 45 minutes.
It was beatiful dark green when mixing, after gel it cooled off to the lighter green shade. For some reason the shade of green in this soap is much grassier green than soap 1, though they were colored with the same stuff.

Nag Champa Soap

A non-lard soap with great lather! And a nice hard bar. Turns out the missing ingredient is palm oil; which can be found as organic shortening in the grocery store. Unfortunately this soap came out, well, cosmetically challenged, and I don’t like the Nag Champa scent very much. I’m including the general composition, since this is a great recipe.

150 grams olive oil
60 grams coconut oil
50 grams palm kernal oil
30 grams palm oil
25 grams castor oil
14 grams beeswax
60 grams vegetable shortening
20 grams shea butter
55 grams lye
160 ml water
18 grams Nag Champa Fragrance oil

Took a long time to trace.

Heather and Hyacinth Soap

One of my several attempts to get a good non-lard soap. This one selected just since it smells so nice.

44 grams olive oil
105 grams coconut oil
50 grams palm kernal oil
46 grams sweet almond oil
50 grams castor oil
15 grams beeswax
194 grams vegetable shortening
21 grams shea butter
70 grams lye
200 ml water
18 ml Fragrance oil
1/3 cup lavender flowers
Purple oxide soap coloring.

10 grams of the castor and all the shea were set aside and added at trace to superfat.

This soap is pretty nice – but has a couple of flaws.

First, I had read this, but had to make the mistake myself: NEVER add lavender buds to lye soap! Mine turned either green or black and are really unpleasant soggy nasty pellets in the soap.

Also – mix powdered soap color with some oils before adding to soap! otherwise you get lumps of purple.

I had intended to do a swirl. However, the uncolored soap is translucent and faintly greenish (from the olive oil). So swirling with the uncolored soap does not work. The point: make sure what both colors of a swirl will look like.

Online Soap Suppliers

I started off using Red Devil lye from the grocery store. Alas, the Red Devil folks no longer produce lye drain cleaner, so currently (as far as I know), it’s just not possible to buy lye at local stores. Some soapmaking supply houses carry it. I ordered lye from Rainbow Meadow but Brambleberry also carries it.

Since it is a hazardous material, there are shipping restrictions, but it’s worth it to make soap. You cannot make soap without lye (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide)! You can extract a form of Potassium Hydroxide from wood ashes, but ordering the stuff in jars is a lot easier.

I like Rainbow Meadows, they are responsive and helpful. They are in Michigan.

I’ve ordered a few times from Brambleberry and been quite happy. They are in Washington State.

I am also very happy with Oregon Trail Soap Supplies; the selection is not as large as Brambleberry.