How to Make Soaps How to Make Soaps

If you’re interested in making soaps by hand, you could of course simply go to the local craft store and purchase melt-and-pour soap and some molds. This would make quick and easy soap that you could give out as gifts. Alternatively, if you are just looking to save some money and make your own soap, you could re-batch your soap.
However, expert soap makers swear by the “real” method of soap creation. It is easy and fairly quick, and produces a soap that lathers easily, washes well, smells great, and will not dry out the skin. Anyone who has allergies will quickly recognize the value of handmade soap. For an authentic soap that your friends will rave about, try your hand at these soaps for this holiday season.

One of the biggest concerns that people who are not acquainted with soapmaking have is about lye. In fact, some soap makers will tell you their soap does not contain lye. This is actually impossible. Lye, or sodium hydroxide, is a catalyst for the reaction that chemically changes the oils and fats into soap and glycerin. So if you are using soap, it has had lye in the process. But the fact that lye is used for a chemical reaction doesn’t mean the soap has to be hard on your skin.

There are two methods of making soap from scratch: cold process and hot pour. Let’s look at each of these in detail.

Cold Process Soap Method

Ingredients and tools:
Postal scale or other scale for measuring
Glass measuring cup, one quart
Stainless steel pot
Freezer wrap OR vegetable cooking spray
Mold – You can purchase special soap molds or use pastry/cake molds. Other ideas are: 1 quart milk cartons (these are easiest to remove because you just cut away the carton), jello molds, silicone baking pans, PVC piping, and almost any plastic container –even cat food packages.
12 oz. lye crystals *lye is sold as a drain opener – try the hardware store and look for 100% sodium hydroxide
24 oz. cold water
78 oz. olive oil
6 oz. coconut oil
6 oz. palm oil *for oils you can’t find at the grocery in the kosher section, try the health food store or an Asian food store (look for “vegetable Ghee”)

Essential oils – you do not have to use any oils at all for this skin-softening soap; however, you can add oil for scent and leaves or spices for interest. Use your imagination – and your garden! Try these combinations:

  • 2 oz. lemon verbena essential oil and 1 or two tablespoons of dried dill weed
  • 2 oz. sweet orange essential oil and ¾ oz. eucalyptus essential oil, with 1 T dried orange peel (found with the spices in the grocery aisle)
  • Peppermint or spearmint
  • Rose and/or lavender oils with some freshly mashed rosemary leaves

The key to your success in this method is to carefully measure all ingredients. It is best to use a postal scale, as the measurements are in ounces. For stirring, you can mix using a spoon, a mixer, or a stick blender. This blender is probably one you’re familiar with as a shake and soup mixer; many first-time soapmakers realize they have one in their kitchen that’s never been used. It costs as little as $14 and will cut your mixing time in half – so it’s probably worth the investment!
To make the soap, arrange all the utensils, herbs, and additives on the countertop. Dissolve the lye in cold water. This is easily done in a one-quart glass measuring cup. Be aware that the lye creates fumes, and it also heats fast once it’s added to the water. Consider using a fan or opening the window during the process. Also be careful not to breathe over it while you are mixing it in.

Stir the lye with your face averted, keeping the crystals moving for a minute or more to prevent clumping.
Melt the hard fats in a large stainless steel pot on the stove top on low, stirring occasionally. While they are melting, line your mold with two sheets of freezer paper, taking care to cover all areas including the corners. If the molds you are using are small, spray them with vegetable spray or grease with petroleum jelly and skip the wrap.

When the fats are completely melted (close to 110 degrees) you will be ready to measure in the oil. It should be room temperature. The easiest way to measure it is to put the pot onto the scale and measure the oil directly into it. This will cool the fat faster.

Set the glass container of lye into cold water in the sink (no more than halfway up, or it will tip over!) stir and watch the thermometer until the temperature drops.

Start the blending using the stick blender or mixer. Pour the lye into the fat quickly, and stir until it looks smooth. If it looks grainy, set the pot back on the burner for just a minute; you want a satiny look with no globs. Occasionally turn the blender off and then back on as you stir. With the blender always on, the soap may seem thicker than it really is. Stirring will take five or ten minutes. When the mix looks smooth, add the fragrance or essential oils, stirring with a spoon or simply with the stick blender turned “off.”

Pour the thickened soap into the mold, scraping the extra off the blender and bowl with a spatula. If you are marbling the mix, use the spatula for that too.

Take the soap mold or box into a cool room and set it into a cardboard box. Cover over it with another box or a heavy towel. Leave it until to cools and becomes opaque on top. Allow it to completely cool – do not panic when the gel stage takes place! Remove the cooled soap from the box and score it using a straight edge, then cut along the lines. If you have to trim the ends, save the trimmings and recycle them.

Hot Pour Soap
Hot Processed soap is very hard to remove from plastic soap molds, so it is important to choose molds that will work. Try a snap-together organizer so that you can just remove the sides, or a milk carton that can be cut away.

Hot Pour is usually cooked on the stove top, but it is an hours-long process. I find that you can also make soap in the crock pot as easily.
20 oz. olive oil
8 oz. coconut oil
4 oz. corn oil
4.5 oz lye
12-16 oz. water

The amount of ingredients that you use in the crockpot will determine the size of your recipe; if you aim for about half of the crockpot depth you can avoid both boiling over and burning the soap.

Measure out all the ingredients. Melt the hard (solid) oils in the microwave. Add everything to the crock pot and turn it on low. Put on gloves and measure out the lye, mixing it into the water. Stir for a minute then add to the crock pot oils. Use the stick blender to bring the soap to trace. This is a point where, if you dip out a small amount and drop it back into the pot, it takes a few seconds to mix back in. trace lets you know that the mixture won’t separate back out into oil and lye.
When trace is reached, cover the pot and cook the soap. While you’re doing that, line the mold or oil it. The soap should cook until the edges have cooked and rolled inward. Take off the lid and stir gently and slowly. Scrape the sides if needed. Add essential oils or other additives and continue to gently stir.

Put the soap into the mold and tap it on the counter to remove air bubbles. Let cool overnight. Unmold the soap and cut it, then leave it out for a week or two to let the water evaporate from it. (Soap can be used right away, but it will be soft). For gift-giving, wrap in cellophane or small fabric squares and tie with ribbon. Enjoy!

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