The Making of Homemade Soap Making
This past weekend, N and I (having finally acquired all the necessary ingredients) underwent our first soup making attempt. It was not as difficult or time intensive as I have always assumed soap making to be. Fortunately, we’ve been cooking a lot and since the soap was prepared largely in the kitchen (and most are edible), we approached this project much like we would any meal.
”A question from the back of the class,’ J. says to the young blog reader waving their hand emphatically.
‘But Mr. J., what ingredients did you use?’ Says the blog reader inquisitively. ‘Did you use lye? Isn’t lye what Brad Pitt’s character used on Edward Norton’s character in “Fight Club”?
”Technically, young blog reader Edward Norton’s character was using it on himself; but yes, lye is caustic and potentially very, very dangerous,’ Mr. J. answers as he dusts the chalk dust from his tweed jacket. ‘But we’ll get back to that.’
Like so many projects N. and I have recently undertaken, this one comes from a confluence of book-bound, blogged, and internet cached information. The impetus for this project of course being less-toxic living through better home basics. Fortunately, N. recently read Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living (available at libraries everywhere). N. reads the most interesting books at the most convenient times, doesn’t she?
What did we use?
For the most part, we did follow the list of ingredients as list on page 118 of the aforementioned book.
16 Ounces Olive Oil8 ounces coconut oil
17 1/2 ounces hydrogenated oil (we used crisco)
16 ounces distilled water
6 ounces lye (Let me take yet another opportunity to say that this stuff is caustic, and can be dangerous- follow directions on the lye container as directed for all emergencies related to this material)
1/8 to 1/2 ounce fragrant essential oils (optional)
1 Cup rolled oats (optional)(we didn’t have essential oils) – for this, put some rolled oats in a food processor, and create for yourself a meal finer than what you started with, but not powder.
If you read this book (and I hope you do), just below the list of ingredients, is a well-placed, hard to ignore sentence that reads “Follow the soap-making directions on page 34.” You may want to execute your soap making scheme of maneuver as the book says. We had to return the book to the library, and were only able to scan page 118 before beginning. I (J.) did not read this sentence when I scanned the book, and it made for a few minutes of soap making Greek Tragedy at N. and J.’s apartment.
You will also need:
Thermometer (we used our candy thermometer)
Two large stock-type pots. If a carrot can fit in it standing up, that’s a good pot (not a baby carrot, that’s a sauce pan). We were able to find some at a secondhand store.
Hand mixer (are you really afraid of the paddles getting too clean?)
A well-vented indoors, and an entirely vented outdoors.
Molds for the soap to cure in. We used those ziplock containers that are technically disposable, but have been around longer than some members of the family.
PPE (personal protective equipment): we were fortunate enough NOT to have had any caustic sodium (lye) related episodes, but there’s not reason that you should go tugging on Superman’s cape. Wear this stuff or some equivalent to it!!!
Goggles (or in our case, ballistic sunglasses)
Rubber gloves (the kind your mother used when she washed dishes by hand) that almost go to your elbow.
Now that you almost look as you may have in 10th grade chemistry, its time to make the lye-solution.
Go to your outside with a pot, lye, water, gloves and goggles.
Leave the kids, pets, clumsy spouse inside.
Put on PPE.
Place 16 ounces water in one of your large pots. Put the water in first. Put the water in first. Put the water in first. There I’ve said it three times now.
Slowly pour 6 ounces of lye into the water. Through chemical reaction, the lye will heat the water to 175 degrees F. We looked. It really does.
Now, leave that pot alone and wait for the lye water to cool to 90 degrees F.
Everything else:Heat it to 90 degrees F. You’ll notice that all of your other ingredients and the lye water need to be at 90 degrees. Don’t know why? Me neither.
The coconut oil did not want to play nice with everything else and melt quickly like I thought it would. If you’re going to use coconut oil, I would heat it to a liquid prior to the rest of the ingredients (including the lye water). This will save you from having to do something silly like putting the lye back on the stove (Bad Human!).
When everything is at 90 degrees, put this lye water into the oil mixture. Not the other way around.
Add oats, if using.
Stir with a hand mixer until the (I guess we’re calling it soap now) mixture develops ripples that don’t go away. This is called trace.
Be forewarned, it takes about 15-20 minutes for trace to develop using a hand mixer.
God bless you if you’re using a hand-powered hand mixer.
Grease your molds.
Pour the soap into your molds, and let it cool overnight, or about 15 hours.
In the morning, gently pop the soap out of the molds, use the extra serrated chef’s knife that you’ve had since college, and carefully cut the soap into manageable bars.
Or you can make soap-brickle like we did:) Let it sit for three weeks.
Hope you didn’t need a bath today:) Happy washing!
FAQs about Lye:
Q: Is it available over the counter?
A: The best know, OTC brand of lye was Red Devil. Notice how I said was. Some genius decided to ruin it for the rest of us, and use it to make methamphetamines, and the company pulled the product.
Q: Where can I get some?
A: We bought ours on Ebay:)
Q: What will happen it I put the lye in the pot before the water?
A: One blog we read says that there is a risk of explosion if you put the lye in first. Ergo, we recommend doing it the other way around.