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Have you ever thought that it would be cool to make homemade soap, and then immediately wondered what kind of crazy person would actually do that? Well now you know! 🙂
Seriously, though…it’s not hard. Promise.
Here’s what makes soap-making scary, one word: lye.
The intimidation starts with the ordering process. You have to order it online, because stores don’t carry pure lye. I think the regulations got quite strict due to the meth industry. And if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll have to sign something saying that you’re not planning to cook meth nor build bombs (although I’m pretty confident that if I were planning to do one of those two things…I’d also be ok lying about it). But press on, friend! It’s just an order form.
If handling a caustic substance freaks you out…know that most homes used to have lye in them for household uses. Even now, many drain cleaners are still made with lye. Are you afraid of Drano?
Aside from the lye, this simple soap has only a couple of other ingredients: water, olive oil, and coconut oil.
Homemade Soap in a Nutshell
- Add lye to water–it gets really really hot.
- Add oils to saucepan, begin heating.
- When the lye mixture has cooled, the oil has heated, and they meet in the middle at the same temperature, you mix them together. (Waiting for this to happen is really the longest part of the process). Then you mix and mix until the mixture gets thick (this is called trace). At this point the lye is no longer caustic (due to a process called saponification) and you have made soap, runny as it may be.
- Pour your runny soap into molds to cool. Wrap in a towel so it cools slowly overnight. (Towel with Aztec hieroglyphics not necessary)
- The next day, cut the soap into bars. Lay bars out to dry (cure) for several weeks and voila: you made soap!
That’s the ‘Cliff’s Notes’ version. For the complete rundown on the process, I’m going to give you two tutorials. They are both from Rhonda at Down to Earth, and are the same recipe. The reason I’m giving you both of them is that they each give valuable information and details. These are what I use when I make soap.
Tips for Soapmaking
Making soap is not cooking. It is chemistry. If you follow the rules carefully your soap will turn out every single time.
You must use a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients. This is not a time for measuring cups and spoons. Must means MUST.
Another tool that is a worthwhile investment is a hand held stick blender. I got mine to make soap with, but also use it for pureeing sauces and soups. (Which answers another question I’m often asked: Yes- you can use your soap making tools for cooking later…after all, they’re covered with soap by the end of it all! I will say, the Pyrex measuring cup where I mix my lye and water, I only use for soap making.)
You can add essential oils, use herb-infused oils, or even soap coloring. I make mine completely unadorned. I would consider someday adding some lavender essential oil, or using herb-infused oil (but I live with all boys, you know). Plus, I’m really happy with the plain soap. So for now, that’s what I’ll make.
The longer you let your bars of soap dry (cure) the longer the bars will last. I shoot for 6 weeks of curing. You could use them after a couple of days, but they would dissolve quickly in the shower. (Interesting aside… this is why store-bought bars of soap are often wrapped in waxy paper, they want to keep it moist so it dissolves faster so you have to buy more. When I buy soap, I always unwrap the bars and store them that way.)
Silicone baking molds really are the best molds to use, in my opinion. They peel off easily and can be re-used. I use a mold with 4 mini loaf pans and then slice the loaves into bars. I think it would be fun to make some smaller hand soaps in shapes like shells or hearts, or even some larger floral shapes. One day…
What is holding you back from giving this a try? Let me know and maybe I can help. I’m no soap-making expert, but I have done it a bunch of times with success.
Have you made soap on your own before? How did it go?
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