Thursday, December 9, 2010

Making Soap -- My First Batch!

My neighbor brought me all her soap-making stuff, so I was able to begin this afternoon. I particularly needed her scale, as mine hasn't arrived yet in the mail. I tried to line my wooden soap mold with parchment paper, but it didn't work well.  Did you know that NO TAPE IN THE WORLD will stick to parchment paper?  I guess that's why we bake with it;  nothing sticks to it.  Well, anyway, finally I remembered that I had this mammoth sized rubber band that I confiscated once from my teenaged boys, who were trying to wound each other with it.  I looped it double, and it fit snugly around the box -- tada! Still, the paper was bulgy and bulky.
Here are my three oils for this particular soap recipe:  olive oil, coconut oil, all-vegetable shortening. I weighed them precisely on the scale, and heated them slowly in this stainless steel pot. You have to be careful what utensils you use in soap-making. Some things will react with the lye, or be damaged by it. Stainless steel is safe.
Speaking of safe -- when dealing with lye, it's important to wear safety glasses and protective gloves and an apron. Adam tried to take a normal picture of me in my get-up.  I don't take many normal pictures. I asked if I should gaze up into the heavens for a better shot ....
I moved outside to do the lye mixture.  The distilled water (which we get from our dehumidifier) is weighed, as is the powdered lye, which you can see sitting on the scale. The book is my neighbor's as well.  I've hinted to Adam that I wouldn't mind having  my own soap-making book for Christmas. You slowly pour the lye into the water and stir it gently and steadily.  It will harden and clump on the bottom, which is dangerous.  If it splashes even a drop, it's dangerous.  If you breathe it in, it's dangerous.  This part made me a bit nervous.
I stirred the 3 oils until they were all liquid, and their temperature was about 150 degrees. Then I let them cool in the kitchen.  The lye mixture reaches over 200 degrees. I let it cool outside. Both mixtures need to reach about 100-110 degrees before you blend them together.  The soap will make better that way.

So while they were cooling, I decided to pick sage leaves off these stems.  Anna cut them for me from the patio. The cold was about to zap them.  I wonder if sage is a good soap ingredient?
Ready!! The oils and lye are both about 110 degrees. I have my hand mixer ready, and my lavender oil and poppy seeds. This part looked like the fun part, when I watched my neighbor do it.  Today, I realized it's also the nervous part.
I'd never used a hand mixer before. You have to hold it straight upright, with the blade part on the bottom of the pan. Otherwise it will splatter everywhere.  Ahem. You see how quickly it turns milky, and creamy, and caramely-looking. I may have over-mixed it a bit, because we had difficulty telling when it had reached "trace" -- that mysterious point in soap-making when it's ready to be poured into the molds.  I also nearly forgot to add both the lavender oil and the poppy seeds.  I remembered just in the nick of time!  SO nervous :)
I think it's delectable to look.  Perhaps one reason I enjoy this is that it feels like cooking. And the product is so beautiful, and so healthy. I didn't add a coloring because I really like this creamy beige. Oh, and you may notice that I changed how I lined this box.  I got rid of the bulky paper on each end by cutting one large piece to lap over the long section, and then inserting short pieces on each end. I hope it works well.
From this first batch, I got one long box, which should cut into many soap bars, plus four large bars in the silicone molds.
I'll let you know when they're ready!


  1. Good for you!! My mom made soap when I was a child. I never liked the smell of it. And it lasted forever!! When we moved here, she still had some bars up in the attic. Since I had babies then, I never attempted to use it for laundry; felt like it was too harsh. Not sure if that's true or not.

    ~karen s./WI

  2. Karen -- was your mom making laundry soap, or soap for bathing? This is bath soap, so it's mild and gentle. I'd like to make laundry soap, though. I have friends who do that, and save quite a bit of $$. If you shaved the soap off into the washer, and let it lather up b/f putting the clothes in, I bet it would do fine.


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