Better Choices, Better Results

Making Soap – A Tutorial

In my last post, I told you I was making soap.  I’ve been making a LOT of soap.  People will be getting soap for Christmas this year. 

I like making soap because you take ingredients that you recognize and do a little magic, and get a completely different product.  It’s quite amazing.

Most store-bought “soap” isn’t really soap at all.  It’s detergent made from different chemicals.  True soap is created through a process called saponification and happens when fats and lye are combined.  “The term saponification is the name given to the chemical reaction that occurs when a vegetable oil or animal fat is mixed with a strong alkali. The products of the reaction are two: soap and glycerin.” – www.realhandmadesoap.com

While soaps of the past got a bad reputation for being harsh and caustic, today’s soaps are gentle and natural, and not caustic at all due to proper measuring and processing techniques.  In fact, once the saponification is complete, no lye remains in the finished product…only soap and glycerin.

Be sure to use a soap calculator like www.soapcalc.net for creating soap recipes.

Now that our little science lecture is over, let’s take a look at how I’ve been making my soap…in the crock pot!

Gather your ingredients and make sure everything is ready to go before you start the process.

 

Almost any kind of fat can be used. I've even seen recipes using chicken fat!

 

I have vinegar pictured with the lye because vinegar neutralizes lye. So, always have some vinegar is a spray bottle around in case of splashes or lye spills.

 

I order essential oils to scent my soaps. I prefer oils to artificial scents.

 
 

You must have safety equipment! Long gloves and safety glasses are a must. You'll also need a digital scale, a plastic cup and spoon devoted solely to soap-making, and a plastic or stainless steel stick blender is very helpful.

 

 

You’ll also need a mold for your soap. I use Pringles cans and this wooden mold that my dad made me. Most molds need to be lined with freezer paper first. Pringles cans don’t, as they come with a waxy lining. I haven’t tried the plastic molds yet.
The first thing you do is measure out your fats and put them into your crock pot on low.  Once the fats have almost completely melted, you’ll want to start mixing your lye.
 
 

Almost melted...time to mix the lye.

 

You must take precautions when mixing lye!  Wear gloves and safety glasses!

 

Always! Be! Safe!

 

Carefully add lye to your liquid - not the other way around. Adding liquid to the lye will create a volcanic explosion!

 
Add your lye mixture to your melted fats.

Don't splash! Lye is caustic until it cooks with the fats.

Using a stainless steel or plastic stick blender, blend the mixture until it starts to thicken.
 

Splashes happen, but try hard to minimize them by blending in spurts. Keep your vinegar nearby and spray anything that gets splashed.

 

Once it starts looking like pudding, test it for “trace”.  Trace has occurred when you can run your blender across the top of the mixture (turned off) and it leaves a trail.
 
 

See the trail that the blender has left behind it? That's trace.

 

Put the lid on the crock pot and cook until it looks like waxy mashed potatoes.
 
 

You want to cook the mixture on low until it looks like this.

 

Time to stir it up and test it.  You can purchase a chemical to test your soap, and I recommend doing so.  However, I forgot to order this chemical and didn’t want to wait, so I have been testing the old-fashioned way…by touching it to my tongue.  I’ve been told by an experienced soap maker that if saponification hasn’t completely happened, the soap mixture will shock the tongue.
 
 

I get nervous each time, but I've never been shocked. It tastes like soap. Blech!

 

Let it cool just a bit, then add your scents and any add-ins like honey, oatmeal, powdered milk, dried flower petals, etc.
 
 

This batch was scented with "Fresh Snow" essential oil.

 

Then you put it in your mold.  I used my wooden mold, lined with freezer paper.
 
 

Plop it into the mold, then shake and jiggle it to get air bubbles worked out.

 

At this point, you have soap, and your crock pot will be really easy to clean.
 
Let your soap dry several hours or overnight.  Remove the soap from the mold, then remove the paper (because the paper makes it harder to slice), then cut your soap into bars.
 
 
Very pretty and smells so nice!

 

You can use your soap right away, but as you let your bars air-dry, they will become harder and won’t melt in the shower as quickly.

Are you ready to make your own soap now?

 
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Comments on: "Making Soap – A Tutorial" (2)

  1. Carol Drumheller said:

    NO WAY – Jo Ann you have way too much energy but I kinda remember some of that energy about 30 years ago. Go for it, life if short.

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